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August 9, 2016

How Automation Makes Direct Mail Better

You may have heard: one of the biggest opportunities in marketing is a blast from the past, updated with the tools of today. Marketing teams are using automation to supercharge direct mail. The reason? It’s a compelling channel for reaching audiences 1:1. Consider the following stats from an industry roundup that the Lob team compiled:

  • 98% of Americans check their mail every day. Readers are paying attention to your message.
  • 69% of people feel that mail is more personal than messages on the Internet. People like direct mail outreach.
  • Roughly 66% of people have bought something because of direct mail.

Direct mail is a timeless growth hack because audiences like it. It’s tactile. It’s an opportunity for you to separate your company from industry noise. In 2016, online audiences literally receive dozens to hundreds of emails a day. Direct mail is a way for you to differentiate your company.

When Organic Failed, Diamond Candles Went Physical

Consider the story of Diamond Candles, a popular ecommerce retailer. For several years, the company had been relying on social as its biggest referral driver. But seemingly out of nowhere, Facebook’s marketing ecosystem changed: organic reach began to decline.

Knowing how fragmented the ecommerce landscape was becoming, Diamond Candles decided to take action. Their growth vehicle of choice was direct mail.

“We knew that there was one big challenge inherent to our industry,” says Justin Winter, former CEO at Diamond Candles. “A lot of people want to smell candles before they buy them. We had reached a level of saturation with our audiences online. We needed an efficient way to reach customers who would love our product but just needed to ‘try before they buy’--our last point of friction.”

The reason why many marketers overlook direct mail is that processes can get complicated, fast. For one, people like customization and personalization. Marketing budgets are scarce assets: growth hackers need to be able to prove the ROI of their efforts. And of course, marketing teams are understaffed. It’s common for “marketing teams” to be one-person masterminds behind-the-scenes.

Adapting Automation for Your Marketing Operation

What you may find surprising is that direct mail marketing can be as straightforward to implement as email marketing. You just need to build the right marketing technology stacks. Focus on areas of your business that you’d like to make more efficient. Here are some ideas to help you simplify your direct mail marketing through automation.

  • Small businesses are creating automated direct mail campaigns, synced up with their marketing databases. A local real-estate company can trigger a postcard mailing based on customer interactions with newsletters. Small marketing teams can launch direct mail programs using the people-power that they already have.
  • Online businesses are sending acquisition-focused mailings. A small business could build or acquire a list of potential customers based on geography or other demographic characteristics. Online businesses can send postcards to audiences, pointing to freebies that are redeemable online. Small marketing, resource-strapped marketing teams can trigger these mailings
  • Companies are triggering local-area mailings based on zip codes. It’s possible to reach prospects in near real-time, without overhead. You can use a simple API to trigger a location-based mailing, with a few clicks. Marketers can focus on optimizing messages, building campaigns, and A/B testing.
  • Companies are sending promo codes to build customer loyalty in key neighborhoods early. Direct mail is helping startup and corporate innovation efforts. In the food delivery and delivery grocery space, for example, direct mail builds brand loyalty early. Marketers are using APIs to create strategic first-mover advantages.

Taking Testing and Segmentation to Another Level

The fun really starts when marketing teams start pushing the envelope. Using advanced testing and granular triggers, we've seen some of our customers make serious magic.

  • Marketing teams are using automated direct mail campaigns to trigger re-engagement campaigns. From the marketer’s perspective, however, the process can be a nightmare. How do you sync up your CRM with your address book and keep track of every single person in your database? An API can simplify this process to a few clicks. You can create a workflow that takes care of everything, end-to-end. You can focus on what you do best as a marketer--designing segments, tailoring messaging, and tracking the success of your campaigns.
  • Rather than creating A/B tests manually, marketing teams are creating optimization workflows. Marketing teams, using an API, can programmatically test their images, marketing copy, coupon code amounts, etc. Over time, automation can help make marketing campaigns more successful.
  • Marketing teams are using direct mail automation to implement high-touch personalization programs. An API makes it easy to customize parameters like names, messaging, and calls to action. Create mailings that speak to audiences on a more personal level.
  • An API can simplify campaign tracking. Technology makes it possible to track every piece of certified mail, without additional cost (can be upwards of $5 per piece of physical mail, otherwise). This capability gives marketers more transparency into their campaigns and ability to demonstrate the ROI of their work.

Lob Has Your Back

The goal of this roundup is to give you ideas that you can try on your own, as the brainstorming process can be a challenge. All examples are micro case studies from Lob: what they share in common is that they emerged through creative brainstorming. Marketers would design new direct mail workflows, and Lob would build out the features.

Part II of this series will give you a set of tips to optimize your own direct mail marketing program through automation. Check out the mini-guide on the Lob blog, here. If you’re looking for more tactics to simplify your direct mail marketing strategy, sign up for Lob’s email list below.

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