Customer Experience

Direct mail 2.0: Making tech physical

Tina Wild
Smarter Writer

Tina Wild is a freelance writer specialising in health, personal development, small business marketing and not for profit projects

Tina Wild
Smarter Writer

Tina Wild is a freelance writer specialising in health, personal development, small business marketing and not for profit projects

Direct mail has been the faithful companion for marketers for aeons. And merging the digital with the physical is giving it a new lease on life.

Direct mail was once a faithful marketing solution for small businesses. Yet, the emergence of the internet and technology has transformed marketing into a digital landscape. So what does the future hold for direct marketing? Has digital left the paper snail trail for dust or is there still a place for direct marketing, alongside newer technology, to complement your marketing?

But however successful email marketing is, it also has its limitations. Most people will delete before reading past the subject line, or unsubscribe due to email fatigue. Email addresses also tend to change about once a year, so even solid leads have a short life span.

Is direct mail marketing, therefore, really as dead as a dinosaur or can it still be relevant and effective as a marketing tool? 

A mailbox overflowing with letters

Direct mail is proven to have a lower cost per lead than any other type of marketing. It’s no surprise after experiencing digital overload that people are turning, nostalgically, to the physical aspect of paper. Think how precious it is to receive a postcard or letter in the post, compared to an electronic message. Research shows that 91 per cent of people check their mailbox every day.

What your business sells and who your audience is should be considered as part of the overall marketing strategy. Direct mail solutions can work wonders for local businesses. You can geographically target your customers, it’s cheap, and when mixed with a digital marketing campaign it becomes more powerful; allowing you to direct customers to your social media or website from your direct mail piece.

Direct mail content is usually information-based, succinct; it aims to grab attention and introduce a service using a few impactful words. There’s a hook there, in the form of an incentive, and a call to action (usually a phone number and a website) to illicit response and drive people online to a website or social media. Whereas with digital marketing there’s an existing customer relationship, an email acts as a follow up to customer interaction, often communicating news. Social media content is different again; it’s more personal, informal and tells a story.

I recently experienced the seamless integration of digital and direct mail marketing from local restaurant, Ironbark. They sent me a direct mail flyer offering the best pizza in town, online ordering, free delivery and 10 per cent off the first order. How could I refuse when I had pizza cravings on Friday night?

I ordered online, received an SMS advising delivery time then the following day I received an email asking me for feedback on how my order was. It’s that repetition across the different communication touch points that will help to keep you top of mind and retain customers.

Best of both worlds

Direct mail may not be the new kid in town but that doesn’t mean it’s had its day. Many marketing communications agencies still use direct mail to turn their clients’ targets into loyal customers. Communications agency, Zadro, consider direct marketing as part of every strategy they write for their clients, and also implement a solid DM program for their own brand.

“Although the mediums for communication have changed, the basic principals still apply, so we’re seeing direct marketing retain much of its value, but assuming a different form. In the good old days, direct marketing had only two main avenues: the post, or the door-to-door salesman. But today digital direct marketing (DDM) takes the lion’s share of many businesses’ marketing budgets, as it can be so widely applied to all online activities.”

Digital tools allow you to track your customers through the buying process. For example, implementing a QR code that leads to your app, a personalised URL that leads to a landing page or social media account all provide information about who your customers are and how interested they are in your product. While many claim QR codes are dead in the water with the advance of newer technology, like NFC (Near Field Communications), it has worked a treat for real estate agents at Wiseberry, Mona Vale.

Directors Iolanda Trovatello and Simon Rawson use a QR code on all communications (signboard, direct mail, property brochure, and their website) that links to a microsite of each property for sale.  One successful example of QR integrated across direct and digital marketing was a man who walked past a property he thought would be perfect for his brother.

He scanned the QR code on the signboard, emailed the link to his brother overseas, who loved it at first sight and bought the property—converting a non-buyer to a buyer and cutting out the competition.

Wireless connectivity technology, or NFC technology, is the newest kid on the block; hailed as the future of digital marketing. It connects the physical to the digital world with a tap of your phone. Set to become more widespread across many businesses—from merchandising and paperless booking to contactless payment—brand giants are developing apps, and most new smartphones are expected to have NFC technology by the end of the year.

Rewardle is an example of NFC technology. Almost 5,000 local businesses grow their customer base using this membership. Over one million members, myself included, use this app to collect points, redeem rewards, order and make payments from their phone at a local business. I use it at my local café, Silo; the points I collect to redeem free coffees (as well as the great coffee and friendly baristas) mean I’ve become a loyal customer, and I can leave home without my wallet.

But not all things new and shiny are necessarily best, so don’t throw direct mail out of the window; think of it as a fine wine to be shared and savoured.

Looking for more new ways to help retain customers?

Read our 5 ways to improve customer service.

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