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Using Offline Media to Drive Your Online Sales

Though it may sound counterintuitive given the relative cost of e-mail versus offline media, the increase of e-mail saturation can make offline media a valuable tool to drive high-ROI online sales. Whether you’re trying to acquire customers or retain them, a direct marketing campaign has several components that must be considered to ensure its success as an online traffic driver.

Cut through the clutter. Consider using envelopes that stand out against today’s popular self-mailers. Try handwritten addresses or write “personal” and “confidential” on the outside. Add a yellow sticky note to the outside of the package. Very bright postcards with striking graphics also are effective.

Raise response with a strong offer and clear call to action. The hardest part of any direct mail piece is getting the customer to act on the offer. When your focus is online sales, your goal should be to drive traffic to the site (more similar to a retail store than catalog). Lower the barriers to encourage a better response rate.

Be sure to create a really compelling offer to excite your target market. The type of offer depends on your product or service and what motivates your customers to buy. A strong call to action with a deadline is essential to prompt your target market to act now.

Target the right list. List selection affects the campaign more than the creative. Find a list broker you can work with to ensure that you get the best list advice. Consider using hotline names, folks that recently purchased online or other list selects so you have a highly targeted prospect audience.

Don’t forget to mail your current customers. Provide the best offer to the right slice of your database – evaluate elements like whether customers are opted in for e-mail, how often they visit your site (in addition to purchase frequency) and the channels they’ve shopped in the past.

Create a more tangible relationship with customers. Consider sending sample products to show the quality of what you offer. Especially in a pure-play environment, offline channels can create a more tangible relationship with your product and company. Even giveaways such as magnets with your company name and contact information on them can be effective because they help keep your company in the minds of customers longer than a regular direct mail piece.

Create a consistent experience. It’s critical to merchandise and sell once you get the customer to your Web site. Provide targeted offers, cross-sells and upsells to your lists to ensure purchase and maximize average order value. Keep the products relevant and the experience consistent with the offline communication to transition customers from a visit to a sale.

Integrate online, offline channels. Outbound telemarketing and e-mails can be an effective addition to a direct mail piece. Have calls/e-mails timed to target your list in the week that the mail piece hits, or the week before it expires. Even a standalone telemarketing campaign or leaving voicemails for customers can increase awareness of your offer and drive traffic to a specific URL. Obviously, ensure you are up to speed on do-not-call restrictions before conducting any outbound telemarketing.

Test. Test. Test. It is critical to test your mailings. Start with an audience by testing whether they are the right target for your product or service. What works for you offline may be different in an online environment where you have customers who may just always shop through search, specific affiliates or your e-mail program.

Once you have a good list to work with, test the offer to see whether a discount works better than, say, a free product. Once you have the offer down, test the format of the piece to determine, for example, whether envelopes work better than self-mailers. Learn from every mailing so each subsequent one grows more effective.

Create viral marketing offline. A large benefit of online media is the viral marketing effect. Good news – you can do this with offline channels as well! It’s simple. Once you make the sale, ask for a referral. Getting your customers to speak for you is extremely effective. Consider a program that offers a discount to anyone who refers a successful sale. Or, even just create an easy way for customers to tell their friends about the offer. One way to do this would be to include a duplicate coupon in your mailing that a person can give to a friend.

Create continuity with your campaigns. Though you want to stand out, your direct mail campaigns need some continuity. Whether it’s a coupon in every piece or a layout that remains the same, the more your pieces carry similar characteristics, the more likely they will make an impact and ensure customers buy from you whether they have your mail piece in front of them or not.

Align with your brand. First and foremost, it’s important that your direct marketing campaign aligns with your brand. Are you friendly and helpful like JetBlue or consistently fast and efficient like McDonald’s? Are your products high-end like Nordstrom or bargain basement like Wal-Mart? Do you offer something no one else does like Sharper Image, or are you competing on price in a competitive market like Staples? Ensure your direct marketing materials align with your brand promise.

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