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Direct Marketing » Trends, Tips & Facts, Best Practice | 29.11.2013

Making the connection in Direct Marketing


A successful direct marketer will not view their direct mailing in isolation. Integrating it with other channels will boost success and make it easier to track results.

Far from usurping direct mail, technology has revived its fortunes – offering extra ways for consumers to respond and for brands to continue the conversation. As Kevin Slatter, director of data and analytics at WPP’s Geometry Global, says: “Building true brand engagement is about creating dialogue.” It is tricky to do that through direct mail alone. But, according to the Direct Marketing Association in the UK, as many as 44 per cent of recipients visit a brand’s website after receiving something in the post from them, and a further 34 per cent searched for more information online. This opens up a range of opportunities to build on initial communication.

There is a lot of debate around the effectiveness of direct mail when it comes to comparisons with email – particularly when it comes to relative costs and response rates. But, in truth, the two work better together. Various studies have shown that adding email into the mix can boost response by nearly 30 per cent, as it serves as a useful follow-up tool and offers a “one-click” route to respond. On the other hand, adding direct mail lends authority to email campaigns, which might otherwise get overlooked in an overflowing inbox – and a 2011 Brand Science study suggests the return on investment can rise by more than 60 per cent.

„44% of people in the UK visit a brand’s website after receiving a piece of direct mail.“

Perfect partners
Direct mail and social media can be equally complementary. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums offer better platforms for discussion than mail ever will, but they are some of the hardest when brands are trying to stand out from the crowd. Yet you only have to look at award-winning campaigns over the past couple of years to see the power that creative direct mail executions have had in prompting buzz on Twitter or Facebook, especially when brands target opinion leaders and journalists.

Colour specialist Pantone, for example, tied in with the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 by creating the Pantone Queen – a queen-shaped swatch book detailing the colour of 60 different outfits worn by Her Majesty during her reign. Although the mailing only went to 200 people, within 24 hours it was being written about on 1.2 million websites and blogs around the world, and #Pantone Queen was trending on Twitter.

And despite the march towards e-commerce, the continued popularity of catalogues among retailers is testament to this special relationship between print and online. In 2012, US retailer L.L.Bean produced more than 50 different catalogues that were distributed to customers in more than 160 countries; in Europe, Bon Prix still offers its customers a choice of 280 national and international catalogues. They now just happen to sit alongside Twitter handles, Facebook pages and email marketing strategies.

“Don’t consider direct mail or email or web activity in isolation, but consider the right combination to achieve the best response,” Slatter says. So what is the right combination? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer – he explains that will come from testing and learning from one campaign to the next.

The bigger picture
But it is not all about digital. When you are looking at direct mail’s place in the marketing mix, it plays a significant role in making wider campaigns more personally relevant, converting customer awareness into action. The Brand Science research showed direct mail could increase returns on outdoor advertising, for example, by 44 per cent.

As a case in point, Jaclyn Ng at Copenhagen-based agency AdPeople says integrating direct mail into a campaign for Dell’s Latitude e-series laptops that ran in airports, as well as in-flight magazines, across Denmark, Norway and Sweden, was crucial to success. The mailing went to 500 small businesses and their IT decision makers, and contributed to a five per cent rise in Dell’s market share across the region.

Even a basic piece of direct mail, targeted well, can punch well above its perceived weight. Not only can it spark a dialogue, it can literally help you bring your marketing message home.

Learn from the loyalty experts

Linking direct mail with online channels also gives you the opportunity to learn more about your customers. Driving them to fill in their preferences online or recording the purchases they make as a result of the direct mail they received provides invaluable insight that can then filter into the next campaign you run.

Here, there are clear lessons to learn from supermarkets’ loyalty schemes – they know what their customers like to buy, when and how often, and tailor their offers accordingly. Sending a message that more closely matches customers’ interests can boost response by up to 50 per cent, says the Direct Marketing Association.