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Lobcast Podcast: Marketing Mail & Mulled Wine

Mail matters! We’ve discussed the 2022 State of Direct Mail and State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights that prove direct mail is a powerful marketing tactic, but it’s often pitted against another form of marketing mail: Email. But around here, we know every marketing channel has its place in an omnichannel strategy. Let’s sip on some mulled wine and discuss when a marketing campaign should be an email, a piece of direct mail, or both!

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On this Lobcast Podcast episode, we're discussing marketing mail, both electronic and direct. We'll talk about both marketing tactics and when campaigns should utilize them and when marketers should combine their powers to drive marketing ROI.

Key highlights include:

  • 72% of marketers are using direct mail and email in tandem in their customer journeys
  • 44% of consumers aged 18-34 surveyed in the State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report agree that direct mail is an important way for brands to build relationships with them
  • How one brand used email with lower-value customers and direct mail with high-value customers to drive higher campaign ROI
  • Tips and tricks for using A/B test results to inform other marketing mail campaign elements

Meet the Speakers

Stephanie Donelson

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Kim Courvoisier

Senior Director, Content Marketing

STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to the Lobcast Podcast: Mixers and Marketing. I'm Stephanie Donelson, your hostess with the marketing mostess, and I'm also the senior content marketing manager here at Lob. I'm thrilled to be joined again with my senior director of content, Kim Courvoisier, who's joining us for a drink as we talk about marketing. Thanks for hanging out with me, Kim.

KIM: Absolutely I love drinking at ten a.m. while we do a podcast.

STEPHANIE: It's a perk of the job, right? All right. So today we're talking about marketing mail, both direct and digital, and sipping on some mulled wine, a perfect complement to the holiday season. So if you want to make this at home, you'll need a mid-range bottle of dry red wine. I prefer using a jammy Zinfandel for my mulled wine. Then you'll need one large orange sliced into rounds, a 1/4 of a cup of brandy, 1 to 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey to taste, two cinnamon sticks, eight cloves and two star anise. Or if you want a shortcut, you can find a packaged mulled wine spices. After all, we're marketers. We love being efficient. So you'll combine all the ingredients and cook on medium high heat until it barely starts to simmer and only reduce the heat to low cover and simmer for about 15 minutes before straining and serving. All right, Cheers and welcome again to the show, Kim.

KIM: Here's I have to say, my house smelled so good making this last night. Love it. And I got that little mulled spices from world market. So easy and I used my favorite bottle of wine from Scribe, a winery here in Sonoma Valley.

STEPHANIE: You would pick a wine called Scribe. I'm not going to lie. I've picked out ones that have typewriters on the covers too. And I'm like, oh, this is a cute bottle. Even if the wine is terrible, it's still going on my shelf.

KIM: Scribe is quite good. If you ever make it to Sonoma when you come to visit, we'll go.

STEPHANIE: Awesome I can't wait for that. So since we are talking about marketing mail, both you and I obviously work in the direct mail marketing space, but we also have plenty of experience in the email marketing world too. Kim, do you mind giving us a quick rundown of your background and email?

KIM: Sure thing. So I was in the email marketing industry for about a decade, and I started out with VerticalResponse, which was founded by an amazing female founder and CEO, Janine Popick. I learned so much during my time at VerticalResponse about how businesses were using email marketing not only to market their products and services, but also to grow relationships with prospects and customers. And email came so far during that decade, right? We went from coding HTML, which I think we talked a lot about in the first episode of our podcast, really to WYSIWYG, drag and drop. It was much more for marketers than it was for developers. And we also saw the dawn of marketing automation and companies like Marketo come on the scene, right? So that was really exciting. I then joined Campaign Monitor after seven years at VerticalResponse, right after Campaign Monitor got their $250 million in funding. So that was a super fun time to be an email marketing and campaign manager at the time was really just establishing their foothold here in the United States and a really rapid growth trajectory. And I really the thing I loved about Campaign Monitor is I was able to use our own product to send our emails out to our customers. And it's not every day when you work at a business that you get to use your own product. We actually do that a lot at Lob. We use our own direct mail to send direct mail to our customers and prospects. So that's sort of my 10 years in the industry of email.

STEPHANIE: I mean, the funny thing is we both have Campaign Monitor in common. I remember you called it out of my resume and I was like, yeah, we white labeled one of my previous companies and sold it to our own customers. But I'm very familiar with this system. I loved it. I loved all the educational materials the company put out that now you probably had a hand in yourself. But I've also worked in Hubspot, Marketo, MailChimp for a variety of industries, as well as just personal passion projects as well. So very familiar with email marketing. I don't even want to know how many subject line tests I've run, how many CTA buttons, all of that stuff. Though I do have to admit that in previous organizations I was definitely focused more on the digital tactics, but I did dabble a little bit in direct mail, but at that time it was not what it is now. I swear the system was like a rip off of Microsoft Word where if you move like one line of text, it messed up every other element around it. It's like this campaign was the definition of basic. It was literally like "dear resident," because I don't think I could even pull contact information like I definitely wasn't putting in, "Hello, John Smith," come to our event. It was just, hey, you live at this address? You're within a five mile radius of this place. Come on over.

KIM: I still get direct mail like that today.

STEPHANIE: I do too.

KIM: We'll talk about that later.

STEPHANIE: But like every piece of direct mail that I was sending with this campaign was the exact same. I remember when I first got the copies of it, I was like, hey, these are not the colors that I saw on the computer. Like the colors were a little bit more dull, but I think that's one thing that has evolved in leaps and bounds. The printing process for direct mail, the technology behind it, the personalization capabilities behind it. I mean, at the time I was very proud of the piece and just figuring out how to actually get it in the mail and deliver to people's houses. But that's where my journey with that mailer ended. I mean, I couldn't be tracking it. I had no capabilities to see who is actually visiting the website, any of that. But technology has changed. Our MarTech has caught up and it makes the process of direct mail easier than ever. In fact, our own direct mail automation platform makes it as easy to send a piece of direct mail as it is to send an email. But that's also the crux of our conversation today. Is this an either or discussion? I mean, it honestly feels like in marketing as marketers, we think that we can only pick one type of marketing mail and it's either direct or digital, but both have their place in our marketing strategy. Both have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. They shouldn't be pitted against each other, but strategically work together. Kim, what do you think is today's way of creating mail, disrupting the industry, or at least changing how people think about adding direct mail to their marketing strategy to complement their digital channels?

KIM: Oh my gosh, I just have to thank you again for having me on this episode, because there's nothing I love more than this. It's like such a great debate and like, absolutely, as you've mentioned, creating, creating and sending direct mail used to be super complicated, like everything you described and expensive. Right so if you put it alongside digital channels that promise like near immediate results for a low price of entry, it was hard to think of direct mail as a viable channel. And for most marketers, time is money, right? And so if I could just blast out an email to my entire list and get instant results, that's really hard to put that up against. A pretty complicated process that could take months to get a piece out the door and then not even know if it was going to land when you needed it to. But that's all changed, right? Thanks to direct mail automation software from companies like ours. And as you said, creating and sending direct mail campaigns now is as easy as sending an email in MailChimp, which is like partner with MailChimp. It's a few day process versus like weeks or months and it's personalized, it's scalable, it's trackable, and it's optimized. So it's truly night and day to what it used to be.

STEPHANIE: I mean, that's so true. I love looking at our Campaign Builder and seeing how easy it is to use. I really wish I had kind of found it when I worked at other organizations where we had talked about doing print mail, but it was like and by the time this gets out, the sale is going to be over. It doesn't matter at that point,

KIM: Which is why people didn't use it and why the proliferation of digital came about. Because everything had to be like that, fast, fast, fast.

STEPHANIE: Yep I mean, we do have the attention span of a goldfish, so we've got to move quickly. But let's leave that technology in the past where it belongs and talk about the present and future marketing campaigns. So, when should marketing mail be direct? So we both know direct mail and email have their place in your marketing strategy, but sometimes one mail method does win out over the other, depending on your targeting, messaging, budget, or other factors. Kim, if you were to decide if a marketing message should be direct or digital, what's the first thing you would ask of that message or the campaign?

KIM: So you've been in, I'd say, hundreds of meetings with me and, you know, hundreds, maybe thousands. You know that I start every single conversation with the G-word, goals, right? What are you trying to accomplish? What defines success? What do you want the recipient of this piece to do and why? And as far as direct mail or email, which one should you do? I'm again going to be that marketer and say it depends, but probably both. Using direct mail with email is a valuable touchpoint and makes both channels more successful. Looking back at our State of Direct Mail report, it shows that 72% of marketers are using channels, those channels in tandem in their customer journey. So I'd say three quarter, almost 3/4 of marketers are doing that. That speaks volumes.

STEPHANIE: Oh, for sure. And maybe it's just having worked in the finance industry before. But like when I think of a direct mail message, it's generally around something that's regulatory or compliance-based. It's something that you have to send to a person's home because it's a message that needs to get their attention, which getting people's attention kind of leads me to think about the spam effect. When I constantly see the same brand name in my inbox, I kind of start to ignore those emails because they're starting to feel like spam and they're simply overwhelming. I don't even get to the subject line going back to my subject line testing. As I look at the promotions tab in my Gmail, because I see the same brand name within like three rows of each other, like, oh, they sent me an email at 10:07, they sent me one at 9:58. You're going in the trash. There's not that many messages that important that I need to get multiple emails about.

KIM: And we're recording this episode in December, right? And this is like talk about email overwhelm, every retailer sending you you know, some are sending you, like you said, three emails in a day like I love me some Bath & Body Works, but like I don't need three emails about candles in a single day. Like, you're going to miss out. Oh, my god, I know a candle and I love candles, but enough is enough. And it does get to the point where you're going to hit the unsubscribe and then you're lost. So you really have to think about that balance.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, no, I totally agree. I think we both on like Black Friday, we're sending each other messages like, oh, my gosh, like, get out of my inbox. Like, I get it. You have a 20% off coupon. You're going to have that same coupon in a month. Like, I don't need seven emails telling me the same sale or worse, if I take action on one of those emails and then you send me an email that has a better deal later, whoa I'm going to social media and I'm going to be like, what the heck? Where is this better coupon? Why was I not sent this in the first place?

KIM: Yep Yep.

STEPHANIE: But I do think looking at that email strategy, a lot of us as marketers, even in the email space, it's constantly like it's so easy to churn out, so we can just get a couple of emails in the queue. But I think we need to step back and look at it from the customer experience side and that's a great opportunity to pop in a piece of direct mail. You could have that email that announces the sale, you could have that postcard that follows up like, hey, we noticed you didn't take advantage. We'd hate for you to miss out. And then another email that follows up, hey, it is the last day of the sale. This is your last opportunity to actually take advantage that way. You're reaching the person across multiple channels in multiple ways, but not being overwhelming.

KIM: Yeah, for sure. And that postcard is such a nice touch point, sort of mid midpoint there too, because you could take that like I take it and I put it into my bag and I carry it with me as like this reminder, I put it on my fridge. So it's tangible, it's physical, it's real. Right versus that email is like in this queue of things that's never stopping.

STEPHANIE: Yeah and if I don't have that email open in front of me, I forget about it. Whereas every time I go down to fill my water bottle and I see that coupon on the fridge. Oh, Yeah. I need to make a reservation at that restaurant.

KIM: Yeah.

STEPHANIE: So we talked last time on the podcast about how direct mail is preferred by consumers when receiving mail from brands they don't know. And I think that one thing that plays into that is the golden rule of email marketing never, ever buy email lists. So Kim, how do you feel about brands you don't know, sending a direct mail?

KIM: It's such a good question because I actually really like it, because I feel like it's a nice way to get to a brand that I might not be aware of. And it's I can get more familiar with them. It's visual, it's a friendly-feeling way to introduce yourself to consumers. And again, because it's real, it's physical, it's almost like a welcome mat, right? It's like, here, here is something and you're giving me something. And whether it has like an offer or a coupon or yesterday, I still have it. I got a direct mail piece that had like a little sample of shampoo in it, right? Like, and it was stuck on there with like that pirate's glue. And I was like, oh, cool, I can try this now. And I'm getting a ton of direct mail right now from direct to consumer brands. And what a wonderful way to introduce a brand you may never have heard of, right? And so I really like it, and I'm not the only one. In our State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights edition, 44% of respondents in the age group of 18 to 34 agreed that direct mail is an important way for brands to build relationships with them. So we talked a lot about in my email career how email marketing is like dating, right? You can't just go in that person email and make the ask. And I'd say it's very similar to direct mail. It's a way to nurture and grow and not only first do that handshake and that welcome, but then continue to nurture that relationship as you go.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. And I think when I fall out of that specific demographic, I'm still going to agree that direct mail is a good way to build a relationship with me.  

KIM: I'm out of that demographic but I do agree.

STEPHANIE: We'll just widen that range? I mean, it's only by two years, right?

KIM: Oh, yeah.

STEPHANIE: So what tips would you give to other marketers when it comes to buying lists for direct mail marketing?

KIM: Well, part of what makes direct mail so effective is your ability to target cohorts or segments of your audience. It's not this like spray and pray mentality, right? Because direct mail is an investment. You want to make sure that you use it strategically. So let's say I was working on a customer acquisition campaign and I could procure a list of prospects in a certain zip code right or near my store location, which could be super effective. However, for campaigns focused more on retention or reactivation, you'd obviously want to use your own existing customer list and then laser focus on certain cohorts that you needed to either focus on churn or focus on certain retention metrics like they haven't logged in six months or they haven't made a purchase in the last month, something like that.

STEPHANIE: Definitely and I think we've got some exciting stats that will be revealed in the 2023 State of Direct Mail talking about different areas of the funnel that direct mail marketing really works for. And I think acquisition is one of those areas that we're seeing some gains in and it kind of just makes sense. I mean, a while back we had the acquisition webinar where we talked with our friend Evan Metrock, the CEO and founder of the iExit app, and he relied on direct mail to reach his prospects because it was really hard to find the digital contact information for his prospects. You know, he was finding out that it wasn't worth it, having his sales team, spend time digging up that data because it wasn't paying off. They weren't getting the results that they were looking for. And he even said that his sales team came back to him. It was like, yeah, people are really on guard for unsolicited emails. But then when he tested a postcard campaign, he immediately saw an ROI of 155% Now that is a number that I would be thrilled to report to you and the rest of the team being like, hey, look at this. This is working. And for me, I think one of the things that we need to think about when it comes to picking between direct and digital is the lead time or promotion deadline. I already mentioned earlier about seeing that postcard on my fridge where they're having a sale. There's probably a deadline that I have to use it by. I mean, we all get coupons in the mail, the fan favorite being the well branded Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off mailers. I mean, I think we were moving into our house we had a stack this big between our apartment and our house. And it was just how many things from Bed Bath & Beyond can we go buy?

KIM: We take that whole stack in and they'll take them, which is crazy to me.

STEPHANIE: But yeah, but we continue to get them because they work. I mean, Bed Bath Beyond is not going to spend money on this tactic if it's not actually bringing in customers, whether that's new or repeat business. So I think, again, going back to direct versus digital, I also look at get the timeline. The deadline is a few weeks or months away then a postcard or a letter is going to be a great way to reach that person, gives them time to digest the information, look up anything they need to know about it, and make that conversion. Whereas if it's more time sensitive, I think an email is a better fit here. So having worked in email marketing, Kim, what are your thoughts on the amount of lead time marketers should allow for both email campaigns and direct mail ones?

KIM: So there's a line in Taylor Swift's new song, "Mastermind."

STEPHANIE: You Swiftie!

KIM: Sorry, we're very into Taylor Swift in this household. But there's a line in her new song "Mastermind" that says failing to plan is planning to fail. And I just love that line. Right and I guess it's actually a quote originally attributed to Benjamin Franklin and a similar one to Winston Churchill. I've been watching a lot of "The Crown" lately, so but I'm going to give props to it for it. Anyway, we talked about earlier, any type of campaign. You're going to run requires goals and a purpose and a plan. So just like email, direct mailers can be sent as part of a campaign. They can be triggered part of event or based on a behavior, or they can just be sent as a one off. Right so direct mail can be created and sent in just a few days or email can be sent freely in like minutes if you had it really down. And we're just like copying something and just like attaching a new list and sending it off. So if you're dealing with something super time sensitive email is probably your best option, right? If you're Ticketmaster and you're selling a presale to Taylor Swift and your entire site goes down and you now need to push your pre-sale from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., you're going to send an email out to tell people, stop logging in for changing the time. You're not going to send a direct mail piece, right? But if you're trying to get fans hyped up who are coming to a concert, that's not until July you could send out a direct mail piece with like tips for going, things like that. So again, just think about sense of urgency and time and what you have from a timeline perspective. And then here's the golden thing is don't just do one or the other. Think about planning out that customer journey and what are all the touchpoints in it when you put together your campaign in your timeline so you don't have to pick one or the other?

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. And I think that's where kind of templates really come in and are lifesavers for marketing teams because yeah, if you can clone an email template and then just pop in the new information like the Ticketmaster example, I'm sure they have a "sorry everyone, our web servers are down," and then I'm sure they also have the pre-populated social media posts, probably even SMS marketing, anything they can do that can get in front of their target audience immediately because they know they're most likely online at that time.

KIM: Completely.

STEPHANIE: All right. So lastly, I think direct mail is a good fit for your marketing message when you can not reach them via email, such as remarketing to those that have unsubscribed. Now, Kim, don't we have a really great testimonial about using direct mail for that specific use case?

KIM: Yeah, absolutely. So ThirdLove uses lob to automate direct mail based life cycle campaigns for users that have unsubscribed from their email communication. And you know, back in the day, if you had someone who unsubscribe to her email. And that was the only channel you were using. Bye,there's no way to contact them. And that's not great. You've worked really hard. Customer acquisition costs are enormous most of the times. And so if that was it, that was the end of the relationship. That's a really hard thing to take. So what ThirdLove has found is that their direct mail campaigns they send to their unsubscribed segment get the highest response rate. And that's kind of amazing because if they didn't use direct mail and they only had relied on email, that customer again would have been lost. So direct mail gives ThirdLove another channel to communicate with this segment of their audience. And it's told them that they don't want email. So now they have another way to reach them. And that's incredibly powerful because when all of us as marketers think about customer acquisition costs, we work hard to get someone in the door and we don't want to just lose them when they get tired of getting our emails. So direct mail is an incredibly effective channel and one that customers actually want to get and take action on.

STEPHANIE: Definitely and I think there's a way that we can, as marketers, we can use the unsubscribe button or preference centers to help them be in control because at the end of the day, the customer journey is all about them being in the driver's seat. They choose when they want to see your messages, where they want to follow you, how they want to be contacted. So giving them that opportunity to say, "Hey, fewer emails!" But they want fewer emails, but let's sprinkle in a few direct mail pieces or offer exclusive discounts through that. So many ways to use it.

KIM: I love an email preference center!

STEPHANIE: I do too!

KIM: Because instead of just being like, no, I don't ever want to hear from you again, like if I could say that to some of these companies we've talked about, just say a little less like what's really great, but not three times a day. But if you don't have that option, then you're like, bye bye, Felicia. I don't want your emails. Yeah,

STEPHANIE: Right? There is an e-commerce store that I signed up for their email list and it was every single day. So I was like, OK, I'm done. So I hit that unsubscribe, took me to a preference center and it was like they had multiple options. So I'm like, why did you automatically enroll me in the most annoying one? Why didn't you start with like a month?

KIM: Because the defaults like send everything.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, like, actually let me decide how often I want it. And then if I am engaging more with your emails, maybe that's a hint that I'm very interested in a certain product or what have you. Start sending me more of those or watch what pages of the website I visit and start targeting my communications that way.

KIM: That's a great takeaway for any email marketers out there listening to this conversation to say like, maybe if you are setting your defaults right for subscribers, that you set it in more of a mid-range and let the consumer dial up are dialed down. But don't I feel like as marketers we just want to go like go big or go home, right? So we set the default on the highest. So three times a day, go, go, go, go, go. Instead of setting it maybe like once a week. And then I'm like, hey, I'm really engaging. I'm opening every email, then maybe we can dial it up or dial it down versus just like

STEPHANIE: Overwhelming the person?

KIM: Yes

STEPHANIE: All right. So now that we've talked about when marketing mail should be direct, let's pivot like Ross Geller and talk about when email is a stronger fit for your message. So I do think a lot of marketers do default to email when thinking about marketing mail, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's relatively easy to create an email campaign. You agree?

KIM: Well, yeah, I mean, in the last 10 years. Email was quick, easy, affordable. But then when the big marketing automation came on the scene, to be honest, that's when it, for me, got a lot harder as a marketer to be on the tools because it got a lot more complicated and a lot more complex sending an email out there like a MailChimp or a campaign monitor, pretty easy for your average bear, but you get into Marketo and it's like, that's a whole other level. So now you need a full time email marketing person, a marketing ops person, and often like a lifecycle marketing person. And God forbid one of those people leaves and somebody has to send out an email. It's like I actually had a CMO who used to talk about when we got a marketing automation platform, like I won't name it that it was like having a 747 and no pilot. Because it's like, great, we've got this amazing plane, but nobody can freaking fly the thing. So that sounds great. So as we move to more sophisticated needs for our marketing, that once easy channel got a lot harder and a lot more expensive. So email did move from being a quoted HTML experience to more of a WYSIWYG like we talked about in the beginning. But for most enterprise marketers, we're not designing our own emails. We have creative teams and design teams doing those efforts.

STEPHANIE: No, definitely. I agree. I mean, I applaud anyone who is Marketo certified because I can make a program, I can set an email up, but like anything else or like figuring out the lead scoring and then this, then oh, then this happens and oh, here, track all the customer activity like, OK, can you just tell me if my campaign was successful?

KIM: Yeah, I know we're content marketers, right? Like our demand gen team and our marketing ops person, like pure gold.

STEPHANIE: But I did really like your point about more sophisticated needs for our marketing. We live in a time where we have access to real-time data. We can see what our customers are doing in the moment. We can capitalize on that moment or their intent. And for me, I think a really good go to for email is a cart abandonment campaign because I see you Southwest Airlines trying to get me to finish my booking to Arizona. I can easily take action from the email pick up right where I left off. And this ties in nicely with something else you said earlier about time-sensitive communications being a good fit for email. So we know these channels shouldn't exist in silos and they should work together. So let's talk about some creative ways direct mail and email marketing can play nicely together. So just going back to my card abandonment mail example, I already know I'm going to get retargeting ads, so it's surprising that the airline wouldn't also think it's an ideal time to send me a piece of direct mail too, with a big, beautiful picture of my destination. Maybe a drink coupon or two, hint hint Southwest, and a reminder message that those fares won't last forever, or even telling me about their cancellation policies or price match guarantees, what have you. I mean, the travel industry has spent a lot of money on customer research. They know when people are booking, they know what triggers encourage people to take action. So rely on those because yeah, I might be sitting here being like, know this trip is still six months out. I've got time to book it. You've got time to get that postcard in the mail and remind me that I should lock in my fare now because you always match it should the price go down. And like I mentioned earlier about looking at brand names in my inbox, I think an area brands, especially those in the B2B space can win, is by breaking up nurture tracks with direct mail. At one of my previous organizations, I really wish we had a B tested a direct mail component with some of our email marketing nurture streams because we could have had a postcard come from their region's sales rep introducing themselves, have a little QR code that links to a calendly link or pops a meeting on their calendar. We could have sent them a postcard with our schedule of upcoming conferences or industry events so they could meet us in person. But these pieces of direct mail would still work with our email nurture campaigns and support the same goal.

KIM: Probably work even better right than in a silo or on their own. As a standalone, I think less than 10% of marketers use direct mail as a standalone, so it's a natural fit and complement to your digital channels, right? When you bring the physical and the digital together, it's like bam!

STEPHANIE: Or even it would have been great. Like after a webinar you get your thank you email with the recording, but like two weeks later, here comes a postcard. Thanks for attending our webinar. By the by, did you know we have a complementary e-book that goes with it? Or here's a page that has that. Hopefully our teammates are listening. They do that. They do it. I know it. So, Kim, have you heard from any of our customers that mix and match direct mail and email what a typical workflow might look like? For example, a customer makes a purchase, the brand sends two emails and then a piece of direct mail. Or should it be a nice staggered effect? Email, direct. Email, direct. What do you think?

KIM: So again, total market over here. But it totally depends, right? But yes, we see heaps of our customers using an omnichannel approach, essentially using a variety of channels together and which we see as most effective, both of us. We did a webinar right for the insurance industry. And I got to chat with Tim O'Brien from Next Insurance. And Next is doing amazing things using email and direct mail and their customer lifecycle campaigns for the insurance industry. But his approach could be used in just about any industry out there, right? It's about thinking about these different touch points. And what Tim has found is that during these strike, while the iron hot moment is what I think we were calling them, and it's like when people do something like they first sign up or they have their anniversary of first getting that insurance plan and they work with a lot of small businesses, right? Those are these moments and sort of defining moments as a business. And so they make for really nice touch points and sending out your campaign.

STEPHANIE: Definitely and I think we've talked to a few customers who said, they'll use email to tease something that's coming in the mailbox just to kind of have a nice little bookend of it of, hey, we're not going to exactly tell you what's coming, but it's something you should be excited about. That way the person is actively checking their mail, going through it, or they send the email afterwards saying like, hey, you should have gotten something, but it doesn't look like you took action on it yet. Do you want to go check your mailbox?

KIM: And you know, direct mail does stand out like we've talked about the sea of digital in our inboxes. That's just overflowing and overwhelming. And I feel like in that direct mail and I might be biased is a little surprise and delight moment as you come through and you go through your mail as you're walking up from the mailbox and you're looking like bill, bill, bill, oh, look an offer, you know, so it is a little delightful moment in someone's day. And especially as so many people are working from home right now, it's almost like this nice thing to get up and go walk down to the mailbox. So it does stand out.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, Yeah. If I'm already paying bills, I guess I'll buy something else too while I'm at it. All right, before we move on, do you have any other thoughts about how marketers can use both channels together or anything to add around using one channel over the other to offset campaign costs?

KIM: Yeah an omnichannel approach is a smart marketing strategy with a mix of channels working together to fuel conversion. Use your low cost in your high cost channels together to maximize ROI. We have a really great story from Marley Spoon, a food subscription brand from Martha Stewart. They use email with their lower value customers, and I kind of do quotes because all customers are valuable and direct mail with their high value customers as part of a reactivation campaign and had incredible success with that approach. And you can read all about it in our case study section on lob.com, but it's a really great story.

STEPHANIE: Oh, it is a really great story. I'm surprised the food subscription company I use hasn't sent me a postcard because I'm sure I made very high value with how often we have food delivered to our house. All right. It's time to put on our science hat as we're going to talk about experimentation. So I think a very common thing that we like to do in marketing is running A/B tests, especially in drip email campaigns. But there are so many great A/B tests to run in the direct mail space as well. But we don't need to start from scratch. So Kim, do you have any expert advice on how we can use the results of our email A/B tests to optimize our direct mail campaigns?

KIM: I mean, for sure. I love testing and using Intel from one campaign to inform another one. And in the case of using an email test and form direct mail, a lot of what you started this conversation with today, right? So specific offers, copy and CTAs have worked really well to apply the digital to the physical.

STEPHANIE: Definitely so what about A/B tests to run just on the direct mail campaigns themselves? What test would you start with on this channel?

KIM: Yeah, so format is a really interesting place to start. So you can determine the format first and then go in and optimize your copy and your offers in your CTA. So when I talk about format in case that's like a word that not maybe is in everyone's vocabulary. Is it a postcard? It is a letter? It is a self mailer? Is it a buckslip? Think about the format.

STEPHANIE: So how do you think the results of A/B testing in both email and direct mail can impact other marketing channels?

KIM: The point of testing is really to optimize what you're doing and get the most benefit from it, right? So the more you can optimize what you're doing across every channel, the better the ROI is.

STEPHANIE: I mean, as a content marketer myself, I am always loving to analyze the content of the campaigns. Specific words used in the copy, the subject lines, headers, CTAs, what have you, and trying to figure out what words resonate with our target audience and get them to take action. And then figuring out where else can I use those words, whether it's in a social media post or optimizing upcoming blogs. So, speaking of using the words to make things personal, let's talk about personalization. What attributes should marketers be personalizing in both digital and direct mail?

KIM: So using a prospect or customer's first name is really table stakes these days, and the sky's the limit when it comes to things that you can personalize in your campaign is you can integrate that data from your marketing automation platform or your CRM or other data sources, like your Subscription Management platform, right, where you may manage inventory or what someone has ordered their past purchases and it makes those mail pieces infinitely customizable. I'm thinking back when we first started the conversation how you were talking, it was just like, dear resident, and when I get those today, I'm like, no, because you could do so much more. So data from our state of direct mail consumer insights report showed that using an image of a recently purchased item was important to almost 60% of consumers. As for local events and 52% of consumers expect those direct mail pieces to be personalized. So if you're sending out something generic, it's time to level up.

STEPHANIE: No, definitely. And I think I'm in that demographic again as well. If I get a postcard from a clothing company and it's like, hey, you recently bought these pants, here's a sweater or a coat that goes with it. I can see it. It looks nice together. You know what I just bought? You know, my style. OK, I'll probably give your website a visit. Danger, right? All right. Let's move on to our final thoughts. So here at Lob, we're obviously passionate about direct mail marketing, but we know that it's just one tactic in the toolkit. Direct mail, like any marketing channel, works best when it works with others. We know today's consumers aren't following a linear path to purchase. I mean, where they used to get an email, visit the website and then convert. Today they could get an email, close out their inbox, go to a social media post, visit the website, then they see sponsored content, then they get a remarketing ad, then they come back to the website, look at reviews or testimonials, and then they convert. It's a lot of touch points to be tracking and making sure that we're attributing results.

KIM: It's no wonder we're tired as marketers!

STEPHANIE: But really like multiple touchpoints both online and offline, are required for brands to be successful with their marketing messages. Kim, what about you? Any final thoughts from your end?

KIM: Well, we've covered a ton of ground today, and this mulled wine has been epic. I'd encourage our audience to check out our resources on lob.com to learn more about many of the things we've chatted about today and just happy mailing, because this is a fun, fun industry to be involved in and the possibilities are really infinite at this point in time. So you don't have to mail like it's 1999 anymore.

STEPHANIE: It was such a great year, though. All right. To our listeners, Thank you so much for joining us for mixers and marketing. If you were intrigued by iExit's story of using direct mail to achieve an ROI of 155%, you can learn more about using the channel in acquisition campaigns by downloading your free copy of the modern marketer's guide to customer acquisition with direct mail at lobdemo.co/acquisition, that's lobdemo.co/acquisition. Our next Lobcast Podcast episode will be about marketing and direct mail budgets, and we'll be sipping on some beermosas as we crunch the numbers.

KIM: I noticed you didn't invite me to that one.

STEPHANIE: You can be a guest on that one if you want to talk numbers.

KIM: I'll skip all budgets, but thanks.

STEPHANIE: You'll be on another one again soon. So save your liver. As always, you can browse our library of episodes over at lobdemo.co/lobcast. Thanks for listening. And that's all, folks.