How to harness the power of the mailstream

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With the rise of e-mail and telemarketing, how significant is the mailstream in direct marketing today? We recently commissioned International Communications Research to help us find out. The study, the fourth Pitney Bowes has done since 1999, shows consumers strongly favor mail over e-mail and telephone calls.

A whopping 73 percent of consumers prefer mail for receiving product announcements and offers from companies they do business with. Only 18 percent prefer e-mail. Seventy percent prefer mail for receiving unsolicited information from companies they don't do business with. Eighty-six percent prefer mail for bills, bank statements and financial reports, with only 10 percent opting for e-mail. Fifty-three percent will discard unsolicited e-mails without opening them, but only 31 percent will discard unopened mail.

People said mail is less intrusive; more convenient; less high-pressured; more descriptive; and more persuasive.

Three pillars

So how can you leverage the mailstream to power your direct marketing efforts? Successful direct mail rests on three pillars.

1. Effective direct mail is relevant. It has a personalized, compelling message. Personalization means your message is targeted to your customers' needs and values. In business to business, you need to know their pain points, as well as core contacts by title and industry. You can then use digital variable print to set up templates with sections tailored to your target.

2. Effective direct mail contains a compelling premium offer. This will get your mail piece opened, especially if it's multidimensional. But the premium must have a relevant message and value to the recipient. Multidimensional mailings touch your prospects physically. They create an experience.

3. Finally, effective direct mail requires breakthrough design. It has to have sizzle, a unique creative approach that breaks through the avalanche of messages coming at us every day.

Of course, it's most important to know your audience, so list acquisition and targeting are critical. You also need to continuously measure. Direct mail is all about trying something, evaluating it and changing it. And it should always be integrated with other marketing efforts and strategically timed. For targeted marketing, the good news is direct mail is still your strongest weapon.

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