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Lobcast Podcast: State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights & Irish Coffee

Let’s heat things up with a coffee-based drink as we talk hot trends in direct mail and analyze how consumers are reacting to this impactful marketing channel.

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On this Lobcast Podcast episode, we're discussing some findings from the 2022 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report and how marketers can leverage these insights to improve their direct mail marketing strategy - or add it to their future campaigns.

Some key highlights include:

  • The finding that 44% of consumers prefer direct mail as a communication channel for brands they do not know
  • 62% of consumers reported taking action on a piece of direct mail
  • 51% of consumers sometimes or often share direct mail with friends and family
  • Intelligent direct mail is targeted, personalized, trackable, and has a high ROI

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 at Lob. I'm thrilled to be here again with my senior director of content, Kim Courvoisier, who's joining me again for a drink as we talk about direct mail. Thanks for hanging out with me, Kim.

KIM: Absolutely you had me at boozy coffee and direct mail!

STEPHANIE: I know the way to your heart! For those listening, if you want to make this drink at home, here's what you'll need. One cup of freshly brewed hot coffee, a tablespoon of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons or 1 and 1/2 ounces of Irish whiskey and some heavy cream that's been whipped, if you prefer. Cheers!

KIM: I thought you said a 1/3 of a cup of whiskey. No wonder mine is so strong. I kid. I kid. But also, if you ever get to San Francisco where I'm based. And you want an amazing Irish coffee, Stephanie, there's a place called the Buena Vista and it's near Fisherman's Wharf, which is again kind of touristy. We don't really go there much when you go, but they make literally the best Irish coffee I've ever had in my lifetime, and I guarantee you we'll get out of there.

STEPHANIE: Oh, it has been a year since I've been to San Francisco, so I think it's time for me to plan another trip. Great all right, so you were on our last episode, and at that time, we had talked about some interesting insights from our marketing friends' perspectives on how they use direct mail. But now it's time to flip the coin. Or maybe postcard is more apt for this discussion and see how consumers feel about getting those direct mail pieces. Kim, can you provide some context about the State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report?

KIM: Yep so once again, for the State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights, we partnered with our friends over at Comperemedia. And this time around, we interviewed nearly 2000 consumers about their perceptions of direct mail, basically what they like, what they don't, how they use it, and a lot more. We then published the results into a comprehensive report which any of our listeners can download for free at lob.com under resources.

STEPHANIE: Excellent all right. Let's get into the discussion. So, kicking us off is an interesting statistic that 44% of the respondents said that direct mail is the preferred channel or preferred communications channel for brands they do not know. And to me, this makes total sense. I am much more likely to be receptive to a piece of mail from a brand, I don't know, compared to, let's say, an email. If you get into my inbox without me reaching out first or signing up for anything on your website, I'm immediately marking you as spam. And I know, I know that it hurts my fellow marketers performance results. But I don't know you and you don't know me that well yet either. Why are you in my inbox? How did how did you even get my email address? Where is my physical information? That's kind of up for grabs. So, Kim, do you agree that something in the mailbox is better than the inbox when a brand is trying to acquire your business?

KIM: Yeah just hearing you say all that was so interesting because I spent a decade right in email marketing and as an email marketer and you know, that whole analogy we used to get around like sending emails like dating and you actually have to get to know somebody before you just like go in with the ask, right? So what you're saying loads really. Well, as far as just like wanting to know who's like sending you something if you don't even know them, you're like, hey, who are you? This is getting creepy, right? So I'm not a huge fan of this, like direct mail versus email, like smackdown, right? So my take is that digital channels are popular for a reason. They're easy to use, they're pretty accessible and consumers use them, right? We're all on social media. We get email, we do all these things. On the flip side, though, all those digital channels are super competitive, more so by the day. You take a big drink on that. They're expensive, take another drink, and they often have this law of diminishing returns, right? So at first you're like, oh, this is awesome. This is working, I'm getting response rates. And then the more and more you use it, you're like, Oh man. Like we're getting less and less and we're having to spend more and more like feeding this beast. So my secret recipe for success is to diversify the channels that you use and have a mix of channels, both digital and physical. And so direct mail plays an important role in this mix because again, it's physical. You can touch it, you can hang it on your fridge, you can toss that postcard in your purse and bring it into the store location. It's tangible, it's real. And 85% of the consumers that participated in this report told us that they read their direct mail immediately or on the same day they bring it inside. That kind of blew my mind. Right but it's true. You go through your mail, you're like reading it on the way up the stairs, or whatever that is. And then 62% reported that they take action on it. So that's real.

STEPHANIE: Oh, no, definitely. I do the mail shuffle as I'm coming back from my mailbox being like, that's a bill. I don't want to look at you yet, but this postcard for $10 off, I'll take advantage of that.

KIM: Right it's jury duty. Put it back in the mailbox.

STEPHANIE: No, but that is a fair take on the smackdown between channels, because I do agree that all marketing channels have their pros and cons based on your campaign goals, your budget, your targeting. And as marketers, we all have to live by the idea of sending the right message at the right time. And on the right channel. So if I were to build a customer persona off of myself, I'd say the right channels for acquisition are paid social. I don't even want to know how much I've spent on getting targeted Instagram ads. I mean, I mean come get me apparently. But to my persona, my inbox is mine. Spam is delicious in real life, but I don't want it in my email. But I do think that opens the door to the conversation of spam or junk marketing. And I think there's still that misconception that direct mail equals junk mail, but that's just not true with today's technology and modern marketing best practices. And I think this speaks perfectly to a point that we're making in the marketing world. Direct mail does not always equal junk mail, and I think we're at that turning point where people aren't worried about what's in their mailbox, but they are worried about what's made its way to their email. So Kim, what are your top tips for ensuring that direct mail isn't classified as junk mail?

KIM: Oof! right. The big that's a big deal about intelligent direct mail. It's the exact opposite of junk mail because let's face it, like you're saying about email, like junk mail, that unsolicited, unwanted, you know, it's bulk. And it's mass and it's not like for you, it's just like. Everybody and you're treating everybody the same. And there's nothing special about that. And we live in such a mass world of like everything being so generic that it feels nice when something's actually special and it stands out and it's for you. And so that kind of mass bulk mail serves a purpose, let's be fair. But some of it can actually really come out as the physical form of email spam, but intelligent direct mail. On the other hand, it's all those things that junk isn't. It's targeted, it's personalized, customized, it's data-driven. Fathom the thought of that, right? It's trackable, actionable. It has flat rate pricing. So as a marketer, that's music to my ears. I can actually just go, oh, it costs the same no matter how much I spend, so I can really you can model it out. And here's a beautiful thing, too. I don't have to send 100,000 mail pieces to get a price break. And so I can be really targeted about who I send my direct mail to so I don't have to have wastage and I can send the right piece to the right person at the right time because I know I want to send it to this segment of high value customers and I'm going to get some bang in ROI off of that. That's great, right? So it adds value to that customer journey. It gives you that higher ROI, it's eco-conscious because we're not just spraying and praying and we now offer carbon neutral direct mail, which is a total game-changer in using intelligent mail. In this way, it really empowers your brand to expand your awareness, boost those response rates, increase ROI, and all the beautiful things that you want it to do. And that's not junk in my eyes.

STEPHANIE: No, definitely. I mean, like for me personally, I think it all comes down to targeting and relevance. How relevant is this marketing message to me? But I do also think you kind of painted that picture of being generic and kind of that spray and pray marketing, because sometimes by widening your reach based on the demographics you're targeting, it can be a very relevant message. Like I got a mailer the other day from a landscaping company that I've never done business with, but I have a house. They sent me a promo with seasonal offers. My house has a yard and I'm always interested in saving money. So it's almost because it is generic enough that it's still relevant to me.

KIM: Yeah, absolutely. So there's always a place for that, right? And just like anything, email started out really math and it worked. But then there are reasons why you do it more segmented or there's reasons why you go after specific cohorts. So definitely not here to say you should never do big mailings or mass mailings, but each has its own place. But when you only do math, that's where it can be perceived as junk now.

STEPHANIE: And I think there's also the flip side of it too, because like again, same thing. Like I've gotten mailers from companies that I've never done business with that are I can tell exactly what kind of list they probably bought me off. Yeah, they're for like children's clothing. I am of the right gender, I'm of the right age. It should be relevant, but unfortunately in my instance it is not. And so it's just not targeted enough to be relevant to me as an individual. And I think mailers like that, that is where you kind of almost have to take that extra step. So each brand needs to look at like, is this applicable to a wider audience? Should we miss the mark or should we miss the boat on like having the wrong person at the house or somebody else's home that could take advantage of it? And then just making sure also that you're really looking at the data that you're using to craft that message.

KIM: Absolutely absolutely.

STEPHANIE: And I do definitely like your point about making sure that your marketing mail isn't labeled as junk by crafting a really great offer. Because I think outside of the relevance, the offer can make or break your conversions, which leads us very nicely to our next topic of direct mail marketing offers. So referencing our report, it tells us that 62% of consumers report they took action on a direct mail piece due to an offer promotion, and 54% indicated that they were already interested in the brand, product or service. Like anything in marketing. From the consumer's perspective, the juice has to be worth the squeeze. And in our world, we cannot get content that isn't a high value, just as we can't expect people to give us their contact information for nothing. So Kim, what kind of offers typically catch your attention?

KIM: You know, I mean, you've hit the nail on the head for me, too. Like, most people, like, offers for a product or service that I've bought before or I'm thinking about buying are usually the first to capture my attention. Let's say I buy perfume from Glossier and it's about to run out and all of a sudden I get an offer for it. I'm like, yeah, like I'm primed for that purchase. I'm ready. And many people also share offers with their family and friends. Actually, our study found that over 50% do so. Don't discount, so to speak, the virality of direct marketing and direct mail marketing, because I think a lot of people don't even consider that. Right it's not like an email, like people think, Oh yeah, they're going to afford the email, but a lot of people will take that postcard and share that. So it's really interesting.

STEPHANIE: Oh, definitely. And to any marketer out there that's listening to this podcast, if you want to market to me, I am a sucker for an offer that includes a discount code with free shipping. Like I have a coffee subscription and we'll be out of coffee. I am going to wait until they send me an email offering free shipping or I'm not buying and it's like $5, but I'm waiting.

KIM: I've never had a coffee. I got to make my Irish coffee.

STEPHANIE: I also want to take a quick second and kind of talk about the meal format or form factor and how that can impact engagement and conversions. So we know that we send targeted messages and a great offer, but how much does the format come into play? Kim, would you rather get a postcard or a letter? No matter the brand or the offer? Or, do you think that a certain format should be matched based on the marketing campaigns, CTA, or goals?

KIM: That is a great question, and I happen to fit perfectly into the demographic data for my age range in the State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights and that I like postcards. I want the message to be short, scannable and to the point know. I'm a busy, full time working single mom and so I have no spare time. I'm 1,000 miles an hour with my hair on fire all the time. I have no spare time. So the caveat to that is I would say if something is like health-related or financial, such as a bank statement, I don't want my bank statement on a postcard, right?


KIM: I mean, I don't need anyone to see how much I just paid for Taylor Swift tickets. But, you know, so you have these common sense there, right? I still want that in a letter or close the envelope. So that's common sense. But most often I want things to shorten to the point. So I love a good post card moment.

STEPHANIE: No definitely, I'd say I agree. If something's arriving from someone I'm expecting mail from, like my bank or my doctor's office. I want my privacy. And I don't want people knowing how often I'm going and getting blood drawn. But if the new restaurant in our neighborhood is sending me a coupon, I want a postcard so I can post that up on my fridge. So my husband and I remember to actually go use it before it expires. You know, I think a minute or two ago, you did bring up a really good point about mail, the virality of it and how people share it. Because I think our report did show that 51% of consumers sometimes or often share direct mail with friends or family. Sharing is caring after all. So, Kim, what kind of mail do you share with your family or friends?

KIM: Yes again. So easy, I'll say offers. Honestly, those Bath &Body Works are some of my favorites. I always will call my mom and tell her when those jumbo candles are on sale. So offers are just like the most shareable thing. Like you said earlier, everyone loves a deal. And so being able to I think sharing is caring in so many ways double entendre here that like being able to help somebody out and make them aware of something like that goes a long way. How we express friendships and family and all those things. So offers are golden.

STEPHANIE: Yeah I'm pretty sure if I buy another candle for our house, my husband's going to make me sleep on a bed made of them. I'm just kidding. Discounts on candles really are the best. I think back to some of the mail that I've shared, and it's also around stuff for the home. Like, I recently got a mailer for a food delivery service and I shared that with a friend who'd been complaining about eating the same three recipes over and over again. So the mailer went to her, so hopefully she took advantage of it and is eating different recipes. But then that direct to consumer brand also got a new customer based on mail that was sent to me, but I didn't end up using it. So again, like it just goes to point that even if your piece doesn't make it to the right end consumer, it's going to make it to someone.

KIM: Pay it forward.

STEPHANIE: So before we take a closer look at the data around what people share, referencing the state of Direct Mail Consumer Insights, again, our research found that of the 78% of people who reported sharing direct mail with friends and family, 13% shared discounts and promotions and 32% shared coupons. Hint, hint, listeners about sending out coupons. I do think the only downside to mail being shared is the tracking aspect. I mean, we have to talk about it, especially if you're using something like dynamic QR codes or personalized URLs that are tied back to consumer data. But I do also think that can easily be resolved by doing some testing, match-back analysis and working really closely with your marketing operations or your MarTech team.

KIM: And they should listen to episode one of our podcast because we talked a little bit about that.

STEPHANIE: Yes, they should I mean, they should listen to it anyway. I mean, yes, of course. So what do you think is the most important thing marketers should keep in mind about consumers when creating their direct mail marketing strategy for 2023?

KIM: Well, I'd say grab some shades. I should trade these in and get on some sunglasses because the future is very bright indeed. Right you strategically direct mail can be used throughout the buyer and customer journey to acquire, retain and even reactivate. Customers who've churned and direct mail plays really nicely with their other marketing channels. And it's personable, hackable, scalable, so it's a no brainer whether or not you should use it.

STEPHANIE: I mean, intelligent direct mail is a no brainer for our smart marketing friends.

KIM: I see what you did there.

STEPHANIE: I'm all about that alliteration and puns. So to our listeners, thank you so much for joining us for drinks and a chat about direct mail. If you do want your own copy of the state of direct mail consumer insights edition, please visit lobdemo.co/2022consumers that's lobdemo.co/2022consumers. And our next Lobcast Podcast episode will be about marketing and mail, both direct and electronic. Bust out some spices for your mulled wine as we talk all things marketing mail. As always, you can browse our library of episodes over at . Thanks for listening. And that's all, folks.