No matter how many times it happens, there’s still something special about receiving a letter in your mailbox. It’s personal, tangible, and a bit of a throw-back, if we’re being honest.
For years, it was thought that direct mail was a thing of the past. After all, no one checked their physical mailbox that regularly. But then the world entered a global pandemic and everything changed.
With so many people working from home, physical touchpoints became more and more popular. And with consumers going numb to digital ads, we have to ask: is the answer to future advertising actually a blast from the past?
This article will take a look at direct mail’s growing comeback as an effective marketing channel and explore the ways in which marketers have been forced to restrategize if they stand a chance of succeeding in 2022 and beyond.
Plus, three tips for brands looking to try their hand at direct mail campaigns in 2022.
What is Direct Mail?
Direct mail is exactly what it sounds like — physical pieces of mail that arrive in your mailbox.
Be it a letter, postcard, or magazine — from small businesses to enterprise companies — brands are using direct mail to increase brand awareness, better connect with customers, push promotions and deals, and even gather customer feedback.
As of this year, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is seeing its second-lowest advertising mail volume since its peak in 2007. Although 66.2 billion units of advertising mail sent and received in 2021 may seem like a huge number, that’s only about one piece of advertising mail every two days.
So, what does this translate to? A brand communication channel with less competition. Given the low amount of direct mail received by the average consumer, it follows that they’re more likely to open and read a piece of physical mail than, say, click on a display ad.
So, now that we all know exactly what direct mail is, let’s move on to why brands should test it out.
Why Should Brands Use Direct Mail in 2022?
Though it may feel like direct mail is a relic of the past, there’s good reason to give it a go in 2022.
First, the response rate that direct mail receives is a great deal higher than other forms of brand communication. Even back in 2018, direct mail response rates came in at 9%. Compared to email marketing, social media, and paid ads with a 1% response rate — and display ads with a 0.3% response rate — direct mail has been looking pretty good recently.
Add in the fact that — thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic — consumers have been spending an inordinate amount of time at home and you’ll come to a better understanding of why direct mail marketing campaigns currently present a unique opportunity for brands: they have a captive audience.
Another reason brands should consider a direct mail campaign in 2022? The nostalgia factor. In an interview with B2B Marketing, Graham Dodridge explains direct mail’s appeal, stating:
“In an all-consuming digital world, there is greater appreciation for a tactile, authentic, and even artisanal experience.”
We can all agree — it feels different to receive a piece of mail than to see a paid search ad or open an email. The immediate physicality of the action is a throwback to days gone by, and it does induce feelings of nostalgia for consumers old enough to remember direct mail’s age of supremacy.
Furthermore, as discussed in our article “Will Nostalgia Be the Biggest Marketing Trend of 2021?”, nostalgia marketing is having a bit of a resurgence at the moment. In these trying and uncertain times, consumers are looking for comfort and familiarity — something to remind them of a time when everything was simpler.
From Burger King to Coca-Cola, many brands are cashing in on this trend with throw-back digital ads and retro rebrands. For these reasons and more, direct mail has found its place in the nostalgia trend. After all, when’s the last time you received a personalized letter from a brand?
So, if a direct mail campaign seems like a tactic you’d like to try out in 2022, read on for three tips to encourage success.
3 Tips For Brands New to Direct Mail Campaigns
So, you’ve deceived to give direct mail a whirl — that’s great news.
However, please keep in mind: while this form of brand communication may be old-fashioned, that doesn’t mean your approach to it in 2022 should be! If you want your direct mail campaign to succeed, you need to take a modern, data-driven approach.
Below you’ll find three tips that will help you create a more effective and successful direct mail campaign.
1. Utilize Audience Segmentation
Like most brands, you’ll have thousands of contacts to choose from — so how do you determine which customers should be targeted for your direct mail campaign? That’s where audience segmentation comes in.
Naturally, not every consumer will respond in the same way to being on the receiving end of a direct mail campaign. Thus, in order to give your campaign the best shot at success, you need to pick and choose which audiences you’ll include on your mailing list.
The good news is direct mail can be just as highly targeted as digital marketing. Thus, the best practice is to select a handful of audience segmentations that your customer data indicates will respond best to direct mail, and then test it out.
For example, let’s consider an important target audience for many brands: Millennials.
In a 2019 USPS study, Still Relevant: A Look At How Millennials Respond to Direct Mail, they found that 88% of Millennials take the time to look through their mail and 59% find the information they receive by mail to be more useful than that which they receive by email.
Furthermore, 65% of Millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising and when compared to Boomers and Gen X, Millennials are the most likely to take action from direct marketing mail — with 67% of Millennials stating that they “frequently and occasionally use marketing mail as a prompt to go online.”
Clearly, Millennials are a receptive audience to direct mail marketing and should be given consideration when you decide which audience segmentations to test out. The bottom line is this: do your research and choose your recipients wisely.
2. Lean into Personalization
In the above-mentioned USPS study, they also found that 75% of Millennials said that “receiving personal mail makes them feel special”. And it’s likely that this sentiment is shared by other generations and target audiences.
Receiving personalized mail feels significant — like someone has singled you out for a unique message. In the same article for B2B Marketing, Kate Gorringe, the creative director of Mr B and Friends, expanded on the importance of personalization, saying:
“We’re looking for opportunities where we can be highly-targeted, where we’re trying to target high-value customers we know by name, and send them something of value. Something that’s highly-personalised that can be directly followed up by a sales person. That’s where we see the real value in direct marketing.”
But true personalization is about more than adding a recipient’s name to an envelope — it should encompass everything about the campaign. The message, the special offer, the timing — even the mail’s format should be personalized.
When a customer receives direct mail at the right time, with the right message, the right offer, and in a unique format, they’re bound to be greatly impacted (and hopefully moved to action).
Thus, if you want your direct mail campaign to be a success, you must make strategic use of your customer data to determine routes for personalization. Figure out who to target and when to do so — then get to personalizing every aspect you can.
3. Always Follow Up & Track Engagement
It can be tempting to hope that a well-planned direct mail campaign will be successful enough without further nurturing. However, you would be incorrect on this account.
To be truly successful, you need to follow up your direct mail campaign with another form of outreach — and it needs to be tracked. Be it a phone call, personalized email, or text message, your brand can’t just send out mail and hope for the best.
Using direct mail as the first step in a customer engagement campaign is great, but the next step must be to make contact — and you absolutely must log how that contact is made. Keeping detailed records of how customers have been contacted and their subsequent engagement rates is vital to determine the success of your direct mail campaign.
A great way to encourage engagement is to enhance your direct mail content with easy-to-use QR codes, exciting special discount codes, or even a dedicated landing page or phone number for questions. These enhancements also make it easier to track engagement, as every time a customer uses one, you’ll have it on record.
At the end of the day, direct mail opens the door to more engaged contact with consumers — it doesn’t do all the work for you. To put yourself in the best position for success, you need to follow up and keep detailed records of engagement. This way, you’ll be able to better measure overall campaign success.
Direct mail campaigns are making a real comeback — but that doesn’t mean they’re the right choice for every brand.
Before spending time and money planning a direct mail campaign, consider whether or not it fits with your brand identity and positioning — and your target audiences, of course.
Remember, determining whether or not direct mail is a good idea has a lot to do with understanding how consumers perceive your brand. That’s where brand monitoring comes in. When you have reliable consumer data on hand, you’re guaranteed to make better decisions.