With economic uncertainty, marketers have the tough task of continuing to grow their brands while also navigating increased costs and lower budgets. Direct mail feels particularly impacted. Ongoing supply chain turmoil, rising material costs, and increased postage are all combining to make the channel more expensive than it has been in the past.
Yet direct mail still delivers, giving marketers the performance and ROI they need to power through any uncertainty and drive revenue. In fact, more than half of the respondents in a 2022 direct mail study from SeQuel Response say they entered the mail channel “to escape the rising CAC costs of digital channels.” Now in a competitive first quarter and facing increased expectations from their leadership, seasoned mailing pros may feel like they have to scramble to expand their strategies to start the new year on a high. Instead, they should get creative and lean into all the possibilities of modern direct mail, incrementally expanding audiences through new sources, different modeling approaches.
1. Identify new data sources
Brands that frequently run direct mail programs likely already have sizable universes of customers and prospect segments. Right now, even the most robust programs could benefit from expanding the size of their universe so that they can find even more prospective customers to drive ROI.
One of the quickest ways to do this is to turn to different data sources and layer those insights on top of the usual lists. For example, a brand that typically targets new moms can layer on another source, like income data, to widen the net of qualified prospects that will receive the mailer.
Other brands are turning to social media to identify customers whose interests align with their products. Coming off of a very active midterm election cycle, political learnings create an opportunity for tailored messaging in anticipation of the 2024 presidential election. For example, political affiliation may signal interest in other products and causes like electric vehicles or organic food delivery services. These brands can use the social media seed set to build a model, then create a list of new customers that will receive the offline mailers.
2. Adjust recency when building models
Another way to expand the universe of potential customers is to adjust the recency when building audience models. Traditionally, mailers will build models on customer behavior for the past year or two. With a more competitive market, brands may want to test models that open up recency to the past four or five years of customer behavior.
This greatly expands the audience pool and opens the door to reaching a larger set of consumers. In some cases, that may be previous customers who are open to reengaging with the brand.
Meanwhile, by going back twice as far (or more), the model utilizes more data. Especially when marketers consider the drastic shifts in consumer behavior in the last three years, bringing in a deeper history may even provide different insight than pandemic related trends.
3. Offset rising costs elsewhere
Rather than make blanket cuts, brands need to evaluate each channel for ROI. While direct mail may remain more expensive in terms of budget, it is likely to bring in greater revenue. Marketers need to be prepared to make the case for the performance and value benefits of a more expensive channel.
Direct mail has always been on the expensive side of marketing, and that cost is inflating at the moment. Supply chain issues have driven up the cost of paper. Postage is higher than it’s ever been, following years of uncertainty with postal infrastructure. Higher cost means that it’s even more critical to drop a campaign that can deliver a return.
While direct mail owners may not be able to directly affect the spend of other teams in other channels, they can start closer to home, and see a ripple effect. Optimizing direct mail audiences for purchase amount or frequency could help influence the channel. Sharing these insights with channel partners, you could suggest promoting to the potentially lower value customers in channels like email and social and focus direct mail or TV for higher value customers.
Moving forward with direct mail
Direct mail remains strong because it consistently results in conversions, customer acquisition, and other key metrics. It has carried marketers through hard times in the past, and for those brands, it should remain a cornerstone of their marketing strategy, especially going into the new year.
Brands need to perform their due diligence when it comes to expanding their universe. Now is the time to uncover new prospects and opportunities to really maintain revenue growth in the face of uncertainty. Direct mail still delivers, even in hard times, provided that marketers take a fresh look. Reach out to our team and expand your marketing prowess in direct mail!
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