Direct Response Marketers: Getting Back to Your Roots & Why It’s Important Now

Access to the consumer via the digital ecosystem seems virtually limitless today. It means a heck of a lot of opportunities to make an impact, there’s no arguing that. But even with creative finesse, near-perfect personas and a killer omnichannel strategy, there’s also no arguing that the digital space is crowded and noisy. More and more marketers continue to put money into digital, hoping to discover the best (and most cost-effective) mix of channels to drive engagement and increase revenues. With more dollars flooding in, knowing the return on investment has never been more critical, and unfortunately, never been more challenging either.

How do I empirically attribute a customer action back to an original channel? And how do I do it when engagement is happening across a variety of diverse touchpoints, both on and offline?

You’ve probably asked yourself similar questions. And they do not have easy answers! The ad tech sector is pushing towards more efficient and accurate means for calculating that ROI, but it’s likely going to be an ongoing challenge for the next several years. So while the opportunity is certainly there in digital, it’s not without its headaches.

If you’ve been in this industry for a while, you’ll likely remember starting your career in direct-response marketing. Many of you probably still consider yourselves a true direct-response marketer, even though the tactics and lines of communications may have changed. If pure play Direct Mail is a part of your day-to-day, you’ve been out of the “majority” category for some time. In fact, according to Experian’s November 2015 study, only 35% of cross-channel marketers reported plans to implement direct mail in their 2016 strategy, versus 60% in social media, 55% in email and 53% in mobile and mobile apps. And in their study “Is Internet Killing the TV Star?”, RBC Capital Markets and Advertising Age confirmed the trend that ad spend is being shifted out of direct mail and into Digital. While it’s true that consumers spend more time online than ever before, it seems that marketers are forgetting a crucial component of omnichannel – getting a customer to engage and purchase isn’t just about one channel, it’s about the synchronization of all customer touchpoints. And even in today’s digital age, direct mail has to be a part of that conversation.

Let’s consider what we know to be true about direct mail.

  1. It’s a mature advertising channel that’s proven its effectiveness
  2. It’s highly measurable, both for acquisition and retention
  3. It’s a tangible experience that’s part of an ingrained routine

On top of the above mentioned, we also know that today’s mailboxes are less crowded than perhaps ten years ago, given that marketers seem to consider it a less viable channel when paired against digital. Knowing all of these truths, it would seem that now is the perfect time to fill the void in the mailbox – it’s time for us direct-response marketers to get back to our roots.

But, it’s a different world today, and while the traditional methods for direct mail have been effective in the past, it might be time to approach the channel with a new mentality.

How can I synergistically improve ad spend as a whole, adding Direct Mail into the omnichannel mix?

 This is the kind of question we should now be asking ourselves, and we’ve found that working through the answer yields some positive results. Direct mail as a separate outbound advertising ecosystem is a powerful acquisition and cultivation engine. But because we know so much more about our customers today, we’ve been able to improve the effectiveness of direct mail tremendously, using it to power more engagement across other customer touchpoints. Consider the fact that the average American spends 25 minutes with their mail (McCann study). That uninterrupted moment in time – the “mail moment” – is an opportunity to make an impact unlike any other. And with better data and modeling capabilities, plus a fine-tuned and personalized creative approach, the “junk mail” of yesterday is now what we like to call hyper-relevant.

While there’s still somewhat of a financial burden associated with the direct mail channel, marketers are now starting to see that the mail moment is becoming a critical part of the consumer’s complete brand experience. We can gauge returns on direct mail alone, but what also surfaces is the impact it has on the digital channels – and that’s the real “ah hah” moment. Our own teams tested these theories with an in-depth attribution analysis for a leading health nonprofit. Ultimately, we were able to determine that a significant amount (1 in 4) of digitally acquired donors had received a direct mail piece prior to making their online donation. The findings not only validated the importance of their direct mail program, but it also encouraged them to look at the larger picture of their omnichannel efforts.

With this new kind of thinking, we can begin to find the answers to our toughest ROI questions, and we can also learn to leverage the mail channel for all its value. So, direct response marketers, it’s time to seize the mail moment!

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