Consumer engagement and return on investment are two key metrics all marketers have to hit. Positive results are only possible if you first identify and then build the best audience for your marketing, using multiple channels/touchpoints. And like all things marketing, that’s only become trickier over the last two-and-a-half years as shifting consumer behaviors and macroeconomic trends riddle the marketing landscape with quicksand.
A vital tool for creating a relevant 1:1 connection with consumers, direct marketing, has been particularly besieged:
- Increased competition for available digital inventory, which the pandemic kicked into high gear, has made the era of cheap digital media a thing of the past, as Digital Information World reported earlier this year.
- The digital onslaught is taking its toll, especially among younger generations. 47% of Gen Z and 42% of Millennials said they had experienced digital fatigue in the past 30 days, according to recent research.
- Dramatically higher paper and postage costs, coupled with a paper supply crunch have driven many brands toward email and social media and away from one of the most effective direct marketing channels — direct mail.
A new DM game plan
The solution is to plot a new customer journey that marries offline and online touchpoints. Under pressure to deliver results as everything around us keeps changing, it can be hard to step back and see the big picture. So ask yourself a couple questions:
- What outcome are you driving toward — enrollment, app downloads, email opt-ins, etc.?
- What’s your required ROI?
The answers will drive details around form, function and content. The goal is to create the right connections — seamless, enjoyable, with minimal friction — to maximize engagement.
Step 1, of course, is to identify the right audience. Develop multilayered, data-driven profiles of responders vs. non-responders that go beyond demographics and past transactions. Look at media consumption (in-home, out-of-home and social media); online behaviors, when possible; values (e.g., charitable giving); lifestyles; and shopping affinities. Then segment your audience and develop target personas.
After that, a variety of tactics will help you combine digital and print media to forge strong consumer connections. Here are a few:
- Use a unique QR code per household in each piece of direct mail. Scans of the codes will enhance your personalization roadmap, capture emails in prospecting campaigns (“Sign up to get 15% off your first purchase,” etc.), remove friction (e.g., form auto-fills) and capture more first-party data.
- Personalize digital content associated with direct mail. When someone scans the code, responding with contextual personalized digital content via email, SMS or landing page increases engagement and conversion. For example, is the consumer near a store that carries your brand and is currently open? Then make sure the digital messaging highlights this. Or is new merchandise arriving in stores soon? Tell them with personalized product/lifestyle imagery and offers.
- Remarket from online to offline. Capturing and acting on intent is critical to engagement. Visiting a website, viewing a video or other immersive media and scanning QR codes are all strong intent signals that can be used as triggers to initiate remarketing. Not just online remarketing — pixel to pixel — but also online to offline — pixel to postcard — reaching them at home.
- Leverage mail tracking to set up physical-to-digital/offline-to-online triggers. Intelligent barcodes (IMB) on a piece of mail provide confirmation of when a piece of mail is delivered that then can trigger geo-targeted online follow-up, emails and social media outreach.
Whatever tactics you employ, the not-so-secret to success is testing and measurement. Every time you communicate with a customer or prospect is an opportunity to test and improve your marketing.