In part one of this series, which ran in the July/August issue, we made the case for adding new channels to your direct mail, thereby turning a mailing into a campaign. Now we’ll discuss the process of building that campaign.
First, Back to Direct Marketing 101
We have all too often found the mail piece itself to be missing something critical: an offer. Direct mail needs an offer — it needs a reason to respond. “We’re the best printer/mailer in town!” is not an offer, even if you ARE the best printer/mailer in town. “We’re the best printer/mailer in town AND we’ll give you a $10 Starbucks gift card to prove it,” is an offer. Now you have offered your prospect a tangible reason to respond.
We’ve seen many different offers work — from simple bribes like a gift card or a chance to win a drawing, to coupons or special deals, to more intangible offers — a white paper, a free mailing practices analysis. Any of these can work in a compelling campaign. Test different offers — see what works for your prospects.
If I had to come up with a list, I’d say the following are the attributes of the best offers we’ve seen:
· They are relevant to the prospect. Remember, the prospect is always a person, not a company. Make it relevant to that person — they are your entrée to the company.
· They have perceived value. Ten percent or $100 off of your next mailing is a weak offer if you do not have published pricing.
· They convey a sense of urgency. Offers shouldn’t last forever — if your prospects don’t respond now, they probably never will.
· They are obvious. Don’t be humble and bury that offer in the text. Your campaign is about that offer!
For every campaign you do, always ask yourself, “What is our offer?” It’s not hard to do, but it’s easy to forget.
OK, I Like Your Offer. Now What?
The Call to Action is a concept so important to direct marketing it is conveyed in initials: CTA.
The CTA is a simple but important concept — it is the action your prospect needs to take in order to respond to your offer. “Call 1-800-MySnail,” “Go to www.BigOffer.com,” “Click here!”
As basic as the CTA is, many marketing pieces force you to hunt for how to respond. One needs to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or they have no call to action at all.
Crafting a CTA really just requires that you put yourself in your customer’s place and walk through the buying process.
Giving Your Prospects a Place to Go — Your Landing Page
The landing page, a simplified web page where your prospects can complete their response, is really the heart of any campaign. Whatever marketing channels you use, from post cards to web display ads to billboards, should all point to your landing page. Your landing page will generally be simpler than your company home page. Its primary mission is to get your prospects to convert — to push the button and respond to your offer. The page may have the general look and feel of your home page or your marketing assets, but its function should be simple and clear. In most cases, your landing page should have its own URL (web address) unique to the offer. You’re not trying to get prospects to your home page — you’re trying to get them to buy.
When you combine a few short words, it’s easy to create compelling and memorable URLs like GreatNewCatFood.com, Your-Profits.com, or PerfectHeadPhones.com. Easy to type and remember. If you use personalized URLs, you can personalize the landing page and have custom graphics appear based on who the prospect is. Essentially, anything you can customize on a direct mail reply form can be customized on the landing page — graphics, contribution ask amounts, text, and more.
The primary mission of the landing page is conversion — you want your prospect to accept your offer, so once again you need a powerful CTA. Your landing page should have a clear button, and it should look like a button. Don’t make your prospect guess how to respond. Test different calls to action see what works best for your campaigns.
Using All of the Channels to Drive Them to Your Landing Page
Once you have an offer and a web landing page where your prospects can respond to that offer, your mission is to lead them there — this where all of the channels in “multi-channel” go to work. For each channel, you need to consider your CTA for that channel, as well as the links you will provide to your landing page. You should also be considering how all of your channels can be coordinated so you leverage the strengths of each channel.
Of course your mail piece (or pieces) is the driver of the campaign. In creating the piece, remember that it should feature your offer and a strong call to action. Make sure it’s easy to know why and how to respond.
Include a prominent link to your landing page and, if possible, provide a PURL — a personalized URL. If your prospect types it in, it becomes easier to customize the landing page to them. More importantly, you will be able to better track their visits to your landing page so you can follow up.
You also want to be certain to track your direct mail. It’s easy and affordable with Intelligent Mail barcodes, and there are many services that can help you with that. Knowing when mail is delivered is an essential ingredient in coordinating your other channels.
In terms of sheer volume, email marketing is the biggest direct mail channel today. Can you say “spam?” Yes, there is a lot truly junky email out there, but properly done as part of a coordinated campaign, email can be a valuable channel. It is often an affordable way to keep alive a campaign that began with direct mail.
Generally most effective with customer or house lists, we often “trigger” a follow up email based on when the direct mail piece is delivered. Thus not every email goes at once; they release as the mail is delivered. For a coordinated campaign, we prefer an email design that reflects the design of the mail piece. This is another opportunity to deliver your offer to your prospect. Too often, direct mail pieces create interest that fades when the prospect moves on to something else. A triggered email is another chance for them to respond. As with the mail piece, make sure the offer is prominent and front and center. Make the CTA obvious: “click here to reply.” Links in email can also be easily personalized — make sure you know who is clicking and take advantage of that knowledge when they reach your landing page.
Web Display and Social Media
The technology of web and social media advertising has changed in recent years to make it a much better fit with a direct mail-driven campaign. Gone are the days of buying a position on a web site. Instead you can use IP targeting to match your mailing list against home IP addresses — the electronic addresses of your prospects’ computers — and have web display ads appear on major websites as they surf the web. Not to be outdone, Facebook can place ads based on your prospects’ email addresses in their news feed — and identify other look-alikes on Facebook to increase your reach. None of these match at 100%, but they all increase both your prospects’ awareness of your brand and offer and their response to the campaign.
Measure and Repeat
All of these methods produce measurable results, but only if you measure them. Too many marketers today send mail without a strong means of tracking results. If it works well, they tend to do the same thing all over again — including the less effective channels. If it doesn’t work, the conclusion is too often: “Direct mail doesn’t work, or at least all of these other gimmicks don’t.”
You’re Already Multi-Channel — Now Get Coordinated!
Virtually every company is using a variety of marketing channels today. Some are more effective than others, but virtually any direct channel can be made more effective by strengthening it with another channel. Build a strong offer and a clear call to action. Create a strong landing page where your offer can live, and drive your prospects there with a coordinated, measured effort. Chances are good you’ll be rewarded for your efforts — over and over again!
Dave Lewis, President, SnailWorks, LLC can be reached at email@example.com.