Last night I was having a conversation with a potential free-lance client about the way to get the best bang for their buck, based on the size of the marketing budget they have. Said client was adamant about using things like, and I quote here, “That social stuff, you know the Twitter and that Facebook thing”. So my question to them was; how much time have you spent using social networking, and do you have any kind of presence on any social networking sites now? The answer was very little time and no presence. I told the client that this wasn’t a problem, and I had one more question for them. I ask, does your target audience include a group that is heavily involved in social networking? This question was key to helping the client spend their money wisely and helping them to develop a cohesive strategy. The client told me they didn’t really know, but they heard things like Twitter were the hot place to advertise.
After 15 or so minutes of discussion about social networking, and other forms of digital marketing, I proposed that they should indeed explore this, but not give up on traditional media channels as well. My proposal to them, was to create a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account. Have Tweets, update the Facebook page, and dedicate someone on their small marketing staff to post relevant content to both areas a few times a day. I also said that they should add follow buttons to their website for both Facebook, and Twitter. I explained that the only out-of-pocket expense was the time invested. Then I went on to explain to them why they shouldn’t drop the direct mail campaigns they have used in the past.
According to the United States Post Office, direct mail advertising represented 63% of all mail received by households in 2008. Of that, 79% of households either read or scan advertising mail sent to their household and 11% respond and take action. Compare this to e-mail marketing: Mail Chimp’s research indicates the average open-rate for marketing e-mail is about 25% and the click-through/take-action rate is only 4.28%. (100,000 direct mail units sent get 63,000 views, which equates to 49,770 people responding on average.) Now that does not mean this client should give up on email marketing, it simply means that direct mail is still a very viable form of advertising.
So how do you guarantee the best return on investment and potentially increase follow through when designing direct mail?
Have a clear call to action. A couple of years ago, I got a letter asking me to support local charity in my city. It was a cause I could get behind so with pen in hand I was ready to write a check. I scoured the letter only to find that there was no return address, no phone number and no way to easily send them money. Sure, I could have looked up the number and contacted them, but expecting your recipients to do that is expecting too much. No clear call to action means no follow through.
Make sure you provide a clear way to respond to your direct mail. Is there a number to call? A Web site to visit? Make it obvious.
If you have a website, use it to track the results of your direct mail piece. Make sure what is mailed out, has a unique URL for your site that can be tracked to measure the number of unique page views generated by your mailing. At the very least, each direct mail piece that goes out should have a dedicated phone extension or Web landing page, so that you can track your results.
Take advantage of variable data printing. Just a few years ago, there was one main option for printing in color. That option was offset printing. Today things are different thanks to advances in printing technology. Not only is it affordable to digitally print short-runs, it’s possible to customize your projects using variable data printing (VDP). For example, say you’re designing for a client’s annual annual report. If the client has a database of current shareholders, including their names, and the years and amount of stock they own, it’s easy to print that information right in the body of your piece. It personalizes the experience and shows how well their investment performed over the course of the year.
Design something different. If it stands out, there is a greater chance that someone will look at it. You don’t have to break the bank with process, or special die cuts. You just need to create a compelling piece, whether it is 2 color, or 6 colors with varnish, a special die, and an oversized shape.
One of the things about direct mail that still works is, even with a smaller budget you can get great results, especially when you tie it back to your digital strategy.