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In a Highly Digital World, Mail Still Matters

Depending on your personal point of view and experience, you either love using mail to grow your business, or you believe that it is an antiquated, ineffective format. As someone who uses every channel available and, like many of you, invests heavily in digital technology and paid media advertising, I know that that there is still a time and place for sending a tangible mail piece.

Maybe because you physically need to move and retrieve your mail and then open it, people tend to remember what was mailed to them better than email. According to research by Neuro-Insight, “Mail activates areas of the brain responsible for long-term memory encoding 49% more than email and 35% more than social media advertising. This reveals the pivotal role mail can play within the media mix to boost memorability and increase purchase intent.” 

Mail Drives Revenue That Online Marketing Cannot

Although marketers tend to focus on the digital experience, mail has a unique capability to enhance the customer experience in a way that online marketing cannot. It can be difficult to gain and hold the attention of consumers long enough to tell your brand or product story. 

A close relative to mailing is email. In fact, many marketing teams put both functions together. Like most channels, email has limitations that can be overcome by mailing. Sending unsolicited emails comes with a bevy of risks—it’s illegal in some states and countries and it breaches the rules of many email-service providers putting your email at risk of being marked as spam.

With mail, opt-in isn’t required and for most consumers since mail physically lands outside the walls of their home, they don’t view mail as spam. Many of our Hallmark Business Connections clients have 100% of physical mailing addresses for their customers but only 40% of their email addresses. And for those they have an email address, they may end up actually reaching only 1% of them because of spam filters and declining email open rates from what is widely recognized as email fatigue.

And although mail lacks the immediacy craved by marketers, it makes up for it in revenue and ROI attainment.  One more reason that mail still matters? I prove it repeatedly in our own marketing efforts: Sending mail drives revenue that cannot be obtained through online marketing. 

Digital Marketers Make the Best Direct Mail Marketers

One reason for the lack of direct mail use in marketing is the lack of expertise by marketers.

How to Create and Measure Marketing Mail’s Powerfully Predictable ROI

Defining Incremental Impact

Savvy marketers often look at incremental impact when comparing results. The measure is helpful for results-driven marketers who advertise in multiple channels and desire to compare the effectiveness of a single tactic.  Measuring the incremental impact of direct mail is straight forward. In the example of the online retailer in this case study they had three distinct populations in their test plan:

  • Those who received their usual direct mail (their current winning format or control group)
  • Those who received a Hallmark card (their test group)
  • Those who received nothing at all (their hold-out group)

After measuring responders to each group, the natural response rate and average revenue of the non-mailed group is compared to the response rate and revenue of those receiving the traditional direct mail and the Hallmark card.  This establishes what incremental response rate, revenue and ROAS was driven by the mailed pieces specifically, making a clean ROI or ROAS calculation. Other channels often cannot get to this type of clarity.  Read the case study to learn about the results.

Understanding Statistical Significance

When you watch election results on television at the bottom of the screen is often a percentage called the margin of error. Typically, around 3% in these polls. It indicates that the reported results could be over or under by 3%. It is why someone winning by 1, 2 or 3 percentage points may not be winning at all.

Similarly, when data scientists measure response rates for direct mail, they know if the margin of error makes the results inconclusive. In some cases, it’s not that the result isn’t true, it’s just “too close to call.” If the results are not significantly significant they can be used as directional information, but if the test is conducted again, a different result may occur. The common causes for this include:

  • Not having enough quantity in the test
  • The results of each test are really close together—meaning they are not different enough to measure

In this case study, the company is large enough that having enough quantity to get to statistical significance was easy and all the results are highly significant—both scientifically and to the long-term revenue growth of the company.

I believe that one reason just 16% of marketers integrate direct mail into their multi-channel campaigns is that today’s marketers are highly trained in digital marketing and not trained at all in direct mail. 

Historically, planning and using direct mail as a strategy was not the cool job in marketing. Digital, social and event marketing are much more glamorous. But here’s the insight… digital marketers make fantastic direct mail strategists. Their innate knowledge of using data to drive insights and performance is closely related to the skills needed to be an excellent direct mail marketer.

Using piles of first-party and third-party consumer data to extract just the right audience, testing offers, messages and timing are all natural to a digital marketer. A little specialized training, either online, from reading books on the subject or from a great mentor, can turn a savvy digital marketer into an excellent off-line marketer, with the bonus of utilizing both digital and analog channels in a structured, measurable fashion.

Keep in mind, managers, that this also means that you’ll have provided career development for a valuable employee and found the pockets of revenue unattainable through digital marketing alone… a win, win all the way around.

Quick Tips for Maximizing Mail in Your Marketing Strategy

For marketing leaders looking to take better advantage of direct mail:

  • Find the right person within your staff.  Look for the one who understands data, works well with analysts and is used to a test, learn, grow approach.
  • Have content strategies support the how, why, when and where to utilize the mailed format in conjunction with other efforts.
  • In a world of readers, skimmers and scanners—write first for the scanners. Just like in web development where you lead with a mobile-first approach, today’s mail formats are optimized for readers who scan headlines and might skim text. 

Powerfully Predictable ROI

As companies bring more marketing and advertising functions in house, corporate marketers need additional expertise internally for direct mail. Although closely related to data-intensive digital marketing, direct mail is often overlooked even though it is powerfully predictable and one of the cleanest channels for ROI and measurement. 

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