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  • March 26, 2020
  • By Linda Pophal, business journalist and content marketer

Get Back to Basics with Direct Mail

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Samantha Patterson, marketing director at PFL, agrees. “What we hear time and time again from our customers is that it’s so hard to stand out among all of the marketing messages and advertising and even personal things on a day-to-day basis. An individual is exposed to something like 10,000 messages a day,” she says, noting that many are attempting to stem the tide of information by “using ad blockers or just physically blocking ads.” That, she says, is where PFL sees direct mail as an opportunity.

Direct mail also offers a different kind of experience—a tactile one, Patterson says.

PFL has been helping marketers battle digital marketing fatigue for years now, using physical gifts or direct mail integrated into the marketing automation platform. And to prove the point that marketers are recognizing the potential power of traditional direct mail, she notes that even Google is among PFL’s enterprise clients.

“Direct mail can signal things about your brand that a digital format can’t,” Patterson says. “Maybe it’s the weight or the feel of something, maybe it’s a soft-coated, interactive mailer. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, you matter to us—we took the time to send you this very personal, thoughtful, and relevant piece.”

Wunderman Thompson, a global digital marketing agency, actually identified this trend back in 2013 in a report titled “Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot,” which found that Millennials seek physical versus digital experiences in everything from person-to-person interactions to playing board games to sending handwritten notes via traditional mail.

But the terrain is a bit more nuanced than that when it comes to marketers’ increasing use of traditional direct mail. There have been some significant changes in the direct mail landscape today versus 20 or even 10 years ago. Perhaps most notably is a new focus on narrow casting, rather than trying to reach the masses, and the use of direct mail as part of integrated communication efforts.

TODAY’S DIRECT MAIL IS DIFFERENT

While Valassis’s research shows that Millennials are likely to engage with direct mail, it also reveals that 56 percent of Millennial parents and 41 percent of Millennials overall are more likely to respond to advertising when they receive ads both online and in print.

We operate today in a multichannel world, and while traditional direct mail is certainly on the rise, it’s most likely to be just one element of an integrated marketing campaign.

Today’s consumers have also changed, Tingle says. They’re much more informed, and they are proactive about staying informed. “They’re looking for guidance to both plan what they want to buy and discover new items and different ways to use products,” he says.

Direct mail also has become much more sophisticated and extremely personalized.

“We’ve gone past the days of just creating a demographic list, having a mailing file, and then reaching out to that file with a certain frequency,” Tingle says.

Today’s direct mail efforts take a more targeted approach and leverage technology to personalize messages that can be sent at important junctures in the prospect’s decision-making process.

“Just as you would personalize an email with variable data you’ve collected on a prospect, you can do the same in a print piece, and we can print those on demand,” Patterson explains. “Maybe a sales rep says, ‘I haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks. I’m going to send you a personal package and I’m going to type out this note to you and it’s going to be produced and sent in a couple of days.’” That ability to narrowly target down to the individual level, she says, “is changing the mind-set from ‘I’m just going to blast this out to everybody and hope it sticks.’”

“Our customers are now able to specify customer actions or intentions and then have programmatic trigger mail,” Zhang adds. “They’re looking for solutions where they can point to specific interactions that the customer has taken and then use that to programmatically trigger a really customized and personalized mail piece.”

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