Making direct mail and e-mail work together

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First impressions mean everything, especially in business marketing, but they have to be sustained. Your message should be reinforced—many times, and in multiple channels—until the decision maker you want to influence sees you as a recognizable brand. Elite sales and marketing executives share a common trait: their ability to identify how prospects want to do business, then customize their sales pitch to reflect those preferences. Unfortunately, many marketers force the person to view their message through only one of the two most important channels: direct mail vs. e-mail. That one-size-fits-all approach that leads to marketing oblivion can be avoided by direct mail in concert with e-mail.

Response increases across the board when direct mail and e-mail are combined in a multichannel campaign. If executed well, it should more than double! This two-ply marketing will strengthen your brand, especially if your marketing campaigns maintain a consistent look or theme across channels. You'll gain mindshare, and that will lead to greater ROI.

The average b-to-b prospect may not always respond when a postal piece arrives, but it will spring to mind when the e-mail hits.

Here's the best news. The tools to coordinate a synchronized, multichannel campaign are now available to everyone. Where do you begin?

There are five elements to consider: Branding, timing, the list, the call to action and analysis.

1. Branding

Start with the offer and the creative. Your e-mail HTML should contain the slogans, logo and other identifying marks used in the print piece, and the channels must reference each other. Similarly, the e-mail subject line must repeat the envelope copy or a prominent line in the postal piece. Keep it short—30 to 40 characters—and make it brand-specific, action-oriented or benefit-driven. The “from” line should match the name used on the postal piece. The channels have different strengths. Direct mail confers legitimacy, e-mail is interactive and easy to use. But the message should be the same in both.    

Make sure your Web site maintains the consistent design of your marketing materials. Feature the domain in every piece, link to it from your e-mails and make sure the site offers information on your products. Always create custom landing pages that are identical to your print offer or campaign.

2. Timing and Frequency

Reams have been written on what time of the day to send e-mails. This is less important than the timing in connection with the print mailer.

In most cases, the first e-mail should hit a week after the postal mailing piece arrives (give or take a day or two). The printed piece goes first because it has a longer shelf life. E-mails should continue at regular intervals.

The ideal, of course, would be same-day delivery, with the direct mail piece arriving in the morning and the e-mail in the afternoon, but that's unrealistic. There are too many variables out of your control. If the e-mail arrives first, it's not a problem if you've created unified branding.

 How often should you mail? It depends on what you're sending.  Brochures and catalogs should be mailed quarterly, accompanied by monthly e-mails. Postcards and other basic printed pieces can be mailed more often. The general rule? Send two to four e-mails for every printed package.

B2B purchases are less spontaneous than consumer ones. You want to be in the buyer's face so often that you get the sale when the time is right.

3. The List

Most mailers can find good prospecting lists (notice we said most). But the task is more complex in a multichannel campaign.

You may, for example, not be able to get e-mail addresses for all the postal records on a rental file. There's a way around that: Profile your customers, using a multichannel database, then select names from that same database with identical characteristics for both mediums. Are you doing monthly e-mails to the same list? Negotiate an ongoing arrangement with your list supplier instead of placing single orders. The resulting discount will reduce your cost per thousand.

You need to remember to select lists that have a postal and e-mail component so you can reach the same decision-maker.

For retention, start with an e-mail append. It's a cost-effective way to grow your e-mail list. Ensure that you are receiving business domains, not consumer ISPs. The best practice is to perform e-mail append quarterly.

Here are some additional tips for those new to e-mail:

  • Always personalize the salutation. This infers that you have a working relationship with the recipient. 
  • Place the call to action in the upper third portion of the HTML.
  • Avoid using too many images, and pay close attention not to place busy graphics and videos in the e-mail. Provide links instead and remember to keep the size of your entire html under 60 kb.
  • Send a text version for companies that can't view HTML.

4. The Call to Action

Remember the line from David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always Be Closing?” It's especially true in a multichannel campaign. Well, you can't close any deal unless you tell your prospect what you want them to do. Therefore, every piece in every channel requires a strong call to action. That is your close, and you should restate it multiple times. 

There are five critical components: Visibility, Verbiage, Direction, Immediacy, and, most importantly, Value.

Visibility—Make sure your CTAs are prominent in your campaign. In e-mail messages, use both text and image-based CTA links to ensure they can be viewed regardless of image blockers. The location of your CTA should be in the top third of your e-mail so it can be viewed in most preview panes.

Direction—Tell readers exactly what to do, and direct them to a custom landing page that further controls their experience.

Verbiage—Be assertive and use verbs quickly and concisely to command an action. Avoid a passive voice.  

Immediacy—Readers must feel a sense of urgency. They must sense that if they do not respond to your offer, they are going to miss out on a tremendous opportunity that may never come around again.

Value—Give prospects value, and they will give you their attention, and ultimately their business.

5. Analysis

Some marketers insist on identifying response by channel, but that's the wrong way to approach it. The results should be viewed together as a straight pass or fail.

The prospect may respond to an e-mail, but it is possible the postal piece drove the sale. Or the customer may phone in an order after reading both a direct mail piece and/or an e-mail.   

The channels have to work in harmony, and they have to be evaluated that way.

What can you do if response is tanking in one channel?

There may be tactical reasons if a medium is failing. These can be addressed with tactical solutions. By all means, test everything. But don't reduce volume or eliminate the channel. That will hurt response across the board.

As we know too well, e-mail recipients don't always open or read messages. Give them a reason to click through, even when you're not asking for an order.  Offer a free white paper or other incentive that drive them to the Web site. Once they are there, make sure there's a registration form or additional interactive activities.  The success of a marketing campaign should not fall on the shoulders of a sale, but on the initiation of dialogue.

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