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Community
June 27, 2016

What Is Automated Direct Mail—and How Can It Help You?

*Updated June 11th, 2021

It doesn’t take much time to write and send an email. Type up about 100 words, make a click or two, and you’re done.

Imagine if sending direct mail was that easy? With automated direct mail, it is.

The best part is that automated direct mail isn’t just convenient—it’s also more effective. Email has a low response rate of 1%, while direct mail boasts a response rate of 9%.

Wrap automated direct mail into your marketing strategy to reach your audience through a less saturated channel—without sacrificing the time and resources manual direct mail requires.

What is automated direct mail?

Automated direct mail refers to a service that automates the manual processes normally associated with direct mail, such as verifying addresses, personalizing letters, communicating and coordinating with printers, and more.

Why you should make the switch

Writing copy, designing mail, collecting and checking addresses—manual direct mail takes a lot of work. Automated direct mail takes the hassle out of your direct mail processes, so you can focus on high-level campaign improvements instead of “will this order be printed on time?”

You can send trigger-based mail

With manual direct mail, it’s challenging to connect your mail efforts to other parts of your digital marketing. You can’t reliably track whether people who received your direct mail also engaged with digital campaigns and vice versa.

Automated direct mail systems make it easier to connect campaigns to your digital efforts. One way is by implementing trigger-based mailings.

Say you’re a healthcare company. You may set up a trigger where filling out a digital healthcare form triggers a letter that includes the printed version of that form for your customer. If you’re in the financial space, someone may apply for a loan and not get approved, triggering a personalized rejection letter encouraging them to apply again in the future. With automated direct mail, implementing these triggers can be done with a few lines of code.

Further reading: The Role of Direct Mail in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

You can target recipients in no time/It can be segmented and targeted

You can buy all the address lists you want, but without the ability to collect audience data from your campaigns, you won’t be able to strategically send direct mail with targeting. The result? You’ll waste money sending mail to people who are never going to convert.

Automated direct mail allows you to use customer data gathered from your digital campaigns to automatically segment and target your direct mail campaigns. From there, you can gather even more data from your direct mail campaigns.

Instead of manually creating lists out of this data, an automated direct mail system creates them for you, so you can spend time developing the creative, not combing through datasets.

You can personalize at scale/It can be easily customized with dynamic content

Individually personalizing every piece of direct mail is costly; it could take dozens if not hundreds of employee hours every month.

An automated direct mail system helps you customize your content with very little effort, so you can send more mail in less time—and make it more customized and optimized in the process.

But what about “the human touch?” Automation doesn’t take that away. In fact, platforms like Lob allow you to use dynamic content to personalize your mailings and increase response rates with customizable HTML templates. Instead of removing the human touch, it makes it that much easier to apply the human touch no matter how many pieces you send.

You can a/b test campaigns/It can be tested and tracked

With manual direct mail, you use a ton of resources—employee hours, mounds of paper, and more—to engage your audience. But at the end of the day, it’s tough to know what parts of your direct mail were actually effective. Did using the color red push recipients to take advantage of your sale? Did describing your promotion as “the ultimate sale” turn off shoppers?

With automated direct mail systems, you can investigate those questions by experimenting. Use a platform like Lob for multivariate testing to test multiple iterations quickly. You can test things like copy, design, placement, imagery, personalization, mail type, etc., and then use QR codes, phone numbers, and unique URLs to track the results. Use the results from your testing to further optimize every campaign.

Automated Direct Mail can grow with your business

Printers’ pricing models typically follow a standard rate card. With an automated direct mail platform like Lob, you can buy individual pieces rather than set bulk amounts from a printer. This will ensure that you are only purchasing the supplies and postage that you need.

Say you’re a small business. Our automated direct mail platform Lob offers a startup plan for a monthly flat rate of $225 that you could use. You can send up to 3,000 mailings—paying for each piece on top of the flat fee— but you only pay for what you send, not all 3,000.

If you’re an enterprise, Lob can customize a plan to suit your specific needs. You can communicate up-to-date information about your mailings in real time so that your costs adapt to your constraints.

For even greater scalability, find a platform that has access to a print delivery network (PDN) that intelligently routes printing across a global network of commercial printing partners. When you don’t have to worry about whether your printer has the capacity to take on your projects, you can scale more quickly.

Further reading: How to Lower Your Direct Mail Cost in 2021

Automated direct mail systems can integrate with your current tools

Instead of copying and pasting records between systems, automated direct mail allows you to create integrations so that your software operates as an ecosystem. You can rest easy knowing that your tools are talking to one another.

You can even find a platform like Lob that can integrate with your own proprietary system, like the data analytics company Saylent did. They built Lob into their proprietary system to eliminate the need to switch between platforms to execute campaigns.

Automated direct mail improves accuracy and compliance

Manual direct mail leaves too much room for error. You’re entering data into spreadsheets yourself to track campaigns and relying on vendors and printers to produce and send your direct mail correctly.

And depending on your industry, you run the risk of creating direct mail that isn’t compliant. If you’re a healthcare company, you don’t want to rely on a vendor to make your campaigns HIPAA-compliant.

An automated direct mail platform can verify addresses, so there’s no need to manually check contact information. An automated system can also integrate with other tools to make sure you’re sending compliant mailings. VillageCareMAX is just one of the companies that uses Lob to create HIPAA-compliant mail.

How can you use automated direct mail?

Whether your goal is marketing or general communication, automated direct mail can be effective through the entire funnel.

Lead generation

Automated direct mail is a more tactile touchpoint for reaching new audiences who aren’t responding on more saturated digital channels.

How to use it: Create automatic triggers that use the data collected through your digital research and initiatives to develop and segment your direct mail lists and reach a bigger but more targeted and relevant audience. Your digital initiatives may show that conversion rates are higher among those in large metro areas as opposed to the suburbs, so you can use that info to target specific zip codes as Kunversion+ did. As a real estate company, they scaled outreach with agent-branded postcards to recipients in specific zip codes.

Lead retargeting

Automated direct mail helps you connect with customers at the exact right time to encourage them to come back.

How to use it: Use automated direct mail to closely tie your direct mail to digital behaviors, so any mail you send is relevant and timely, not random. You may see a lot of form abandonments on your website, for example. Use a tool like Clearbit to enrich the data they did enter and find new addresses to retarget to encourage them to return. You could also use direct mail to reengage those who unsubscribed to your email, like Lob client and retail company ThirdLove. With an automated direct mail platform, you can set up triggers so retargeting campaigns can be sent without having to manually transfer customer data from one platform to another.

Customer retention

Customers are more likely to stick with a brand if the business stays attentive to their unique needs. To offer this personalization, use an automated direct mail system that can pull insights about recipients from your digital campaigns to automatically customize your direct ones.

How to use it: Use a platform that generates customizations automatically, so you don’t have to redesign each piece of mail based on your customer data. You might send birthday gift cards or coupons by having your automated direct mail platform autofill the names of recipients. Or you could encourage customers to make another purchase by sending them direct mail with a personalized offer like retail company thredUP. They use their own customer data and Lob to automatically swap out imagery based on past purchases and location.

Further reading: Retention Marketing from the Inbox to the Mailbox

Transactional communication

Despite the massive shift to digital communication, many industries like finance and healthcare still require physical documents and letters. That’s where automated direct mail comes in.

How to use it: An automated direct mail system will retain a detailed log of all your mail for you. This ensures greater accuracy and helps important documents get delivered on time and without error while remaining compliant. You could build Lob into your proprietary tech to automatically log your mail in the same system where you log your digital communication to keep all your data in one place. VillageCareMAX uses Lob to send monthly care plans to their members while complying with HIPAA regulations.

Build a superior marketing strategy with automated direct mail

Automated direct mail takes care of admin tasks so you can focus on high-level improvements. Once you choose a platform, make sure it’s providing value by gauging the health of your direct mail campaigns. Not sure how to do that? Check out this resource to uncover ways to improve response rates.

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