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Engagement, Integration, Lead Generation: Three Reasons Why Direct Mail Is Here to Stay

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What’s 2010’s hot buzzword for direct mail marketers? ROI. Now that marketing budgets are emerging from their recessionary deep-freeze, companies are sharing what marketing campaigns worked through the worst of the recession — and what the marketing future holds for 2010.

One of the top marketing performers mentioned in various trade publications is a tried-and-true avenue: Purchasing targeted mailing lists and running a direct mail campaign. Throughout the downturn, mailing lists have helped some companies gain three important benefits — customer engagement, campaign integration and lead generation. The result — relevant direct mail that their customers want to receive — and a reliable marketing avenue that drives ROI.

How mailing lists can help drive customer engagement

It’s easy to think that direct marketing mailing lists reflect a "one-sided" communication. However, some marketers find that direct mail helps to engage their customers — and customers actually miss their direct mail pieces when they don’t receive them.

For instance, a recent Wall Street Journal article reported that ExecutivePerils, a Los Angeles wholesale insurance broker, stopped sending humorous postcard mailings during the first part of 2009. A couple of months after discontinuing the campaign, the company started receiving emails and phone calls from customers complaining that they were deleted from the mailing list — their recipients enjoyed the mailer and wanted them back.

"Our sales team would report that customers would keep the postcards, often displaying them on their office or cubicle walls," said Peter Taffae, ExecutivePerils’ founder.

Taffae reinstated the postcard campaign last fall. Not only did the people on his mailing list let him know how much they enjoyed receiving the postcards again, the direct mail helped him generate $270,000 in business from a new client.

In another example, direct mail drove higher revenue and elicited a greater amount of customer engagement over an email campaign. Alicia Settle of Per Annum, Inc. told the Wall Street Journal that her email campaign saw a 25% drop in early orders, compared to the direct mail campaign implemented during same period the previous year. At first Ms. Settle thought the drop was due to the economy, until customers started complaining they never received their sales letter "reminder." A direct mail postcard was quickly sent, allowing Per Annum to recoup the loss.

Direct mail dovetails with other marketing campaigns

Another advantage of direct mail is that it integrates with other marketing campaigns, helping to drive even better results.

For instance, Backroads, an active travel company, wanted to entice past companies to book a new vacation. The company began by sending postcards to 40,000 past travelers inviting them to make their travel reservations. Each postcard was personalized with a picture of the traveler’s last destination, plus three thumbnail images of places the traveler may be interested in visiting. Each piece directed recipients to a personal URL (PURL) with more information. Backroads then followed up with a personalized email directing the travelers to the same URL as the mail piece.

According to the DMNews article, Backroads experienced a 100% lift in click-throughs to the PURL and a 50% increase in sales over a generic postcard mailer. The company was so happy with the results that they will repeat the campaign in 2010.

Direct mail mailing lists help increase lead generation

Looking for lead generation? MarketingProfs reported that Canadian e-commerce company Truition needed to improve their fourth quarter marketing results and branding — and decided to embark upon its first-ever direct mail campaign. The company’s client list is filled with well-known names such as Sirius Satellite Radio and Philips, but Truition is not well known. An additional goal was to fill the sales funnel so that January would start out on a positive note.

Truition’s direct mail campaign didn’t make a direct sales pitch, but instead offered a free report that was created specifically for the campaign. The letter was sent to approximately 10,000 names, with the majority coming from a mailing list service. The campaign was a success. Not only was the ROI 200%, but the sales force was quickly loaded with solid leads. The result was over $150,000 in new business.

In another example, Jim Bartlett, president of recently discussed his successful 2009 holiday postcard direct mail campaign with Multichannel Merchant. Bartlett said he noticed a spike in online and phone orders around the time the company sent its two postcard mailing campaigns — one at Thanksgiving and the other just before Christmas. segmented its mailing list by buyer habits, generating a final list of approximately one-third of the 33,000 names. According to Bartlett, early indications are that the ROI is positive — and the company is considering more mailers in the future.

Companies are finding that direct mail works and should be considered a viable marketing channel. When deciding on your marketing mix, remember that customers enjoy receiving a piece of mail that fulfills a need or desire. By combining direct mail and online marketing, savvy marketers are driving a higher ROI while keeping their customers happy.

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