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August 11, 2022

An Interview with Paul Bobnak on Modern Direct Mail Best Practices

by 
Stephanie Donelson

For our upcoming webinar series, we’re lucky to have Paul Bobnak, Who’s Mailing What! Content Lead and Direct Mail Evangelist, join us to discuss best practices in using direct mail marketing for acquisition, retention, and reactivation campaigns. 

We sat down with Paul to talk all things direct mail and how marketers are incorporating this high-performing channel into a variety of use cases throughout the customer journey marketing campaigns. Read on to get a quick take from Paul’s point of view and join our upcoming webinar to learn even more. 

First up, Paul, would you mind sharing a bit about your background and experience in direct mail? 

For more than 20 years, I’ve worked with Who’s Mailing What!, the world’s world's most complete online collection of direct mail. I’ve analyzed literally thousands of direct mail campaigns of all kinds and written about them, originally for Target Marketing and NonProfit Pro, and now, for the WMW! blog. In 2021, I began interviewing marketing and print professionals for the “Meet the Mailers” video podcast series.

I also speak with audiences about the power of modern direct mail and print at marketing and printing industry events, webinars, and groups. And I create direct mail and print-related content for a variety of vendor and manufacturer clients in the marketing and printing industries. 

Thanks, Paul! Now let’s dive into the good stuff with direct mail marketing - especially on acquisition, retention, and reactivation campaigns. 

Q1: According to MarketingSherpa, 76% of consumers trust ads they receive in the mail. And our State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights found that 50% of consumers aged 34-54 agree that receiving direct mail from a brand feels more important than receiving an email from a brand. Why do you think people react so favorably to direct mail?

Because it is tangible and permanent, mail carries with it an air of credibility. When it’s done well, it creates a feeling that it’s more legitimate than some digital campaigns that we all receive where you may question if it’s real or some kind of phishing attempt. Another important factor is digital fatigue. We’re all exposed to hundreds of messages a day across many channels, each for a fleeting second or two. But mail is tactile and has staying power. You can easily hold onto a piece of mail for days - one study says for up to 17 days - before acting on it. And like books and record albums and other analog media, mail resonates differently with younger audiences that grew up digital-first.  

Q2: What’s the best piece of advice you could give a marketer when it comes to buying lists for direct mail acquisition campaigns?

Lists are more crucial than ever before to the success of any direct mail campaign. A list of good data saves you money on postage and paper, and helps you segment your audience or target individuals on a 1-to-1 basis with personalized offers. So it is absolutely essential that when you’re buying second- or third-party data from a vendor you ask: “Was your list updated through USPS NCOA (National Change of Address) in the last 90 days?” This is the best tool to ensure that you aren’t mailing with old, incomplete, or duplicate records. And don’t forget to use this database along with other pre-processing address file tools for your own first-party data.

Q3: What’s the most memorable piece of direct mail you’ve seen in the last few years? Why did it stand out? Was it the design, branding, messaging, form factor, or CTA?

Patient First, a national chain of urgent care centers, mailed out several campaigns promoting grand openings or recent openings of its newest locations. So it mailed a simple postcard which listed benefits with bullet points, offered a first aid kit to non-emergency visitors, had a single, large image on the front side, and included a QR code for people wanting a digital path to their doors. But best of all, it showed a personalized map highlighting the best route from the recipient’s home to the center - one of the most impactful and relevant examples of geomarketing and VDP (Variable Data Printing) I’ve ever seen.  

Q4: With our State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights, we found that 52% of consumers expect direct mail to be personalized. From your experience, if a marketer is running a retention campaign, what data should be used for personalization?

It depends on the campaign and your goals, but purchase history and browsing or search behavior are two good indicators of where your customers’ interests lie. With that kind of tracking data, you can customize offers for cross-sells and upsells. Variable images and copy - also personalized - initially engage them, drawing their attention to the right offer made at the right time to meet their wants and needs.

Q5: We talk a lot about omnichannel marketing at Lob, and we’d love your perspective on it when it comes to the ideal timing to add direct mail to a reactivation campaign. 

Depending on your industry and how much data you have on your customers, direct mail can make a real difference as part of a win-back campaign. Starting a campaign with an email, for example, lets the customer know that you’re still interested in them - that’s the warm-up and builds anticipation for the direct mail component. Some may respond simply to that outreach. However, not every customer opens every email effort, especially when you email very often. Your highest-value segment(s) can be targeted with a mail piece that leverages what you know about their interactions with your brand, such as purchases and interests in product or service categories.

Thanks so much, Paul, for your insights on direct mail marketing! Get to know Paul over on his website or explore the great direct mail resources and examples available on Who's Mailing What!

Continue your direct mail education

Want to get more insight into how to leverage direct mail marketing for your acquisition marketing campaigns? Join us for our upcoming webinar with Paul where we’re talking about best practices for modern marketers when it comes to integrating direct mail into their campaigns. Register now!

This blog provides general information and discussion about direct mail marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.

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