Direct Mail is Dead, or So You All Thought…

The rise and fall of direct mail

What happened to direct mail? It got blown out of the water by email marketing that’s what. Direct mail became annoying, costly and stopped delivering consistent ROI. As people began discovering the potential of email as a cost efficient solution, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and dropped direct mail almost overnight.

However, the trouble with this marketing bandwagon is that it doesn’t take too long for buyers to wise up to new marketing tricks. Although email marketing gained initial cut-through while it was interesting and exciting, it didn’t take long for this new breed of smart B2B buyer to lose receptiveness to email marketing and begin forwarding messages they found uninteresting or irrelevant to spam and junk folders.

As with almost all forms of marketing, the goal is to cut-through to your target audience and encourage them to engage or make contact with your company. As we see different marketing techniques come and go, it seems the majority of marketers are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. But as with email marketing, new marketing methods quickly becomes old hat.

Capturing the buyer's attention

So how is it possible to ever fight your way through the clutter of marketing messages and catch a buyer’s attention? Although there is no simple, one-size-fits all solution, it is vital to consider how you can craft communication that is out of ordinary and relatively unexpected. Here’s where direct mail comes in. Since the email switch, people have grown unfamiliar with receiving enormities of fliers and brochures through the post. We could even go as far to say that some buyers even miss receiving something tangible, increasing the chances of them reacting to direct mail. This is supported by research by Romax, whose 2014 market study showed that 79% of people reacted to direct mail immediately, 48% acted in response to direct mail marketing and 30% made an actual purchase*.

Don’t get carried away though – the same rules still apply when it comes to marketing communications. There’s nothing more embarrassing than when someone phones you up complaining that they have received three of the same pieces of mail from you. This is where data comes in. Mistakes such as these are usually down to databases full of data that is not ‘ready’ to be used in marketing communication; records are likely to be duplicated, incomplete, or even incorrect.

The way to overcome these common data issues is to achieve a single customer view, where all present transactions are associated with one unique customer record. Through this, marketers can be confident that when they export data for something such as a direct mail campaign, they are taking a more targeted approach which reduces the risk of your mail being thrown in the bin, ripped up, or worse, not even making it to the decision maker in the first place.

Using insight for market intelligence

Having a single customer view means that customer behaviour can be tracked and analysed over time through data insight, revealing trends based on statistics such as what purchases are most likely to be made, by whom and when. This information is invaluable in providing market intelligence to inform far more effective direct marketing planning and proposition development to drive higher ROI rates in direct, cross and upselling campaigns. Likewise insight can identify when customers are most likely to churn, therefore allowing timely interventions to improve customer retention. Using data management and insight, you can avoid the mindless pitfalls that made direct mail ineffective in the first place, and begin to maximise the potential of this currently underused marketing tool.

* Romax Marketing, 2014