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October 15, 2015

Steps to a Smarter Direct Marketing Plan

direct marketing plan 

Direct mail is making a comeback, and studies show it’s an effective form of marketing that packs a hard punch. Amid all the digital clutter and over-stuffed inboxes, direct marketing is reaching out and connecting with customers in a renewed way.

What the Data Says: People Read Direct Mail

A study by HubSpot puts email open rates at about 25%. By contrast, the USPS Household Diary Study states that 85 percent of direct mail is skimmed by customers. And a study by the DMA on response rates reports about 80% of households either read or skim all advertising mail. This makes sense … with a quick click, we delete dozens of piled up emails (the ones that made it through spam filters, that is). But when the physical mail piece is in hand, statistics say we are far more likely to open it than simply toss it out unread.

Oh, one more key difference between digital mail and direct mail: Change of addresses are updated, and on file, at the USPS and at top presort mailing services. Not so with emails!  

Shaping Your Direct Marketing Plan

It all starts with a clean data list and a reliable customer base. Make sure your direct mail services provider is scrubbing your list, or provides you with a quality, qualified customer mailing list.  

Next, determine how you will measure success. When looking at your target direct marketing response rate, consider current industry standards, your organization’s past experiences, and general direct mail response rates. Partnering with a direct marketing specialist can help you set realistic yet lofty goals for your direct marketing plan.

It helps to keep in mind that a direct mail campaign can pull results months, or even years, after your campaign wraps up – so results must be tracked and measured over time. The actual piece tracking is achieved through Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) and other sophisticated technologies – allowing you to know where your mail piece is at any given moment.  And coding your response pieces with unique batch numbers identifies which specific customer responded to what offer.

Mail Piece Design

Your direct mail piece design centers around a call to action: What, specifically, do you want the recipient to do next?  Call a number? Visit a website? Be specific and be direct … your goal is to generate action. Leave education efforts for better-suited communications tools. Always design with response in mind: Pieces that are too graphic-heavy may end up cluttered, and not worth the time and printing costs.

Think of Logistics First

Prepare to handle customer responses and fulfillment before you roll out your campaign. What will you send customers, how will you send it, and how soon? Direct marketing plans often utilize fulfillment houses – professionals who handle the logistics behind sending out materials to large numbers of customers.

Pick the Low Hanging Postage Fruit

If you are doing a mailing, why not save money where you can – postage – with presorting mail services. Navigating the ins and outs of the USPS can be tricky; so choose a partner wisely, and consider outsourcing the entire process (and headaches). Or, be sure to make use of the great tools the USPS offers consumers such as the RIBBS website.   

Harnessing the Power of Integrated Marketing

The real power of a direct marketing plan comes from the marriage of both print and digital elements.  A combination of emails, customized web pages (pURLS), and targeted direct mail pieces will ensure you reach prospects how and where they are most comfortable … and at the moment when they are most ready to act. You may want to consider an integrated marketing campaign: Many of our clients start out with simple direct mailers, and grow into more sophisticated integrated campaigns.

Crunching the Numbers: So, How’d We Do?

As direct mail plans wind up, we always get reflective with our partners. What did we learn, and what can we do better next time? What data can we pull from this campaign, to uncover untapped subsets of our target market? Who responded better than anticipated?

Every smart direct marketing plan should ultimately do two things: impact sales and help to refine your customer database. Each campaign should build on the last, as your marketing efforts gain momentum and focus.