For a while now, we've heard that print advertising is dying. I don't believe it. Yes, it's true that online marketing is booming. However, that doesn't mean we leave print marketing in the dust — we just get smarter about using it.
Digital marketing is fantastic. If you're not leveraging the power of the internet in your marketing, you're not using your tools wisely. Of the many things the internet has allowed us to do, more effective advertising is one of them. Its relatively lower cost and ability to gather quantitative data enables us to make smarter business decisions. But hear me clearly: It's only one of the tools in your toolbox. Don't disregard the merits of your other tools, specifically print marketing. Let's take a look at direct mail, for example.
Direct mail is just what it sounds like, mailing direct to the public. It could be letters, postcards, promotional knick-knacks, or catalogs. Now, some grumpy souls will call this "junk mail". And guess what? They're not always wrong. Some of the stuff I pull out of the mailbox causes me to mourn the fact that a tree had to die for it. So the goal for you, as a business, is for your direct mail to NOT BE JUNKY! Here's how you do that:
Target relevant customers.
You need to be as relevant as possible to the person receiving your mail. Your wonderful mailpiece is practically useless if it goes to someone who would never buy from you; so, this is arguably the most important step. Once you've identified the demographics and tendencies of your target audience, you can purchase or build a mailing list that contains those people. Target by age, income, gender, marital status, lifestyle, or other factors. You can even purchase a very targeted specialty mailing list of, say, only new parents, or only health enthusiasts.
Another option for location-based retailers who have products or services that appeal to the mass public, would be to target by neighborhood. The United States Postal Service's Every Door Direct Mail Program (EDDM) allows businesses to target specific areas within a 5-mile radius of their location via individual mail carrier routes. EDDM eliminates the expense of purchasing a mailing list and offers reduced postage rates, making direct mail even more affordable for retail businesses to target their local customers.
Provide something of value.
It's not enough just to send something; you need to send something that makes them want to take action. Give them something they can use — a coupon, a discount. Reward them for taking action. In addition, consider using personalization services to be able to provide a more relational experience. Data driven direct marketing boasts of higher response rates because it utilizes available data to personalize the piece per the individual. This could mean anything from including the person's name in the headline, to customizing the images in the piece, to providing a personalized URL for the person to access online. Your data can also be used to personalize the message — for example, instead of sending a generic postcard announcing a sale, customize it based on past purchases a person has made, and provide a coupon for a related product or service.
Make it appealing for them to interact with.
Invest in professional design services. The impact that your mailpiece has hinders on its design. Design includes how it looks, how it feels, and how it communicates. Avoid generic stock photos when possible. Don't use cheesy "salesy" headlines or the same generic copy that everyone else uses. Make sure your brand shines through so you're not quickly forgotten or easily confused with your competitor. Don't overwhelm your potential customer with too much content — keep it simple and keep it professional. The right design can make or break the effectiveness of the piece.
Tie it into your online presence.
Digital marketing and print marketing are not isolated islands. An effective strategy will have them working in tandem. Instead of simply listing your company website on your direct mail, use a personalized URL or at least a specific landing page as a call-to-action, whereby you can measure the traffic to that page and KNOW without doubt that it is traffic resulting from your mailpiece. QR codes (bar codes you can scan using a mobile device) while their overall usefulness is debateable, still at least allow a digital means of tracking the effectiveness of your print piece. Conversely, use direct mail to follow up with an online lead. Use information you garner from your email communications as data to inform your direct mail. Consider your most successful email subject line and evaluate whether it would make sense to use as a direct mail headline. Chances are, it will; or will at least give you insight into what your audience finds actionable. Use direct mail to supplement your social media strategy, or vice versa. Everything needs to work together.
This is really just a personal recommendation, but worth mentioning in relation to direct mail: consider the impact on our environment. Use a recycled paper stock if you can, and ensure anything else you include is biodegradeable as well. It never hurts to include a little message to encourage the recipient to recycle if they are going to dispose of your piece. It will both encourage consumers to think twice before trashing, as well as as portray you as the environmentally-conscious company you (hopefully) are!
Print is not dead!
Based on data from the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail still has higher response rates than its digital counterparts (email, Internet display ads, and paid search). And 79% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately, compared to 45% who say they deal with email immediately. These are telling statistics that remind us that even in this increasingly digital world, technology shouldn't detract from your print and direct mail marketing — instead, it should enhance it!