Often eclipsed in discussions and the press, direct mail is still an essential pillar of marketing. And it isn't going away; in fact direct mail spending is holding steady - at a projected $44.5 billion in the U.S. for 2014. The challenge for marketers is not which channel to use, but how to use multiple channels correctly and how to measure the interaction effects among them. Today, we interview Patty Brehm, the CEO of Didit DM, Didit's new direct mail division. Our discussion topics are the challenges and changes taking places in this vital marketing channel.
Didit: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing companies that devote a large portion of their resources towards direct mail marketing? And - on the other side - what do you think is the biggest challenge facing the marketing agencies that service direct mail clients and work in the direct mail space?
The real challenge for marketers, whether they are traditional or digital or social, is to measure those channels and allocate their resources to what's working.
The biggest challenge facing direct mail marketers is what it has always been. It's how to get the recipient to open the envelope and get to the message inside and respond.
When I started in direct mail years ago, there was a tried and true methodology to DM testing and analytics. Mailers had a "control" package that was their winner, and each mailing cycle saw many tests: list tests, envelope tests, creative tests, pricing tests, etc. Measuring response rates was very concrete and measurable. Did the yellow Post-It note on the letter pull a higher response than the letter version without it? If it did, then great: we mailed a higher volume in the next cycle and continued to gather data. We tested, retested and tested again. What works in one industry or demographic may not in another. A major publisher found that a plain white envelope for renewals pulls just as well as a more expensive 4-color envelope test. A major bank included a cardboard buckslip in its control package - it got a higher response because it felt like something important was inside!
Now the analytic lines are blurred with so many marketing channels to choose from. And I think that the real challenge for marketers, whether they are traditional or digital or social, is to measure those channels and allocate their resources to what's working. One medium might be ideal for brand building and recognition, another for enhancing the customer's experience and relationship building. But which has a direct impact on bottom line sales and ROI? If someone places an online order from a catalog they received, what channel generated the sale? Or is it a combination of both?
How do you effectively measure success to your bottom line and then shift your marketing channels and creative or offer accordingly? This means breaking down the silos between traditional and digital marketing.
Didit: Let's talk integration - as you know, here at Didit we've been traditionally a digital agency. But we've also always championed a holistic approach to marketing. Tell us how you envision merging a marketing campaign across online channels, print, and other traditional media such as radio and TV.
The real key going forward to marketing success will be agility and flexibility between channels.
You mention integration - which is critical, but I think the real key going forward to marketing success will be agility and flexibility between channels. What are the touch points that resonate with your specific audience? And are you nimble enough to respond and react quickly to the changing landscape?
Didit: Data is a big thing in direct mail. Tell us what about how a company could integrate and leverage its customer data between physical direct mail, e-mail, social media, and search.
Patty Brehm: Data - there are many ways a company can leverage customer data between channels. Keeping your data up to date and accurate is most critical, with data processing methods such as CASS and NCOA. These can help you identify customers who have moved, and get your direct mail correctly delivered to the new address.
Didit: Personalization is also a big thing in direct mail. Share with us your favorite example of a good personalized direct mail campaign.
Patty Brehm: Personalization is a great way to really connect with your audience. Some of the best personalized pieces I've seen are from colleges and universities. Doing a digital direct mail brochure to a prospective student with variable photos based on the student's specific interests (major, sport, instrument, club) is a great idea. This campaign was all based on an online survey they took at an Open House, and the student's name was also printed throughout the brochure!
Didit: So direct mail is the new old thing. If you're a company that focused on digital, tell us an easy way to test how direct mail might work for you.
The only way to find out if direct mail can work for you is to test it.
The only way to find out if direct mail can work for you is to test it. The USPS has a new program called Every Door Direct Mail, which is perfect for small local businesses. You can mail to all residences in your local area, at a discounted postage rate. One note, however - don't just try direct mail once. Just like online brand recognition, you have to be seen more than once!
Didit: Finally, tell us some of the big changes that you see coming down for direct mail in the 5 years, especially in regards to changes with the US postal service and private carriers.
Patty Brehm: Regarding the USPS changes coming down the road, there definitely will be more postage increases, and more regulations that will hinder both direct mailers and the creative process. But the USPS must implement these to utilize and justify their high speed sorting equipment. There will be more consolidation of postal processing centers which will impact (read: slow down) mail delivery.
The post Crossing the direct mail channel: an interview with Patty Brehm appeared first on Didit.