Merge email and direct mail to reclaim lost 'wow' factor

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Richard Harrison, President and COO, SMTP Inc.
Richard Harrison, President and COO, SMTP Inc.

Like the big mail drops of yesteryear, people are being inundated with email, which gets ignored and deleted. The "wow" factor, once a signature of direct mail pieces, is sorely absent in email. Thus, we're seeing a resurgence of direct mail. However, direct mail alone can't capture what it did when there were no other alternative channels. To 
harness that lost "wow" factor, one option is to try a hybrid approach: a combination of email and direct mail. 

Email is inexpensive where direct mail is expensive. If the agency is exceptional at creating a mailer that begs to be torn open, that feat will most likely be a prohibitively expensive proposition. But there's a work-around.

A hybrid approach allows you to reach a receptive audience. Assuming we already have an email opt-in list, let's use email as a call-to-action, to persuade our targets to register to receive more enticing information through a nicely illustrated direct mail piece. With the short attention spans people have online, direct mail has to be that much more elaborate. The mailer must be the closer.

The art is to create an incentive through email. It should be enticing enough to cause the consumer to click for more information. With this kind of opt-in, the mailer is allowed to have more meaning. Consumers prefer the tangible, in contrast to just directing them to a website. The direct mail piece can go in-depth, make its presence known, and serve as a constant reminder. Email can't do that. 

The risk is disruption in continuity. The consumer has to wait for fulfillment, unlike electronic campaigns which are instantaneous. When building the campaign, this disruption period has to be factored in. 

Imagine the opposite scenario. You receive a direct mail piece and the call-to-action asks that you log in and then enter a promotional code to receive a benefit. Most likely this won't fly too well. 

Email can be the driver that gets the opt-in permission for the direct mail piece. Once that's established, marketers can justify investing in the creation of more durable and memorable direct mail pieces. This produces an efficient use of the direct mail budget, allowing art to produce a more elaborate "wow" piece. 

This hybrid approach ought to give a campaign better lift, better creativity and a chance that the direct mail piece will be read and acted on. Limiting the number of mailers to a selective list reduces your production and mailing costs since you'll be printing less of them. Hopefully, the direct mail piece brings prospects to the next action item and steers them to your target objective.

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