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August 11, 2016

How Marketers Can Build a Direct Mail Growth Engine

Welcome to Part II of our series on supercharging direct mail strategy. In part I of this blog series, the Lob team introduced you to 8 different ways that you can automate your direct mail marketing strategy. We walked through the benefits of direct mail marketing, illuminating stats, a case study, and some technical pointers. Here in part II, we'll show you how to piece them together into your very own direct mail growth engine.

Direct mail has the potential to be a powerful marketing strategy for your business. And using a simple API, you can automate some of the tasks that may have held you back from scaling successful programs, running A/B tests on creative, and tracking the performance of your sends. Marketing teams in fields from e-commerce to healthcare are relying on direct mail automation to optimize customer lifetime values.

But getting started on your own direct mail growth engine can be a challenge. How do you know what you should customize? What should you consider when syncing your campaign data and CRM? Exploring these key questions, the following tips can help you build your strategy from the ground-up.

Step 1: Use your CRM to uncover personalization and messaging opportunities

According to the United States Postal Service, 69% of people feel that physical mail is more personal than electronic communications. 98% of Americans check their mail daily! Not to mention, these same recipients report spending 30 minutes a day with their mail.

As a marketer, it’s important that you make every interaction with these audiences count. Instead of sending a generic message, personalize the content to your reader’s existing shopping behavior and upcoming needs. The way to strike the right balance? Do some digging in your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, and turn to your existing segmentation strategy.

Let’s say that you’re running marketing at an auto dealership with a services department, as an example. Instead of sending a generic services reminder to your customers, tailor your messaging to exactly what your customer needs. And if you’re a marketer at an e-commerce company? While browsing your CRM data, you may have noticed your users expressing interest in specific products. If you’re planning to send a mail-based promotion, you can tailor your messaging around the exact items that your buyers are browsing.

Example 1:

Note the following customizations:

  • Strong promotional offer
  • Time-based offer
  • Custom landing page

Example 2:

Note the following customizations:

  • Compelling promo code
  • Strong call to action (CTA)
  • Messaging that’s tailored to specific products and buying intent

To get started with direct mail personalization, conduct a full exploratory audit. Create a wishlist of the dimensions that you want to personalize, regardless of the resources that you may think that you need. Think about the customer decision factors that are unique to your brand. The process is simple: (1) lock your marketing team in a room. (2) Brainstorm your ideas on a whiteboard or Google doc. Get your ideas on paper, so you can be in a position to execute.

Step 2: Choose the technology you need to run your campaigns at scale

If the thought of adding customization to your mass-mailings intimidates you, you’re not alone: imagine that you’re deploying anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of letters or postcards per month. Who has the time to merge spreadsheets, update records manually, and ensure that there aren’t any errors in your outreach?

The answer is nobody. And fortunately, there’s a better way to do direct mail.

Thanks to technology, direct mail customization at scale can be as simple as email. Using an API, you can personalize postcards, launch geo-targeted campaigns, and segment your outreach with a few clicks—just as you would with your CRM and marketing strategy. Sidebar, if you’re new to APIs and would like a more in-depth introduction to programmatic direct mail, check out this guide here.

At a minimum, your tech should enable you to do the following:

  • Customize messaging to tailor your outreach
  • Segment campaigns for personalization
  • Provide a framework for A/B testing, optimization, and testing

For example, Amazon Fresh uses Lob’s API to target new audiences in new city launches. The company routinely runs optimizations related to messaging, CTAs, and discounts.

Tagging every single campaign with metadata, they’re able to customize images, postcard size, and promotional codes.

Step 3: Create systems to measure and improve performance

A direct mail growth engine will help you bridge the gap between campaign planning, execution, performance measurement, and long-term optimization. An API 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.

With automation, your A/B testing strategy can be systematic—launch campaigns, measure performance, and improve the profitability of your outreach without the manual overhead. For instance, Amazon consistently runs A/B tests on the fly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon has seen significant lift on campaigns that reach hundreds of thousands of direct mail recipients.

When planning your optimization strategy:

  • Automate as much as possible, so you can focus on analyzing results and making decisions
  • Plan to run A/B tests consistently, with every campaign
  • Include a clear CTA with every mailing, in addition to a unique promotion code if relevant, so that you can measure performance through redemptions

Final Thoughts

When planning your direct mail marketing strategy, focus on the long-term. How does your API fit within your tech stack and CRM? Just like any other marketing program, you should be able to define your goals, run tests, track results, and iterate. Learn how Lob can help you streamline your direct mail marketing strategy.

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