Welcome to the New Direct Mail

Integration is still the key to an effective marketing plan, so link direct mail closely to other communications channels.

Direct mail has long been a key component of a successful marketing strategy. However, in today's age of digital communications, printed direct marketing campaigns might be losing some of the attention they deserve due to the excitement over email, personalized websites, and now social media and the rise of mobile. If that's the case in your organization, it might be time to take a step back and reassess.

Successful marketers are finding to be true what they have known all along-integration is still the key to an effective marketing plan. Any marketing channel loses its effectiveness when deployed by itself. Integrating cross-channel marketing efforts provides multiple touchpoints for customers, making it possible to reach recipients at their preferred channel. The easier we make it for customers to engage with us, the more likely those consumers are to say "yes" to an offer. And there are several avenues for making that happen.

Make direct mail mobile

The Nielsen Company predicts that smartphones will overtake feature phones as early as next year. Additionally, new studies report that consumers are increasingly conducting online research through their mobile devices. Now, thanks to an emerging technology called QR Codes, or Quick Response Codes, direct mail can go immediately from print to interactive. A consumer with a QR Code reader on his smartphone can quickly scan this two-dimensional barcode on a direct mail piece and be immediately taken to online content without having to type in a Web address. In this way, QR Codes turn that printed direct mail piece into an interactive mobile response, transforming static messages into hyperlinks to just about anything online.

In addition to direct mail, QR Codes are starting to appear on billboards, event promotions, business cards, product packages, and in magazines. The awareness of QR Codes among consumers is growing, and they can be an extremely effective call-to-action in a direct mail piece. The immediacy of QR Codes is also a big plus in today's "I need it now" world. When a consumer with a smartphone picks up a direct mail piece, a QR Code allows that recipient to engage immediately, whether at home or in the coffee shop down the street.

Achieve a true personal touch

We know the positive statistics on the power of personalization, and now the Web itself can be personalized. A personalized URL (PURL) provides a Web address for an individual so that the content at the address can be unique for that visitor. When a direct mail recipient logs on to a PURL, information from the marketer's database can be used to tailor the Web experience for that person. Additionally, the website can track the respondent's activity and modify what is offered based on the consumer's actions. That interaction can also be very useful in making future print and online communications.

A QR code can link a smartphone user to a PURL, allowing a business to create unique QR codes linking to PURLs for everyone on its direct mail list. Once on a PURL microsite, a visitor may be invited to sign up for monthly newsletters, view an embedded video, or request a mailed fulfillment package. And the good news is that all of this online interaction can be measured for campaign ROI.

Integrate email and text messaging

Email and SMS mobile text messaging can also be integrated into a multitouch marketing campaign. For example, a consumer receives a direct mail piece that contains a QR Code. She scans the code with her smartphone and is immediately linked to a personalized website. Then, shortly after that, she receives an email or SMS text response thanking her for visiting the site. Based on what information she chose to share, she may receive an additional direct mail piece, text, or social media notification as a follow up. Thanks to postal delivery alerts, it's even possible to spark curiosity and anticipation in a consumer by notifying them via email or mobile that a personalized package will soon arrive in the mail.

Get the attention of Generation Y

Another advantage to integrating printed direct mail with electronic options is the opportunity to stand out in all the electronic chatter. While members of Generation Y clearly are embracing digital communications, it's easy for the volume of digital information to become overwhelming. In fact, the recent study "Finding the Right Channel Combination: What Drives Channel Choice," conducted by the ICOM Division of Epsilon Targeting, indicates that young adults would rather receive marketing messages via postal mail.

Combining the power of printed direct mail with digital solutions can create intelligent direct marketing campaigns with real-time tracking to leverage results. All of which makes it easy to welcome the new direct mail: a successful marriage of print and interactive.

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About the Author: David Henkel is president of Johnson and Quin. Contact him at dhenkel@J-QUIN.com