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Lobcast Podcast: Budgets & Beermosas

As you prepare for your marketing campaigns, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to budgeting for direct mail and how it can fit in with your overall marketing strategy.

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On this Lobcast Podcast episode, we're about marketing budgets, specifically budgets and money-saving tips for direct mail marketing.

Some key highlights include:

  • Marketers allocate between 10-50% of their marketing budget to direct mail
  • The 3 Ps of direct mail budgeting: Printing, postage, and production
  • How address verification saves money upfront and on the back end by reducing Return To Sender rates
  • The biggest money-saving tip for direct mail marketing: Automate it!

Meet the Speakers

Stephanie Donelson

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Summer Hahnlen

Director of Customer Success

STEPHANIE: Hello, and welcome to the Lobcast Podcast: Mixers and Marketing. I'm Stephanie Donelson, your hostess with the marketing mostess, and I'm the senior content marketing manager here at Lob. I'm thrilled to be joined with Summer Hahnlen, our director of customer success and resident direct mail expert, as she joins me for a drink and a conversation around direct mail. Welcome, Summer. Do you mind telling our listeners a bit more about you and your career in direct mail?

SUMMER: Sure thing. As you said, I am the senior director of customer success as well as lab's expert in residence. And what that means is basically, I've been in the business of direct marketing and direct mail for around 20 years. I've worked with in the print buying world, the client side, the analytics side, the strategy side. I've been the customer that lab loves to work with, but I've also run teams that support those customers. I've done a bit of a 360 tour and I'm really excited to be part of the Lob team.

STEPHANIE: Well, excellent. Welcome to the show! So, today we're going to be talking about budgets and sipping on some beermosas.

SUMMER: Cheers!

STEPHANIE: Cheers! Listeners, if you want to make this cocktail at home, it's going to be a 2/3 to one third ratio of light beer, such as Corona or Blue Moon, and then OJ to top it off. It's essentially a mimosa with beer in place of champagne. All right. So let's jump in to the top of the hour. Budgets one of our previous state of direct mail reports noted that marketers allocate between 10% to 50% of their marketing budget to direct mail summer. Do you think that statistic is still accurate for marketers looking at their 2023 plans?

SUMMER: Yes, I would say that statistic is still accurate. And the reason for such a wide range is because some businesses leverage direct mail purely for transactional use cases or legally required mail, and others will leverage it for both those required mailings and marketing mail. Regardless of the budget percentage, though, the important point is to make sure that you forward plan for your budget with an eye for that anticipated ROI and so as direct mail (DM) budgets continue to increase year over year, because DM continues to prove out as the most efficient marketing channel, it's really essential that you make sure that you're forward planning with that eye for the future.

STEPHANIE: I mean, I don't think any marketing tactic has slowed and how much it costs. I mean, maybe Facebook advertising, since I feel like they're kind of looking for people. I will say, you know, on my own side, I prefer getting marketing mail than transactional mail, though I do understand that, yes, that is the best way to get bills sent out. You know, the compliance communications. But I'm much more look forward to getting a coupon in the mail than a bill from my doctor's office. But, now that we've talked about a bit of what portion of a marketing budget should be allocated to direct mail. Let's discuss what adds up in budgeting for direct mail marketing itself. So when I think about budgeting for direct mail marketing, I think of the three Ps, you've got printing, postage and production. The silent fourth piece of paper kind of hides among the printing costs, in my view. Summer, am I being too broad and breaking down direct mail marketing costs into those three buckets. What should marketers, especially those that are new or haven't worked in direct mail marketing before, account for outside of the three Ps of printing, postage, and production.

SUMMER: I don't actually think you're being too broad. Those three P's directly ladder up to the overall cost of a direct mail budget. Postage is always the largest cost and it continues to rise. And it will continue to rise. And determining whether you can afford to use standard versus first class postage is completely dependent on your content and the need for your speed to market. Some additional considerations are if you need to consider costs for an outside design agency or a data provider, or even a backend analytics service to prove out the performance of your direct mail program.

STEPHANIE: I mean, you're speaking my language. We all love analytics in marketing. We all love understanding what's actually working, what we can test, what needs to be improved. But I think you bring up a really great point. You know, as someone who has specialized in digital marketing for so long when I come up to a new tactic, I often just think of like the front end costs, like getting the piece created. And then when it comes to something like email, you design your email, you add your list and boom, out it goes. Typically, you've already paid your email service provider, so you don't have to think about additional costs where I think, you know, direct mail, you're still going to pay for that postage. Otherwise it's not going anywhere. You have to make sure that it actually gets to the USPS so that they can get it out into the mail. And then again, just even the production or printing of the piece, I think, you know, a lot of us, again, we just come from that side of the house where it's digital. It's almost immediately out there. It's immediately in the hands of our customers. So it's a very different thing. It's a very different thing to consider all these extra budget considerations that we have to think through.

SUMMER: Absolutely.

STEPHANIE: Kind of going back to what you just mentioned about first class versus the other types of postage. What's a good rule of thumb for determining if your piece should be first class?

SUMMER: If you're sending transactional mail or anything that includes personally identifiable information? You have to send it out first class. That's just it's been a USPS rule for as long as I can remember. When you're thinking about your marketing mail, though, I would lean toward first class. If you have a very tight offer window and you make sure the piece arrives in home and that the customer has that time to respond within, you know, within limits. But if you're sending out something that has a longer offer time period, or if you're sending out a notification, that is not anything that has personalized information and it's just a heads up. I would use standard class postage so that you save that money because again, postage is the money spender and the budget.

STEPHANIE: Makes sense! All right. So if someone was just looking at getting started with a direct mail campaign, maybe they're still really new to it. What would you recommend they start with in terms of mail format, letter, postcard, self mailer, or what have you?

SUMMER: This question! I will be super honest, this question always drives me crazy because if you had the answer to this question I wouldn't need to work anymore. I would have the golden ticket. I would own an island. It would then have a resort on that island. It would be amazing. The most important thing that you can do is just test your piece within your own industry because your results are going to be very industry specific. It's going to be very dependent upon whether or not you're sending someone, say, a free like a free offer for Lululemon leggings or something. You're going to get a great response on that as opposed to someone saying, hey, I am installing new roofs in your neighborhood and you can save $1,000 on a $20,000 roof. The response was going to be a lot lower. So it's more about making sure that as you're thinking about including direct mail in your program, you think to yourself, what should I be concerned about testing? How do I go about that? What makes the most sense and how do my customers normally like to receive information? And you can actually use some of the learnings in your digital channels to inform that. If you find that within your emails, people are really scrolling all the way through and they're clicking those informational buttons and driving engagement at the bottom of your email, they care about all that information. Maybe work with them with a more long form letter. If you generally only get responses within your digital channels above the fold, which is like a digital term for anything that's in the top third, then I would potentially even look at going with a postcard, because that means that your consumers are interested and just very snackable information and something they can quickly scan and take action upon.

STEPHANIE: Now, that's fantastic advice. Since I come from the content marketing side, I love doing A/B tests on what words inspire action. Like, OK, we've seen a lot more people open our emails when we have a question in the subject line. Well, why don't we copy that over to our postcard design? We should ask them a question, you know, on one side that forces them to flip it over and look at the other. And I think you also bring up a really great point because you were on the webinar with Evan metrock from iExit?


STEPHANIE: and he went through that whole thing where he tested the postcard and started filling it up with a lot of information because he was realizing, OK, my prospects have a lot of questions. I went to a letter, had much better results, went to a two page order, had even better results. So I think it really does come down to testing and understanding what your audience needs from you. And how much room you need to get that message across.

SUMMER: Exactly! Also to make sure that it's readable, findable, discernible. You need that negative space in there.

STEPHANIE: Oh, my gosh. We have a blog on that. And I swear, some people commented that were like, I never even thought of it because it's just I want to get as much content on there as possible. It's like, nope, nope, people need a break.

SUMMER: They need a break, and they need to understand why you're reaching out to them and you have a very finite amount of time to be able to do that. And one of the benefits that I find with direct mail is that because they're holding in their hand, they also recall your brand and they give you that little bit of extra time more than they give you with an email. But still, if you try to throw everything onto a piece, nobody knows where to look. Nobody knows what matters. Nobody knows why you're reaching out to them. And usually you're the first piece that's going to be set off to the side.

STEPHANIE: You open up that recycling box and toss it in. So kind of talking through one of our customers who has trusted us, I think a lot of other reasons that marketers come to us because we have one area of cost savings in that we operate on a fixed-pricing model. So if I were running several marketing campaigns and wanted to maximize all my available channels, I can quickly tally up what direct mail is going to cost. Whereas like my budgets for PPC, social media advertising could be a lot harder to predict based on the targeting, keywords, competition, and so on. So Summer, what was your experience like in managing budgets for direct mail without a fixed-pricing model?

SUMMER: It was labor intensive, it was incredibly manual. It was the bulk of my brain spend. When my brain spend needed to be spent on thinking about my strategy and my objective and who I'm reaching out to and why, and does my offer even make sense to them? Instead, I was on the line with different printers and trying to get quotes and then thinking about how do I even fit in that queue, especially in something like Q4 timeframe. You can be in line for two months just to get something on press. And so I was spending most of my time doing what you would call production work versus actual marketing strategy. And it made it much harder for me also to anticipate what my end of the year cost needs would be. Because costs also fluctuate so much seasonally and depending on the printer, you're able to get on press with your relationships, and it can just be incredibly labor-intensive.

STEPHANIE: No, definitely, I think that's like the same as people who wait to start planning their holiday party on like December 3. Like, yeah, you pay a lot more and you might not get it.

SUMMER: You're probably having it in your office.

STEPHANIE: Hope you've got good cocktails. Yeah, but, you know, scheduling and deadlines are two words that every marketer hears day in and day out. But speaking of deadlines, what's the typical lead time that marketers should account for if they were working with a traditional print partner on their own?

SUMMER: It can really range. And the reason I say that is because, say you're part of a large organization that has a procurement team with a pre-selected pre-qualified list of providers for something like that. They've already gone through all of that rigamarole and they're part of the system, so to speak. And then your procurement team would just be working with them to bid things out, and it might take a week or two, and then you're just going to go through change order forms and things like that, but then also finding time on process. It depends on how good your relationship is with them. Again, Q4 is a really tough time, so if you're trying to get something out for like a B2C e-commerce type of brand, you're going to have a hard time if you didn't schedule something with them and say August or September or they owe you a favor getting on press at the time that you actually want to get on. So it can range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on this time of year, the type of organization you're a part of the size of your organization, the I'm trying to find the right word to use, but like the brand awareness. Say you're a brand-new brand starting out and the printer has a choice between and, I don't know, Comcast, they're going to pick Comcast because that's like that's the Ford business plan that they're looking at. And so I think it takes longer when you're a smaller brand and it takes longer when you have smaller ones.

STEPHANIE: I'm sure the printer is looking at, OK, I can print 20,000 pieces or 1,500 pieces.

SUMME: Or two million. Two million a day.  

STEPHANIE: That's a lot of ink!

SUMMER: That's a lot of ink and paper.

STEPHANIE: All right. So we've talked a little bit about budgets and cost considerations, but let's dive deeper into the tactics for saving money on direct mail. Do you think direct mail is a channel where the saying is the more you buy, the more you save? Is this like going to Costco, where if I buy direct mail and bigger batches, I'm going to save money?

SUMMER: It can be because the more that you spend with a printer, the lower your cost per is going to be. And if you send a small amount, you could actually be hitting their minimums and they have minimums just to be able to protect their press time and to be able to protect their personnel hours and the pay that they have promised to their own teams. So when you spend more, you tend to get more for less. With that said, though, not everybody can afford to do that. Not everybody has the budget to be able to send a million or two million every single month and be able to have a cost requisition that's lower. Some people actually want to send a very highly-targeted, very segmented, very personalized campaign that requires a lot of different versions. And when you do all that, you start to rack up additional costs.

STEPHANIE: I imagine so because yeah, if you're doing personalization, like swapping out photos, swapping out even CTAs or even just the layout. Yeah, that's going to have has to be a whole different run.

SUMMER: Completely. That is when you do something like, you know, offset printing. As we know, one of the biggest benefits with Lob is that your cost is the same whether you send one piece or one million pieces. And within that, your ability to personalize is 1 to 1, which is really unheard of.

STEPHANIE: Yeah no, we love that. And I think that kind of leads nicely into our next discussion topic about address verification, just because if you are trying to do the personalization, you want to make sure you're personalizing it to the right person at the right address. So Sumemr, what are some of the ways address verification can save marketers money for their precious budgets?

SUMMER: The biggest cost savings for Address Verification is in reducing Return To Sender mail. And as more people are using first-class postage for marketing mail because of that speed to market, the more that we're seeing return to sender rates that are not incredibly favorable. I say that because first-class mail always allows for return to sender mail to then go back to the sender. If you're sending standard, you don't get return to sender. Now it's a bit of a black box. You have no idea how much is not reaching your customer. So when you upgrade to first class, you get that return to the sender. And those numbers have been shocking for some of our customers and many of them have moved into the AV product because it can help you ensure that the piece you're wanting to send actually reaches its destination. And that's just saves you postage. First and foremost, let alone all of the money for the collateral. But the postage is really the bulk of your spend. I've actually seen a customer that does use the AV tool on the front end and on the back end. So on the front end, being like top of funnel, you're just inquiring. You're just putting in your address to figure out who in your area might be able to help you with what that customer provides so they qualify in the front end. Then at the end they also double check it and qualify it again. And they've seen the return to sender ratings go below 1%. So it's just a huge money-saving tip that I think more people need to take advantage of.

STEPHANIE: No kidding. And I guess that really ties back to what we were talking about earlier with, you know, compliance and making sure that, yeah, you're not sending out personally identifiable information and someone else that ends up getting it. You want to make sure that comes back to you so you're not, you know, releasing your customers' private information.

SUMMER: Nobody wants a data breach.

STEPHANIE: I feel like it's been a while since I've seen one, but knock on wood there. So I'm sure you know what I'm going to be asking next as it concerns address data marketing lists. What advice would you give to marketers who are looking to buy or who are looking at buying mailing lists? And how can they make sure that they're on or under budget?

SUMMER: I could go down a rabbit hole for this for quite some time because actually I ran an analytics department that did this for a couple of years. But the short and sweet here is when you're looking at marketing lists, you are likely in a world where you're maybe beginning or continuing an acquisition program because that's where you analysts really come in handy. And you want to make sure that when you're looking at lists, you have a really good idea in mind of what your best customer already looks like, because then what you can do is work with a list provider to find those variables that differentiate your best customers from maybe even your worst customers and say, these are the demographics that really matter to me. This is the type of purchase history I'm looking for. This is the type or this is what the customer looks like. And not only can they give you a list that more closely resembles that customer, but then they could potentially even tailor that list later on to build you profile or response models that get you even closer to what you're looking for as you continue to develop your program. So it isn't necessarily as much about on or under budget. It's about making sure that if you're going to go the extra mile to purchase the list, you're not purchasing a broad list with very few qualifiers. You're getting as close as you can to your best customers.

STEPHANIE: No, and that makes sense. And I think this is one area that really differentiates direct mail from email. In a sense, that email world, you do not buy lists unless you want to be blacklisted or you want your spam rates to go through the roof. But direct mail, it's not an uncommon tactic and consumers don't really mind it because yeah, like you said, if I get a mailer that's not really relevant to me. I'm just going to put it in the recycle bin, or maybe I'll pass it on to a friend. In a previous episode I talked about, you know, direct to consumer food delivery service sent me something. I already have one, so that wasn't relevant to me. But a girlfriend of mine was complaining because she was making the same three recipes every week and she's like, I think my kids are going to revolt. And I was like, oh, well, one for 10 free meals. And she's like, Oh my god, my kids will actually eat their dinner tonight. But it didn't work for me, but I still passed it on. And I think that's another area where buying lists, like even if the person that receives it doesn't end up being your end ideal customer, they might pass it on to someone who is.

SUMMER: Yeah, if it's a good deal, people are going to talk about it.

STEPHANIE: Right? Okay, so we verified that our addresses are correct and our mail is deliverable. But then what? What are some top tips for making the most of our mail tracking to maximize our ROI and optimize future campaigns?

SUMMER: Well, the ability to track your mail from production to in-home delivery piece by piece is such a valuable tool. It's a valuable tool not only for marketers, but also for compliance like product owners. When your DMP is intended to offer like purchased goods or notify someone of an upcoming system change or an outage, the ability to know when that piece reaches the customer is essential for like your follow through action as a brand. Our solution, as you know, automatically tracks production and delivery for each piece of mail, and you can meet your compliance regulations much more easily. You can measure your campaign performance a lot more easily because, you know, when those pieces are arriving in home, you can track your campaign at an aggregate level and then you can also track piece by piece delivery. So when you think about it from, you know, a marketer's perspective or product owner's perspective, knowing when that piece arrives in home gives you such a clarity and such a visibility to then be able to go to your own leadership and say, this is the information I know empowered with. This is the action I'm going to take. This is where I need the budget to spend that money to go do this. And this is what I promise you we're going to get in return. It's like it's an essential part of why direct mail works so well when you work with Lob.

STEPHANIE: Awesome yeah, I think, you know, talking about analytics again, coming from the digital side of the house, I spend a lot of time in Google Analytics looking at referral sources, bounce rate, time on site, goal completions to understand how our marketing campaigns are performing when driving traffic to our website. But one thing I think some marketers might forget when creating direct mail campaigns is using UTM parameters to get even more granular about tracking results. Summer, can you speak to the mail tracking and analytics available in Lob?

SUMMER: Sure well, I actually did a little bit of research before I called because I wanted to know what UTM meant, because it's just always been part of the vernacular. And so for anyone listening to this call, I promise I did not know this ahead of time, but UTM actually stands for urchin tracking module. And I guess Urchin Onemand is the name of this company was the company that made tracking website visitors really popular through those coded URLs. And of course, Google purchased the company.

STEPHANIE: As they do.

SUMMER: As they always do. But, bottom line you know fun fact for everyone but bottom line marketers can get really detailed analytics through these parameters and get access to customer engagement data just like you do with email. It's one of the really amazing benefits, especially as more and more people are opting out of email or not clicking on things because they're not sure if they should use the tool allows you to forecast whether or not your strategy is even working or figure out what strategy is working, who's actually engaging with my piece. And when you think of it from a company's perspective, someone engages with your piece through that UTM parameter and then they go through your buy flow. And let's say for some reason you start to see a huge drop off. You can actually go through that buy flow and figure out where did they drop off. Is there a place in my flow that doesn't make sense from a customer's perspective? Maybe I'm too close to it. Maybe my IT program's too close to it. And they don't realize that there's some friction in here. And I can actually go in there and find a way to reduce the step or steps to help the customer get to the desired action. Without those UTM parameters, it's a bit of a blackhole. So it's an incredibly valuable tool that brings direct mail even closer to the digital world.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. And the great thing with UTMs now like, you know, tools like bit.ly allow you to create QR codes that have that UTM tracking right there. So yep, if I get a piece of direct mail, has QR code, I scan it. They can tell exactly that my visit came from that piece of direct mail. They can attribute that result right back to it instead of being like, well, I mean, we sent out that piece that had a QR code, so I assume they scanned it. They visit the website and they? Like, no, no, you can actually see how many people scanned it or you know, if you do a URL shortener or and have those UTM parameters appended, it's a great way to really track your results.


STEPHANIE: So I think another money saving asset that's available in law is our HTML templates, which can streamline content production. So at the top of your head, do you know what templates our customers like to use first or do you make any recommendations of the HTML templates that Lob customers should be using in their direct mail strategy?

SUMMER: This kind of ladders back to the question where if I had the answer, it would be like a golden ticket. I think the customers are going to use the templates based on their campaign objective and also knowing how their customers like to receive information. And it's really important to test different formats across your campaigns to drive the results that tell you. And I think it's very easy as a marketer or a product owner to be a focus group of one. And I have fallen into this trap and just assume I like to receive information this way. So my customers must want to receive information in this way. And the truth is you just have to test. So while we see a lot of customers out there using 6 by 9 postcards and one sheet, two-page letters, it isn't necessarily that one will use one for one type of action and one will use the other for a completely different type of action. We actually see a lot of usage across the board.

STEPHANIE: I think the same thing. You know, I've been a social media manager for 12, 13 years now and it astounds me. I will know so much about my audience. I'm like, this is the perfect post. It has everything they love and womp, womp. Nobody engages with it. And then I'll be like, this is kind of a funny Friday post and it goes viral. It's you never know. I feel like in marketing, our audiences are always surprising us. They're always changing what they like, what they engage with, and what they react to. So you just constantly have to be testing that, changing up your format, changing up your messaging, really to understand how their needs are changing and what they're or what they're, you know, taking action on.

SUMMER: Absolutely and usually with direct mail, it's not a one and done. You want to continually make sure you're top of mind. So you could test one form out with the follow on of another format. Or you start with a letter, and you do a follow on email and then you follow up with a postcard. Maybe a couple of weeks later. There's so many things you can play with.

STEPHANIE: Oh yeah, now, and I've talked about in other podcast episodes, I really wish at one of my previous organizations we had tested direct mail in our email nurture series because we had a series of like. Seven or eight emails, I mean, over spans of weeks. But it was like had we popped up with a postcard and it was a QR code. Hey, we have a personalized video from your sales rep. and get to know them. Book a meeting. It would been such a great way to test. Like, OK, we're starting to see that people are not opening emails six, seven, and eight. Why don't we follow up with a piece of direct mail. So it gets their attention and then they can take action right there. And sort of hoping that eventually when they're cleaning out their inbox, they're like nope.

SUMMER: Most people don't do that.

STEPHANIE: You just click that little checkbox: Nope, nope, Nope. So, any other money saving tips you'd recommend to our customers that you'd like to touch on?

SUMMER: I think the other really big one and a lot of marketers and product owners are getting into the space is to automate as many campaigns as possible. I think the days of manual ad hoc campaigns are really moving behind us. There is still a world where that is very much a real world situation for a lot of people, but it is becoming less common. I think the main reason for that is because we're seeing not only this past couple of quarters with the economy, but also we saw through covid, decreased budgets across the board. And usually decreased budgets are going to affect marketing staff, analytics staff, and project management staff. A little bit more than maybe operations staff. And with that means that the people who are left have less time and need to do more. And so how do you combat that? And how do you, as potentially a marketer who's only had a digital background because most marketers did not get their MBAs to become direct mail experts. That's just the reality. You you don't necessarily know where to start or how to start or how to do it. And you certainly don't want to be repeating a manual process over and over. And so with tech-forward companies like Lob, people are partnering and finding out that there are ways that you can automate. So many of your campaigns, so you can use that brain space to be thinking about, what is my strategy? Why is my strategy, is it working? And spend a lot of time looking at those backend analytics and partnering with those BA people, those business analytic people and figuring out, OK, what does that tell me and what do I need to be doing next versus trying to think through, do I have the pricing I need? The pricing expires in 24 hours. Am I going to get on press and time? Is this creative going to get approved in time for that pricing still to hold? It's just such a manual thing. So to be able to automate as much as possible just really helps everyone.

STEPHANIE: No, awesome. I think you dress up nicely to our last discussion item for today, which is doing less with more. I mean, I've been a marketing 12, 13 years. I cannot think of a time when leaders haven't asked our teams to figure out how to do more with less. And automating marketing tactics is one of those fantastic opportunities to do just that. Like I said earlier, I think I've missed out on some great marketing results by not widening my campaign's reach via direct mail. What immediately comes to my mind is automated customer journeys and adding direct mail as a touchpoint such as abandoned cart campaigns, celebrating customers' birthdays or anniversaries or company milestones. Cross-selling or reaching out to those that have unsubscribed from your digital communications. In your experience, Summer, what are some automation triggers that marketers should take a second look at to see if direct mail is a good fit?

SUMMER: You touched on a lot of them. So in my history, I've worked on abandoned cart campaigns and then base triggers, competitive browse, follow UPS, meeting someone, searching one of your competitor sites, winback programs, retargeting anonymous website visitors, and definitely expanding your marketable base. Those are the ones that I've seen that have driven the quickest wins. And the program that I'm seeing right now that's really taking off is that trying to expand the market base because that one is just such a hot topic right now as more and more people are opting out of email.

STEPHANIE: Yeah I mean, it's the same thing, you know, two or I guess a month ago, you know, it was Thanksgiving, all those Black Friday, all the Cyber Monday. And it's all these companies that I'm like, I haven't seen your name in my inbox since last Black Friday. And it kind of forces me to go through my emails to be like, OK, who am I actually opening emails from? Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. But some of the brands I'm still interested in is just I'm bombarded by their digital communications. So that's a perfect opportunity that as soon as they've seen I've unsubscribed, they have my address, I've purchased items from them before. Send me a postcard that features an item I bought, maybe something complimentary, a coupon code. I will probably come back to the website to make that purchase. I may not sign up for your emails again, but you still got my repeat purchase. All right. So we kind of talked about some use cases there. So what should marketers think about when it comes to direct mail in certain automation sequences, such as factoring in production time, mail, pick up mail, sorting, all of those different variables that go into mail production.

SUMMER: Yeah one of the biggest benefits of automating your mail program with Lob is that, you know, the amount of time it takes between an API call and in-home delivery. I mean, that is just such an amazing visibility that people don't normally have. This gives you the power to add direct mail to your omnichannel program and to know when it's actually going to arrive in-home and then to be able to figure out what is my follow-up strategy am I going to reach out to them with an email or an SMS or potentially work on like a targeted social campaign, knowing that it's sitting on their counter for the next 17 days. You can tighten up your offer windows. You can meet your compliance-related deadlines. I mean, all of this is really essential regardless of whether or not you're a B2C marketer, B2B marketer, or someone who's like running a compliance program.

STEPHANIE: No, that's a great point. So when you're thinking about, you know, automation, obviously the customer journey comes to mind. So we've talked at length about how direct mail works across the entire marketing funnel. But if a marketer's budget is a really big concern, where would you recommend that marketers look to start adding direct mail to get the best results? Like, I think when I think of it, I've seen so many use cases around winback campaigns with acquisition as a very close second. But for many industries, especially those that ship products to consumers' homes winback seems like such an easy win. Like the example I just gave before where I opted out of the email that audience has already purchased. So you have their information. You can personalize the marketing message to upsell or cross-sell. Summer, what are your thoughts?

SUMMER: I am a big proponent of a winback program that either leads with direct mail or leverages direct mail as one of the main components. And that is because I've been in a fortunate circumstance where I've stood one up for a Fortune 100 brand and it was just gangbusters. The reason I think that direct mail works so well within the winback stream is because when you think about all of the intel that you have on these consumers, the fact that you've already spent the money to develop the relationship and what you can do as a follow up, you realize that that's like low hanging fruit. You you possibly even know why the person left. And if you would just be honest as a brand. I think of, you know, Domino's the way that they just basically came out and said, yeah, we know our pizza is not that great, but we're going to do better kind of thing. Like when you just own it and you put that on a, on a piece of direct mail versus an email, which an email can be easily overlooked. You are offering the customer to re-engage and to restart that relationship. And, and I've seen some amazing winback campaigns, especially ones that are highly-personalized, where they will the brand will reach out to you and they'll say, you know, we're so sorry you left. We own up to what we did or what we didn't do for you. We know that you love this product a ton or we know you love this meal because you ordered this meal every week with no delivery service. And we are going to offer you like this number of these free meals if you come back. The power of that, it's like the post isn't even being marketed to anymore. They don't feel marketed to. They feel like they're being spoken to about something that matters to them because they probably didn't want to leave. They probably didn't start purchasing with you because they knew at some point they wanted to leave. That's not how relationships normally go. You have such a unique opportunity using direct mail as part of hopefully an omnichannel approach to get those people back in the door and to reengage with them and maybe even create a stronger relationship because they decided to reconsider you again. The other one that I think is worth bringing up again, although I sound like I'm repeating myself, is the idea of expanding your marketable universe. And the reason that is so key is because year over year, even month over month, brands are seeing their email opt out rates go through the roof. And there are a number of reasons for this. And you touched on them. People have tons of email inboxes. You've got your work and you've got your personal maybe your personal times four, you signed up for things to get that one little discount, that one time that you need it just in time for Christmas and you forget about it. And then they've sent you 54 emails over the course of the following year and it's annoying for you. And so then you might spend some time when you're overly annoyed, opting out of all of these brands where you say, I did not want to receive all of these things, but you might opt out of something you actually need to get communication with or where you say to yourself, I don't want to opt out of all communication. I just want to opt out of this amount of communication. And I've seen brands leverage direct mail, not only to re-engage with customers that they've not been able to reach because I mean, some brands have, you know, opt out rights above 70%. And these are big brands like big, big brands. And I've seen the ones that are the most successful owning to the fact that they have inundated you and that you probably feel inundated from lots of different brands and they've opened up a preference center. They've given you the power as the consumer to say to them on their site, this is how I want to be communicated with. This is how often I want to be communicated with. And the likelihood of someone being driven to a preference center through an email is actually pretty low. But through a direct mail piece or like an honest letter or postcard, usually a letter was a little better for that. It has a lot of power to be able to then open up those channels of communication with your brand and your consumers.

STEPHANIE: No, I think that is a fantastic point that we've talked about on other episodes of the podcast. We also talk about on the blog, preference centers like QR codes really need to make a comeback because yeah, there are some brands that I've gone to opt out of their emails and then they're like, well, we'll lessen them. And I'm like, well, why didn't you enroll me in that version in the first place? Like, if I keep engaging, then sure, send me more emails because obviously I'm interested. But yes, don't annoy me off the bat where I do go hunting down like where is that unsubscribe button.

SUMMER: Exactly because once you get on the kick, you keep going.

STEPHANIE: Because then it's like, oops, sorry, Old Navy. Bye bye. But I totally agree. I think preference centers really do need to make that comeback so people can say, yep, I want monthly or quarterly emails. You can also send me monthly postcards with coupons or promotional stuff. I would love to hear from you via SMS. Yep, I've installed your app. You can send me push notifications allowing the customer to tell you how they want to be communicated with changes of the game. Because you are building that relationship, you know, like you said earlier, it is it's not just transactional. You know, I want someone who sends me relevant information that seems like they actually took the time to understand what I'm interested from their brand and then caters to that by saying, hey, you liked X, you probably also like Y, hey, maybe I do like Y, or worst case scenario, I don't and I continue to buy X.

SUMMER: Yeah you know, it's about the idea of feeling seen and heard.


SUMMER: And regardless of whether we're talking about mail or talking about anything else, I think everyone just has that perspective of wanting to be more than just a number. Yep, yep,

STEPHANIE: Yeah. Gone are the days when you can just pop a person's first name in the subject line, like, no, no, I need a bit more personalization. Like, OK, you've shown me what I bought before, and now here are things that complement it. OK, cool. You're actually listening. Unless you send me an email, where it's something that I rated very poorly and you're like, hey, you liked x? Do you want to click on it? No, I don't. All right. So as we get ready to close out today's podcast episode, is there anything I missed in our conversation around automating direct mail especially in how it can be beneficial for a marketing budget?

SUMMER: I think just the main thing is to reiterate the fact that wherever you can automate, do it because you really want to make sure that you have a program that is like self-reliant and one that can not be on autopilot by any means, but one that can then be fine tuned, I think are the right term to use. Because when you have a program that is already automated, then you can start thinking about what do I need to be testing? Because usually when you're getting a campaign out the door testing, the last thing you're thinking about because you just don't have the brain space. You run out of time, you might not have uploaded it with your printer. Different versions like, well, it's too late, it's just too late. But if something's already running that you can really play with testing within the program and then be able to your heart's content, just make sure you can measure on the other end.

STEPHANIE: That's always great advice.

SUMMER: It's like a whole other Lobcast.

STEPHANIE: I'll put it on the calendar. All right. Well, Thank you so much for joining me today, Summer, to chat about budgeting and direct mail marketing. To our listeners, thank you so much for joining us for drinks in the chat about direct mail. If you do want to dive deeper into the topic of budgeting and crushing your marketing ROI, please feel free to download a complimentary copy of our e-book, The Modern Marketer's Guide to Crush Your ROI and Budget Boals with Direct Mail at lobdemo.co/directmailroi, that's lobdemo.co/directmailroi. Our next Lobcast Podcast episode will be the first of 2023, and we're starting the new year off right by talking about our marketing resolutions. As always, you can browse our library of episodes over at lobdemo.co/lobcast. Thanks for listening. And that's all, folks!