Five years ago I roamed the expo halls of the DMA annual conference. Every few booths some a company peddling direct mail as a solution to a modern day marketer’s needs. As a digital marketer, I just did not get it. As an urban dweller, I did not want it. Piles on piles of postcards and envelopes stuffed with “deals” - deals that I could all too easily find online.
Depending who you ask, you will receive a different answer about direct mail’s life expectancy. For me, the biggest change to hit the industry is data. The problem most people have with direct mail is that the content they receive is mostly irrelevant. Direct marketers have been living with the spray and pray mentality, focused all too much on the volume game. Some segmentation is used, especially around geo, yet often the tactics revolve around filling the top of the funnel and being assured that deliverables will emerge out the bottom.
Data in our digital world is now more similar to a natural resource. It is everywhere and not difficult to extract. The key for businesses is to cultivate that data and make it actionable. For direct mail, that means truly understanding what the customer wants before flooding their mail box. It means refining your targets based on multiple variables to ensure that your efforts are not only warranted, but effective. Give value to the customer or prospect with every send.
New trends in marketing, such as Account-Based Marketing (ABM) have also spurred new growth in direct mail. ABM is all about only marketing and selling to the accounts that matter, to the accounts that actually need your product. The key to ABM is figuring out who you should be going after. Once you have that short list, your marketing efforts can become highly targeted and refined.
With ABM, marketers are focused on a short list of accounts and can spend the time to actually understand their problems and provide a valid solution. Marketers can also use their budget and resources in a more effective way since the targets are much smaller and being touched from multiple channels. Direct mail becomes an incredibly potent avenue for marketers to get a prospects attention.
Instead of postcards and sales collateral, ABM marketers can send personalized gifts that the prospect actually wants. Gifts that can grab their attention and persuade them to respond to your email, visit your site or pick up the phone. Examples are pre-loaded Kindles or iPads with personalized ebooks or white papers for their given industry or just fun promotional gifts that grab their attention and get your brand on their radar.
Direct Mail as it use to be known, cluttering our mail boxes and recycle bins, will soon fade out of existence. Direct mail in a digital age will continue to thrive as marketers focus more on collecting the right data and validating that recipients actually want what is being offered. Again, provide value and treat prospect likes people and not just numbers for the funnel.