Make Your Mark
On Feb. 1, Megan J. Brennan became the 74th Postmaster General and CEO of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Brennan’s intent to make the struggling agency more efficient, and thereby accessible for all mailers, was welcome news to marketers disheartened by years of red tape and negative press—but change doesn’t happen overnight.
Just in May, the USPS reported a net loss of $1.5 billion for the first three months of 2015 due to a decline in first-class and standard mail (2.1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively). Overall mail volumes may have taken a hit, but not to the extent many predicted. In fact, the latest round of direct mail statistics is rather encouraging. According to Statista, in 2014 total U.S. marketing spend on direct mail finished at $44.5 billion year-over-year, with 2015 numbers expected to reach $45.7 billion.
Thanks to innovations in design, production and data management, marketers are that much closer to making those projections a reality. That is, if they play it smart. Here are six ways to improve your direct-mail marketing business.
1. Know your audience.
An effective direct mail campaign begins with your targeted audience. What are their needs? How can you establish a connection? “In order to create direct mail that recipients want to receive, you need to know them well,” said Summer Gould, president of Eye/Comm Inc., Santee, Calif. “The power of direct mail is the ability to reach the right person with the right offer to drive their response.”
Advances in data and analytics have enabled mailers to become more flexible and customer-centric. Think Amazon and its ability to recommend products based on a customer’s purchasing habits. Gould said this personalized approach makes direct mail more appealing to recipients. “Since we have collected more information on each customer and prospect, we are now able to highly target them with specific offers to what they are interested in,” she mentioned.
Let’s say you’re creating a campaign for a car dealership. Data based on a customer’s purchasing history, for example, can be used to craft a relevant message for routine maintenance reminders. “If your last purchase was a 2014 Honda Odyssey van and the dealer wants you to come back to have it serviced, the image on the mail piece should be that of your vehicle. Not a 2016 Honda Accord,” said Pat Friesen, cross-channel copywriter and creative strategist of Pat Friesen & Company LLC, Leawood, Kan.
Once you have a better understanding of your audience and goals, be sure to communicate that information to your copywriter and designer. “Marketing is a team effort, not a solo event,” noted Friesen. “Everyone needs to work together to develop creative strategies that work and can be successfully implemented.”
2. Sell the sizzle.
In addition to making content personable, direct-response copywriters are responsible for writing clear text and entertaining prospects. The most important part of their job, however, is to help prospects understand why and how the product or service benefits them. That may include price, performance or exclusivity, Friesen said.
If possible, your copywriter should use proof (e.g., testimonials, customer reviews, test results, statistics) to back up your company’s claim. “Specifics are compelling, generalities are not,” Friesen maintained. “Example: ‘This shirt keeps you cool even when you work outside on a hot summer day’ versus ‘This shirt keeps you three to five degrees cooler on hot summer days ... and we’ve got the test results to prove it!’”
The audience’s retention of facts is another thing to consider, particularly when bulleted lists are involved. “Keep in mind that the average person remembers the first and last thing they read,” Gould said. “When you make a bullet list, use the top and bottom spot to highlight what you feel is most important for them to remember.”