Getting personal is key for mail in digital era

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From baby boomers to echo boomers, today's consumers have unique needs. To successfully reach these diverse audiences, many direct marketers are starting to get personal.

Although direct mail is still a valuable and effective marketing tool, the standard tactics of direct marketing are no longer valid. Marketers can't expect to achieve maximum results playing by the old rules. By considering three key factors, marketers can ensure greater direct mail success in today's evolving marketing environment.

Relevance. Consumers are often deluged with direct mail, especially with the implementation of the Do-Not-Call list in late 2003. So getting them to pay attention to a piece of mail can be challenging. To improve response rates, it is imperative to target each mailing to a specific subset of your target audience. Use demographics, psychographics and, if available, individualized data to define each segment. Additionally, messages to recipients must be meaningful and timely. Create trigger programs to deliver the right message at the right time. Once defined, use digital variable data printing to test and refine messages to each segment.

 Delivery channels. While targeting is critical, the most effective direct marketing campaigns reach consumers through multiple channels. Studies have shown that carefully coordinated multichannel campaigns generate a significant sales lift when measured against a single-channel approach. Pair direct mail with other marketing campaigns, both online and offline. Offer e-mail and/or personalized landing pages as an alternative to mail and phone for handling responses. These electronic alternatives allow you to quickly gauge results, fine-tune the output and test again.

Accountability. The days of freewheeling spending are gone. So when planning a direct mail campaign, one must carefully define goals and develop a plan to generate a measurable response. Ensure that service providers offer the analytical tools required to view results in real time. Also, consider data quality and data hygiene, as well as print design and mailing and fulfillment options to minimize postal costs. Use high-quality color digital printing to speed turnaround time and make short runs cost-effective. Consider web-to-print technologies to bring centrally controlled direct mail capabilities to a distributed channel.

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