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How Direct Mail Can Improve Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy
December 3, 2020

How Direct Mail Can Improve Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

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Mark Pinard

Direct mail remains one of the most effective channels for marketers. While 58% of all mail received by an average household is direct mail, customers are still eager to read their mailers in postcards. 42.2% of recipients read or scan direct mail as a rule (only 22.8% don’t read it at all) 59% of recipients say they like getting mailings about new products, and 73% of American consumers prefer brands to contact them by mail.

When done right, an automated omnichannel marketing strategy will make direct mail even more effective. Using tools like Salesforce and Marketo, businesses can send customers and prospects the right message on the right channel at the right time, tracking ROI, and continuously honing their messaging. That doesn’t just save time and money — it make it possible to connect with consumers in a way you couldn’t before.

But for many companies, direct mail marketing hasn’t really kept up with digital channels. Direct mail is typically silo’d, making it impossible to integrate it into an omnichannel approach. Many companies also lack the ability to A/B test direct mail, or even track response rates, making it harder for marketers to optimize their direct mail strategy. And even when direct mail messaging is coordinated with other channels, outdated processes slow things way down, making direct mail less agile and adaptable than digital channels.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not only can a direct mail platform match the efficiency and speed of digital channels, it can also fit completely into your omnichannel workflow, enabling you to benefit from a single coherent marketing strategy. Here’s how to streamline your workflow with an automated direct mail solution.

Assess Your Direct Mail Workflow

Your direct mail workflow has probably not changed substantially in years. Many companies still use laborious processes that take a dozen steps or more and involve time-consuming activities like copying and pasting customer info from a spreadsheet, manual printing, and envelope stuffing. But before you can adopt a direct mail solution, you need to assess what’s wrong with your current workflow. Use these questions to assess your current capabilities and workflow.

How are your direct mail campaigns triggered?

Can your current direct mail solution trigger campaigns based on customer actions? Can you send a thank you card with a discount offer when a customer makes their first purchase, or do you just process mailings in batches?

How much are you able to personalize direct mail?

There’s no marketing message that’s right for everyone. An effective omnichannel marketing strategy will segment their lists and target consumers with personalized messages geared to their pain points, needs and preferences.

What are your current direct mail targeting capabilities? Are you able to customize your mailings to address the needs of specific verticals separately? Can you segment by personas or level of engagement, and differentiate your content? And if not, how do you decide what messages to run?

How is direct mail produced, edited, printed and sent?

What parts of your direct mail program are you doing internally, and what parts use a third party vendor or vendors? If you use a third party vendor, what is your vendor management process like? Does the system work smoothly, or are you spending a lot of time meeting with printers, editors and creatives for reviews and to straighten out problems?

Map out the entire direct mail process, including editing, revising, and legal review. Be sure to talk to stakeholders responsible for the day-to-day work of producing creatives, along with managers. There may be problems that managers aren’t fully aware of, such as misprintings, delays, outdated address lists or vendor errors that make the process less efficient.

How long does it take to execute a direct mail campaign?

Marketing content generally has a very short shelf life. If you can follow up on digital touchpoints with a direct mail offer within a few days, the lead is more likely to be receptive to the message, than if it takes a month.

Even if you aren’t currently capable of triggering mailings based on consumer actions, time is a major factor in how well direct mail fits into your omnichannel marketing strategy. An agile marketing team can pivot quickly, adapting their campaigns in response to new partnerships, changing customer demand and current events, and mitigating setbacks and controversies. A direct mail team that takes weeks to get a new mailer designed and printed can’t.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to weigh direct mail execution against the timeline of your omnichannel marketing strategy. The more quickly your digital marketing team can build and execute a campaign, the more your current direct mail solution may be slowing you down.

How do you track ROI?

How are you able to evaluate the effectiveness of your direct mail strategy? Can you track deliveries and response rates? Conversions? Can you A/B test the messaging and creative to optimize your strategy? Many companies have no capabilities in this area, and may not even know if their mailings are being delivered correctly.

For Comparison, Set a Goal By Assessing Your Email Workflow

Setting appropriate goals for a new direct mail solution can be surprisingly tricky. Many companies have gone so long without an update that they don’t understand what is possible.

Additionally, many organizations are skeptical of rapid technological transformations. If it takes you two weeks to get a mailing out, cutting the time in half will seem like a big win.

But the reality is that there are no technological reasons why direct mail can’t be as quick and efficient to produce as the rest of your omnichannel marketing approach — with the right tools. To set the right expectations, it’s helpful to look at your digital workflow. Any digital channel should work, but email marketing is probably the best channel to compare since it’s most similar to direct mail.

An email workflow is largely automated in most companies. You use segmented lists, and templates that eliminate repetitive work, enabling you to prepare an entire marketing campaign within hours.

Once you plan out a marketing campaign, most of the work occurs automatically, with your automation software performing A/B testing, sending follow up messages, and providing metrics like open rates and conversions. And when leads become customers or customers convert to a higher level of activity, you don’t need to manually switch them from one list to the other; the process is automated.

Equally importantly, you don’t have to worry about how the email gets to the recipient, or spend time manually copying addresses over from an Excel spreadsheet— your marketing app handles that for you. It’s easy to purge outdated or broken addresses too, so you’re not wasting resources or spamming recipients with irrelevant messages.

Your direct mail service should provide the exact same level of performance and integration as email does. From designing creatives to testing to sending messages, the workflow and time requirements should be the same.

Of course, there are a few limitations mailings have compared to emails. Obviously, you can’t get a postcard or flyer delivered within seconds or minutes, and while email is virtually free, direct mail will always have some printing and postage costs associated with it.

But the right automated direct mail can get mailings to the customer within a few days once you have your direct mail automation setup while providing you bulk rates on third-party printing and sending, along with vendor management to keep costs low and eliminate hassles. That’s fast and cost-effective enough to make direct mail an integral part of all your omnichannel marketing campaigns.

Focus on Project Buy-in

Making a business case for automated direct mail should be pretty easy. It saves money and time, makes an effective marketing channel more effective, shows quick ROI, and has useful applications in invoicing, payment, and even fraud prevention. In a world of ongoing digital transformations with evanescent goals, it’s a nice, straightforward win that can build enthusiasm for future technology change.

It’s also urgent. As we’ve discussed before, COVID-19 has led to rapid changes in customer behavior, market demand and the general work world, and businesses need every channel they can to cope. Whatever industry you’re in, enabling a true omnichannel marketing strategy is going to be an easy pitch.

Given the urgency, ROI and wide applications, it’s a good idea to focus on gaining buy-in from everyone who can benefit. If you’re pitching this project from a marketing position, check-in with accounts payable, receivable, sales and other parts of the company that use mail. Get to know their workflow frustrations, and help them understand how an automated direct mail solution can help.

The best direct mail services combine universal features with flexible integration for a range of use cases. For example, Lob’s direct mail solution enables any company to automatically trigger a mailing based on a specific event — a tool that’s useful for marketing, accounting and a range of other applications. Just as importantly we’ve engineered our mail solution with an API and webhooks to integrate easily anywhere it’s needed, from common CRM, marketing automation, and CDP software platforms, to niche, and industry or company-specific use cases.

As such, it’s not overly ambitious to try to rally the whole company around automated direct mail. Getting multiple stakeholders involved early on ensures you can create a coherent tech strategy that delivers great ROI and minimizes unnecessary repetition of tasks.

Gain True Omnichannel Marketing Automation

Automation tools are key to any successful marketing department. Lob’s automated direct mail solution can upgrade your workflow, enabling a true omnichannel marketing strategy, from the inbox to the mailbox.

Want to learn more about how updating direct mail can empower your multichannel marketing strategy? Join us on December 10th, @ 11am PT | 2pm ET for Predicting the Turn: A Conversation with Dave Knox.

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