In the second video for our New School vs. Old School Marketing Ideology – You Make the Call! series we look at direct mail. David Mantica (@davidmantica) again takes the old school position, while JT Moore (@j_t_moore) provides the new school position. They discuss topics like cost, deliverability, targeting, integrated marketing, and much more.
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A few months ago I wrote a post about why direct mail should still be used in marketing, and that an integrated mix is the best way to approach a marketing campaign. I guess the United State Postal Service is catching on. In their recent proposal for a 3% discount for mail containing a two-dimensional barcode (i.e. QR code), they state one of the conditions as: “The objective of the two-dimensional mobile barcode on eligible mail pieces must be to initiate interaction with consumers via mobile smart phones to market, promote, or educate.”
[UPDATE: the Postal Regulatory Committee approved the discount on May 17, 2011. The discount is valid from July 1-August 31, 2011.]
So what does this mean? First it means even though 3% isn’t a huge discount, it’s recognition by the USPS that they need to attach themselves to the growth and future of marketing. But the USPS, even if they aren’t aware of it, is also doing a service for companies that may not be ahead of the marketing curve. Direct mail marketing needs to embrace interactive marketing to involve the customers more. Troy Forget, senior marketing manager, Staples Advantage, stated in a recent Direct Mail Marketing article that, “…the interactive print sector is helping companies engage prospects with technology that print alone cannot accomplish.” I wholeheartedly agree.
ASPE started putting QR codes on mailed brochures at the beginning of this year. Right now, the majority of our QR codes take you to the course page for that specific brochure. While we haven’t had overwhelming results with traffic coming to our website from QR codes, we’ve had a 50% increase in usage of the codes from February to April. That’s enough for us to develop more, and better, ways to integrate them.
What’s the caveat? You need to use QR codes correctly. Don’t slap a code on your mail piece just to save you some money on postage, use it to your advantage. Here are some simple things things to start with to make QR codes useful:
Make sure your QR code goes to a relevant web page. What do I mean by that? If your direct mail piece focuses on a promotion you’re running, don’t link the QR code to your homepage where the customer will have to dig through three layers of your site just to find what they were looking for. Link the QR code to the valuable content they want: the promotion page. Better yet, create a specific page just for mobile device use and link to that.
Create a specific link or landing page so you can measure the traffic coming to your site directly from the QR code. It can tell you a lot about your customers – what devices they are using, how long someone using a smart phone stays on your site, in what cities people are actively using this technology.
TEST, TEST, TEST. Does it work for multiple smart phones with multiple apps? Is it linking to the correct page? When the link pops up, does it shorten it to something it shouldn’t? (Recently when I tested a few, the link title kept coming up as “Katie.” I didn’t realize the site I used to create the code titled the link with the name on your account unless you change it. Oops. The sites I use now are Kaywa and QR.net)
So if you’re not currently using QR-Codes, catch up with the times. Even the USPS is doing it.
In a marketing age where everyone wants to reach their customers faster and on a more personal level, is snail mail marketing (forgive me, but the banal term is the most relevant) still a good marketing channel? Some people will tell you that with design costs, printing expenses, list rentals, constantly changing postal requirements and an ever-increasing postage rate, direct mail is just not worth it. I think they’re wrong.
What it comes down to is evaluating your company’s core business and deciding the best strategy. ASPE is a training company. We train professionals in business analysis, project management, marketing, IT, financial investment and more to help them gain certifications, become more efficient and knowledgeable and advance their careers. People want detail if they’re going to pay $1,000+ for a course. Better yet, their employers want justification on why they should shell out money for training.
The next logical question is: How do we reach them? Of course we have an integrated marketing mix; it would be irresponsible for any company not to. Historically direct mail was our bread and butter, and now we’ve integrated it with the electronic side of email, Twitter, search engine optimization, pay per click campaigns and more. Sure, it’s cheap and easy for customers to print out an email or webpage and physically have it in front of them, but first they have to find our company, go to our website, find the right course and then they have their information. A brochure has all the information they want about a class delivered to them (of course you have to profile correctly to get it to that person, but that’s a whole other ballgame).
So, when the question and shock comes, and people say, “You spend HOW MUCH on direct mail?!?” and my answer is that on a busy week, the postage alone is more than my salary, why do we continue to invest in it when the electronic channels are working so well? Here you go:
28% of our registrations in 2010 were directly linked to a direct mail piece compared to the 10% from emails
In our business, if 2 of every 1,000 people who receive a brochure register for a class, we break even or make a profit
Direct mail is an easy channel to track; you just have to figure out how: “Thanks for signing up for a class. How’d you hear about us?…A brochure, great! Do you mind telling me the code listed next to the mailing label?…Thanks.”
You can’t put 8 pages of details and outline in an email and make it look good
Extra runoffs make for great collateral for our sales team
Even if the intended recipient is no longer at a company, chances are their replacement/superior/coworkers will still be there and look at it
You can guarantee the recipient will see the same images you see. Different email providers, software programs and browsers display things differently
Shelf life: How long do you keep an email in your inbox? Now how long do you keep a catalog or magazine around the office?
So before you decide to eliminate or significantly cut back your direct mail campaigns, or start one up, think about what your message is, how you want potential customers to view it, and the way you’re going to measure the ROI. Sure, our competitors in the training business have cut back and typically the only mail they send is an annual or bi-annual catalog. GREAT! That means the brochures we send to a potential student could be the only training information lying on their desk. With less in the mail, your piece can have greater impact.