Why You Need To Include Direct Mail To Boost Your Inbound Marketing ROI

inbound marketing roi - the flywheel
HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan at INBOUND 2018

Marketers that have been able to achieve high levels of inbound marketing ROI are always looking for an edge. A new channel through which they can attract, engage and delight their ideal prospects. New tactics that can help them to bump up conversion rates. thing that can help them deliver value to their audience while standing out from the competition.

In recent years, it’s been trendy for companies to dive head-first into digital marketing strategies. Often, they’ll forego more traditional advertising channels. There was a good reason for that — the digital landscape was generally less competitive and delivered a high ROI while allowing for greater visibility through tracking and analytics.

The Marketing Channel Pendulum

pendulum of inbound marketing strategy
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Now the pendulum has started to swing back in the other direction, as traditional advertising channels offer lower levels of competition, improved targeting through integration with digital marketing channels and better measurement and analytics through new software.

One channel that is extremely underutilized among inbound marketers is direct mail. Not only does direct mail deliver a median ROI of 29%,  but it helps you to shake things up and find a new, attention-grabbing way to get in front of your target audience.

78% of consumers have unsubscribed from a company’s mailing list because they were receiving too many emails. Direct mail not only helps you to break through the noise, it also allows you to diversify channels so that customers are less likely to feel bombarded by constant communications.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how direct mail can play a critical role as a new channel that can provide a big boost to your inbound marketing ROI and strategies.

Direct Mail is Part of a Multi-Channel Approach

direct mail is the missing puzzle piece for inbound marketing roi

In the early days of inbound marketing, direct mail was seen as “outbound” rather than “inbound”. For a good reason: traditionally, most direct mail advertisements were of the outbound marketing, direct response variety.

That means that they were often direct product advertisements sent to prospects specifically to persuade them to purchase. Direct response ads were often disconnected from other marketing efforts and were delivered in isolation.

Of course, the world has changed considerably since the early days of inbound marketing. Today, materials that are delivered through direct mail are often informational or educational and designed to nurture your relationship with a prospect, rather than simply asking the prospect to make the buying decision.

Modern direct mail platforms (like Postalytics, which integrates directly with HubSpot and other inbound marketing tools), give you the top-down view of the actions that your recipients take just as you would have in any digital marketing campaign. You’ll be able to see which prospects opened your mail, responded online via Personalized URL, and ultimately engaged with your offering.

For direct mail to become a vital and effective driver of your inbound marketing ROI, you have to find ways to smartly integrate it with your broader multi-channel marketing strategies.

How?

An easy way to start is by using software integrations that link direct mail campaigns to  HubSpot, Salesforce or other CRM/Marketing Automation tools. These integrations enable workflows that include direct mail using a wide variety of triggers.

api automation enables direct mail to boost inbound marketing campaigns

Building out workflows that use direct mail as a channel can help you to get a leg up on the competition and find natural ways to use the channel in your already-existing strategies.

Some of the different kinds of triggered workflows and campaigns that direct mail may be able to supplement include:

  • Onboarding New Customers
  • Event Marketing
  • Abandoned Cart
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Re-Engagement
  • Event Workflow
  • Upcoming Purchase Reminders

These are just a few of the many creative ways that direct mail can supplement existing inbound marketing campaigns.

Many inbound marketers start to get interested in direct mail after first learning that it is possible to digitally track direct mail campaigns and integrate it with other channels. This knowledge often sets off a waterfall of creativity, identifying many of the different ways they might be able to improve existing campaigns by adding a direct mail step or steps.

Combining direct mail touches with existing email campaigns is an easy way to begin testing the impact of direct mail as a key part of an inbound marketing strategy.

workflows drive inbound marketing campaigns with direct mail

Is Your Audience a Good Fit for Direct Mail?

Your inbound marketing ROI will be most impacted by direct mail when you choose an audience, or segments of your audience, that are a great fit. In fact, most experienced direct marketers believe that up to 40% of the success of a campaign is attributable to the audience selection (and ongoing testing).

If your audience is primarily comprised of say, teenagers that don’t check their mail, the channel probably won’t make sense for you. However, most demographic segments are more engaged with direct mail than you might think.

Take, for example, millennials.

It might seem counter-intuitive that the generation addicted to their phones aren’t a good target for direct mail advertisements. It makes sense on the surface level — they’re all so engaged digitally that more traditional communication channels might not be appropriate.

The data tells us a very different story.

Millennials actually show exceptional levels of engagement with direct mail, according to a recent Whitepaper released by the U.S. Postal Service:

  • 84% of millennials take time to read through their direct mail.
  • 64% of millennials would rather scan for useful info in their direct mail inbox than their email inbox.
  • 90% of millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable.
  • 87% of millennials enjoy receiving direct mail.
  • 57% of millennials have made purchasing decisions based on direct mail offers.

In fact, millennials show higher levels of engagement with direct mail across all meaningful metrics:

millennial direct mail consumption

Source: USPS

What does this all mean? That you need to do your background research on your audiences.

They may be more (or less) engaged than you’d think if you only used their stereotypical demographic definitions to determine whether the channel would be a good fit. Sometimes the best way to see if your audience is a good fit is to run test campaigns and see what kind of response you get.

There are a few questions that you can use to guide your research. While it is always best to survey and collect information directly from your customers and prospects, answering these questions can help you to zero in on whether direct mail is a good fit for your inbound marketing campaigns:

  • How channel-diversified are your campaigns currently? If you are engaging with prospects through multiple channels and are seeing results, that shows that they are willing to engage with you outside of email. 72% of consumers would rather connect with brands through multiple channels.
  • Are you leaning heavily on email marketing? Email marketing is extremely effective, but relying too heavily on it can burn out your prospects and send your unsubscribe rates soaring. In these cases, diversification is important simply for protecting your primary channels and giving your prospects a breather.
  • Do you collect mailing information from prospects? You can’t send direct mail to prospects when you don’t have their address. If you already collect that information, it makes everything so much easier. However, you can always begin to collect that information once you decide to add direct mail as an inbound channel.

Does it look like your audience is potentially a good fit for direct mail marketing? If so, we recommend testing a few campaigns with direct mail automation software.

Using tools like Postalytics, you can quickly setup A/B tests to touch a segment or segments of your audience with a few direct mail touches with different formats and messages

Benefits of Adding Direct Mail to Inbound Marketing Campaigns

direct mail inbound marketing roi benefits

You’ve learned that direct mail as a channel can deliver great response rates and ROI, and can appeal to a broad range of audiences. It can also bring other less obvious benefits to your inbound marketing.

To start, your audience knows that direct mail marketing isn’t a novelty.

It is used by serious, grown up companies that are invested in building long term customer relationships, rather than those that are just chasing the latest “growth hack”. By deploying direct mail, you’re signaling to your audience that your brand is serious and will be around for the long run.

Some of the other benefits of embracing direct mail as an inbound marketing channel include:

Direct Mail Acts As a Pattern Interrupt

Receiving a direct mail letter or package from a company that you are already familiar with (and have been engaging with on other channels) is likely to capture your attention. It’s particularly effective when the creative elements are thought provoking and memorable.

When a customer has been receiving and engaging with messages from your company through email and social media and they receive a personalized postcard, not only will they be pleasantly surprised — they’ll be more likely to open and engage with your offer.

This is particularly true for companies that are typically digital-first — your customers and prospects simply won’t be used to engaging through that channel and may be surprised to receive something.

Ultimately that bit of surprise will stick with them. They’ll be more likely to remember your company. They’ll have more interest in checking out your offer or learning more.

Drive Inbound Marketing ROI By Standing Out From Competitors

standout from competitors with direct mail as a part of your inbound marketing strategy

How many of your competitors are integrating direct mail into their inbound marketing workflows?

If you’re in an industry that tends to be digital-first, there is a high likelihood that very few of your competitors are actively using the channel. Those that do are more likely to be delivering one-off direct response campaigns, rather than using direct mail to nurture and build relationships through educational content.

Direct mail provides a simple and effective way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Your prospects will appreciate the extra effort that it takes to mail them something directly.

Buyers Trust Direct Mail And Have Higher Recall

buyers trust direct mail

Trust in institutions, including business and media, has dropped precipitously in recent years. Digital advertising scandals and email “phishing” schemes have undermined the trust and value that consumers place in digital media.

While at the same time, new research shows that for buyers, direct mail ranks as a highly trusted advertising channel.

Why? What is it about direct mail that is viewed as more authentic and trustworthy?

Neuroscientists have learned that physical advertisements are actually processed by a different part of the brain than are digital ads, and “require less cognitive effort to process, while eliciting much higher brand recall”.

Brand trust and recall certainly is a boost to any inbound marketing campaign.

A More Personalized Experience Grows Inbound Marketing ROI

There is a certain perceived value that comes with receiving a personally addressed package or letter through direct mail. Especially now that fewer people are sending and receiving mail.

That perceived value increases when the actual content contained within that package is personalized as well. Personalization is important in any marketing campaign. Modern companies have more ways to collect and utilize data to speak directly to individual customers than ever before.

Here are a few stats to show just how important personalization in marketing has become to modern customers:

  • 78% of consumers will only engage with offers that are personalized and account for previous interactions with the brand.
  • 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them on a deeper level.
  • 87% of consumers say that branded content that is personally relevant to them influences how they feel about a brand.

Direct mail has long had the capability to target and personalize creative. The problem has been that it was expensive, time consuming and difficult. As a result, traditionally only the largest, most sophisticated mailers deployed direct mail personalization – and got great results!

Direct mail automation tools level the playing field by enabling small batch or individual pieces to be printed and mailed at very low costs per piece. Using Postalytics’ in-depth personalization features, you can use any data that you collect and add context to your marketing messages to speak to your prospects as individuals.

Diversify and Avoid Burnout & Inbox Blindness

email inbox blindness can harm your inbound marketing roi

We’ve all been there. You subscribe to a company that you are fond of. They start sending you email messages. You read them all — at first, and find them genuinely insightful and engaging. Maybe the first three or four as they come in.

Then you miss one on a busy day.

When the next comes in, you skip it, remembering that you never read their last email. Eventually, you have a long list of emails from that company stacked up on your inbox, all of them unread. You no longer even pay attention to the email notifications as they come in.

The company didn’t do anything wrong. They send you materials that you genuinely found valuable. But it can be a chore to keep up with your favorite marketing newsletters and over time, we become used to seeing emails from specific senders and become less likely to open their emails.

This is what is known as “inbox blindness.” If you’re overly reliant on email marketing, inbox blindness can kill your inbound marketing ROI.

Diversifying the channels that you engage with prospects through can help to jump-start their awareness. Earlier, we discussed how direct mail can be used as a pattern-interrupt and how it is viewed as trusted and authentic. Inbound marketers can deploy direct mail to combat inbox blindness and re-engage in a way in a way that is perceived to be of high value.

Your Inbound Marketing Strategy With Direct Mail – Best Practices

Boosting your inbound marketing ROI by adding direct mail to your list of channels can be an easy-win for many companies — but only if you are smart about the way that it’s implemented. There are a few best practices that all companies should follow to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to direct mail inbound marketing:

Test, Measure, and Optimize

optimize direct mail as a part of your inbound marketing strategy

Like any digital marketing campaign, you should go into direct mail marketing with the mindset that you will always look for ways to improve. Using modern direct mail tools, you can test, measure, and optimize direct mail campaigns in the same way that you would a digital advertisement.

For direct mail to become an integral piece of your inbound marketing campaigns, you have to treat it with the care and respect that you would other channels.

Identify what’s working. A/B test audience segments and creative changes. Collect the data.

Then, optimize for performance over time. Doing so not only helps you to raise your ROI, but it helps to keep your direct mail costs down as well.

Appeal to Prospects Visually

strong visuals = strong direct mail roi

Prospects perceive a certain value from the physical, tactile experience that direct mail delivers. Direct mail is, above all else, a highly visual medium.

Postcards are like billboards. They’re meant to grab your attention and generate an emotional response. Powerful images, headlines and calls to action should be the focal point of the visual presentation.

Direct mail letters are longer form pieces. Longform educational pieces can deliver a lot of value to prospects, but only when they are presented in a professionally designed package.

At Postalytics, we’ve been witnessing the rebirth of the sales letter, which can be up to 12 pages of content. Callouts, sidebars and images can be very effective tools to enable the reader to more easily digest longer, more deeply developed messages.

Provide Clear Next Steps

targeted calls to action convert better

Just like email, with direct mail you should always tell your recipients what steps they should take next through a clear call-to-action.

In inbound marketing strategies, that call to action will commonly be for them to respond online by visiting a Personalized URL or pURL. Why? Because pURLs enable one-to-one tracking of response on landing pages – just like email and digital marketing tools.

Other direct mail inbound marketing campaigns may have other goals — such as sending you additional information, giving you a call, or purchasing your product. No matter what you would like your recipients to do, make sure that it is clearly stated on your collateral.

The Inbound Journey Is Everything

This goes back to the importance of personalization and segmentation. Like any inbound marketing channel, your direct mail marketing campaigns will be more effective if they take the full inbound journey that you’re building into account.

What is their persona? Their lead score? Are they in the awareness, consideration or decision stages?

the inbound marketing journey benefits from direct mail

Triggered direct mail can be a particularly effective tool in building out a multi-channel approach to the inbound marketing journey. Automated workflows can automate the process of sending targeted postcards and letters at discrete steps within each prospect’s journey.

Many Postalytics clients find it easy to add direct mail to existing email workflows. They have existing email marketing workflows that trigger messaging at important stages of the inbound marketing journey. Adding direct mail and optimizing both channels throughout the journey is a great way to get started.

Stand Out With Inbound Direct Mail

Direct mail can be a perfect fit for your inbound marketing strategy. It gives you a new high impact channel through which you can deliver personalized content, track effectiveness, and optimize over time.

The best part? Direct mail marketing is suitable for delivering materials throughout every stage of the sales funnel. When used effectively, it can help to boost your inbound marketing ROI and developer deeper, more impactful relationships with prospects and customers.