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Direct commerce | Marketing

Considering a Mail Campaign? Read This First!

image: illustration of an envelope connected to the either
These 9 elements can determine the success (or failure) of your mailing

Whether it's a a 300-page catalogue, a brochure, a letter, or a postcard, if you're sending a direct mail piece you need to take nine elements into consideration: So says data analytics services provider Marquis in its white paper titled (succinctly enough) "Nine Essentials of Direct Mail Success."



So what are these nine essentials?



Data analysis and a targeted market.

Conventional wisdom states that your mailing list accounts for 70% of the success (or failure) of a direct mail campaign. It makes sense: You could have the world's most gorgeous, engaging catalogue of fabulously priced, impeccably designed children's furniture, but if you send it to childless consumers it's going to flop. You need to determine which customers and prospects are most likely to respond to your offering, in large part by studying the characteristics of those consumers who bought similar products from you—or your competitors—in the past. Among your house file, RFM modeling is a relatively simple way to fine-tune your next mailing list; data and list specialists can help you find appropriate prospective customers not yet part of your database (as well as ensure that you comply with all the pertinent mailing regulations).



A solid offer.

If the mailing list is responsible for 70% of a campaign's effectiveness, the offer is believed to account for another 20%. The offer, by the way, doesn't have to entail discounts, free shipping, premiums, or other promotions that eat into your bottom line. It's simply what you are offering your audience that ideally no other company can: Is it exclusive product? Stellar service? The convenience of a one-stop source for merchandise tailored to the audience's particular tastes and needs? "The offer must be visible, obvious, and compelling," Marquis emphasises. "If you can't get excited about what you are offering, why should your target group?"



Creative in keeping with your brand and offering.

Companies generally consider creative the "sexiest" aspect of a direct mailing, but marketing pros contend it counts for only 10% of a direct mail campaign's success. Which is not to say you should just print your offer on the cheapest paper you can find and send it off. Your creative is your brand's first impression, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So ensure that your creative is appropriate for your audience and offer. If you're targeting mature consumers, for instance, go with a larger type size; if your unique selling proposition is outstanding quality, opt for a heavier paper stock.



Variable messaging.

In the predigital days, variable messaging consisted primarily of including the recipient's name in the salutation. Now advances such as variable data printing enable you to personalise images, copy blocks, and promotions based on the relevant data you have about the recipient. For instance, a pet store could make sure that dog owners receive brochures featuring canines while cat owners see photos of felines in theirs. Or you could include in your letter individualised driving or public transit directions to your nearest location, or a personal URL (PURL) directing each recipient to a tailored microsite.



A clear call to action.

Your mail piece needs to make it as easy as possible for recipients to respond to your offer. Don't make them hunt for a phone number, a URL, an address, a coupon, a QR code. Don't limited yourself to just one method of response, and don't mention it just once.



Complementary marketing channels.

Supporting your direct mail piece with email marketing, online banner ads, blog posts, outdoor advertising, or other marketing will amplify your message.



Testing and a control group.

Marquis advocates keeping a control group—a randomly selected portion of your target audience—from receiving your mailing, so that you can gauge the effectiveness of the mail piece based on response of recipients vs. nonrecipients. It also advises A/B testing of various elements of the campaign: whether one headline pulls better than another, say, or whether free shipping is more effective than a 10% discount.



A means of measuring effectiveness.

"You can't improve what you don't measure" is a dictum of direct marketing. Fortunately, response to direct mail is relatively easy to measure, thanks to list source codes, PURLs, and the like. If you find this all too bewildering, your list provider or mail service bureau should be able to help.



Communication with your sales team.

"The last things anyone wants in the retail branch is for someone to walk in holding a piece of direct mail with a special offer that (the store staff) know nothing about," Marquis writes. "In addition, if marketing shares the direct marketing campaigns with sales, sales may even want to be a part of reaching out to select segments within the direct mail campaign by phone to drive sales revenue and response... Internal communication is essential to get the most out of direct mail."


author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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