Direct mail marketers – 4 main challenges #directmail

in - May 2013

There are four key challenges marketers must “embrace” to ensure the effectiveness of direct mail in a multichannel world, said Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General and U.S. Postal Service (USPS) CEO, at the National Postal Forum (NPF) in San Francisco.

Direct Mail Personalisation

The first challenge Donahoe detailed is to make direct mail personally relevant. “Your mail should know you as well as your spouse does,” he said. He alluded to targeting available to digital marketers—such as Facebook features that allow businesses to target customers based on preferences they exhibit on the social media site.

By contrast, Donahoe conceded that the mail industry currently “does not use data as effectively as we should.” He gave a hypothetical example of the way personalization should be used in the mail stream: An individual searching for a car online browses the site of a local dealer, but doesn’t take further action, like scheduling an appointment. The dealer might then send that prospect a direct mail piece detailing the specifications of the car she looked at on the website. On the mailer would be a smart code, which the recipient could use to quickly schedule an appointment.

Donahoe, a well known direct mail marketer, conceded that this scenario is more complex to execute than it actually sounds. However, he said that current technology makes it “a much more attainable goal.”

Donahoe also emphasized the benefits of personalized direct mail marketing over targeted online advertising. “Paid digital advertising has a lot of unique characteristics,” he said. “But it’s not effective getting people to slow down and focus on their messages. No one slows down to read through spam emails. But if we can take the targeting power of online advertising and combine it with the mail experience, we can make mail more valuable to the receiver and the sender.”


The car dealer scenario Donahoe detailed also exemplifies the second challenge marketers face: Making mail more actionable by reducing the number of steps customers must take to make a purchase or interact with a business. “If we make mail more actionable, it becomes more valuable,” Donahoe said.


By using digital technologies, mail will become more functional—the third challenge for direct mail marketers. “Mail should be able to interact with smartphones and smart TVs,” Donahoe said. “If you get mail from a bank, you should be able to tap on your phone and get a representative. If you get mail from a restaurant, you should be able to tap and make a reservation.”


The final challenge for direct mail marketers, Donahoe said, is to get more creative. “That single piece of mail in your mailbox doesn’t compete against the internet or television,” he explained. “It competes against whatever is in your mailbox that day. Mail should be colourful, it should have images. We see a lot of creativity in digital and mail should have that same amount of creativity.”

“Mail must stay affordable,” Donahoe said. “The faster we can reduce costs, the better we can take the pressure off rising prices. That’s why we need flexibility in our delivery model.”

Thirty years ago, marketing mail was 12% of marketing spend in the U.S. That number, Donahoe said, has not changed. “The strength of our channels comes down to the interaction that occurs when our content is in the consumer’s hands,” he said. “We have to defend and strengthen that experience.”

You might also like to read about direct mail in Britain


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