With the recent news about postage rates increasing for the first time in three years, it got us thinking: what steps can you take to keep your budget in check while ensuring the profitability of your direct mail campaigns?
Though there’s been a growing influx of investment in digital media, direct mail continues to command significant budgets due to rising postage costs, its continued efficacy, a less crowded inbox, and new and exciting ways to integrate messaging with mail, email, and digital activity. In fact, direct mail is expected to account for $47 billion of spending in 2016, a $1 billion increase since 2015.
We already know that direct mail has more up-front costs than other forms of marketing, so driving the highest response rates is essential. By investing time and effort in the beginning, your mail programs will produce a higher return on investment.
1. Understand your target market. The days of ‘spray and pray’ marketing are done for. Millennials, one of - if not the - most influential buying market is most likely to permanently disengage with brands if they receive high volumes of generic communications.
2. Segment, segment, segment. Your mail campaigns can only be as successful as it is targeted … with the right message to the right person at the right time. Review the segmentation of your contacts and cater your offers to those segments. This way, not only will you be lowering quantities (thereby lowering printing and postage costs), but your response rates should increase because you’re sending relevant, targeted offers.
Don’t know who your prospects are and where to begin? There’s an app (OK, an assessment) for that. Check out our free lead generation assessment tool to leverage your customer and prospect database.3. Establish processes before you establish your campaign plan. Being armed with answers for things like “Who takes the first call?” or “Can the sale be made on the first call or visit?” will help you avoid creating processes on the fly when your program is in midstream.
If you determine a set of procedures to follow for each campaign and use a checklist to guide you, planning your campaign can go at a faster (and easier) pace.4. Measure what’s garnering the greatest. Without tracking your results, you’re throwing your marketing dollars into a black hole. Tracking is about understanding every element involved so you can refine your future mail programs. Start by tracking the costs: printing, data processing, mail processing, and postage. Take a close look at the response rates: do you notice a lift when you mail it in May vs. February? Do mailings give your business a much-needed boost during your slow season?
If you’re direct selling, make sure you’re taking overhead into account for each fulfilled order to highlight the true profit/loss of each mailing.
5. Test, rinse, and repeat. In order to keep your campaign working to its fullest potential, testing should be baked into every mailing. Allocate budget spend to test different variables against each other including letter copy, headlines, offers, and your mailing list. Aim to test every mailing to a statistically relevant sample.
Perform basic list hygiene prior to each mailing. By mailing to old, invalid, or just plain incomplete records, you’re basically paying to mail a piece that will never reach its intended recipient. USPS requires all First-Class Mail and Standard Mail lists be run through NCOA and updated within 95 days prior to mailing in order to qualify for automated postage rates. If you’re not running your list through the NCOA database, you’re left with not only the risk of mailing to outdated addresses, but paying a postal surcharge.
6. Survive the trashcan. Research has shown that 98% of people still check their mailbox every day. The mail is often physically (or mentally) divided into three piles: the ‘A’ pile is for pieces that look like important or personal letters; the ‘C’ pile is for offers that look like junk mail; and the ‘B’ pile is a mish-mash of everything else.
It’s our jobs to make sure the envelope looks like it belongs to the ‘A’ pile. With direct mail, you can step right into your prospects’ lives as soon as they open the piece. A strong piece will include personalization and meeting the recipient’s’ train of thought. Anything you can do to replicate personal contact or increase uniqueness of your direct mail will bring an impact on your ROI.
7. Master the art of follow-up. Repetition creates a sense of comfort and trust, and trust creates positive perceptions. Identify the benefits of your product/service and refine them into concise keywords that can be easily repeated throughout the copy in your direct mail piece and related offers.
Follow-up on the original direct mail piece with supplemental mailers and multi-media marketing. But try not to go overboard: too much exposure to a message can evolve into a negative perception. If you’re not seeing results after repeat touchpoints, try a different approach. Remember that marketing isn’t a one-time event; it’s an ongoing effort.
As you deploy your mailings, it’s important to stay on top of USPS rates and rules. The Streamworks’ postal experts are always available to help you navigate the USPS terrain and get the lowest rates possible.