No, I’m not talking about your two-a-penny, wafer thin sheets of shiny paper, which get turfed into the recycling bin en masse each morning without even so much as an indirect glance (God, no); I’m talking about a decent mailer with production values and targeting served up in equal measure.
So, which is more effective: DM or email marketing? Well, ‘both’ is the fairly predictable answer. You wouldn’t make me choose between fish and chips, would you?!
Any successful campaign will make use of a number of channels to maximise its effectiveness: press advertising, online advertising, PR, social media… You get the idea. Direct mail and email marketing are two other important parts of this mix (if you have decent data lists, that is, which is increasingly difficult these days given the need for ‘opted-in’ lists, but that’s a whole other blog article). It’s basic synergy of multiple elements, and the principles have been around for time immemorial, but I think it’s more relevant today than it’s ever been.
You see, there used to be only a handful of media channels: press, posters, TV, radio, DM. The playing field was much more level, because everyone would use the same channels, give or take. Nowadays, there are about a gazillion social media platforms alone, and every single one of the other ‘standard’ channels has splintered and diversified beyond recognition. As a result, we get bombarded on a daily basis: from every angle, at every time of day, in everything we do.
If you do any one thing in isolation these days, you may as well be whistling in the wind, or, for a more accurate analogy, having a nice bonfire with a pile of cash. You might warm yourself in the short term (tick that marketing box and move on), but it’ll make no lasting difference to anyone else.
Instead, know your audience: who they are, where they are, when they’re there, and what they care about. Then, on the assumption that you’ve crafted an insightful and relevant creative execution, hand-deliver it to them with care and diligence. Which brings me back to the role of the dynamic duo within a campaign: DM and email. Imagine this scenario…
- On Tuesday, when the post gets dished out around the office, you get handed an envelope. There’s a look of anticipation on your receptionist’s face because this is no ordinary envelope: it’s thick and expensive feeling; on a lovely, uncoated, tactile stock; and the address on the front is handwritten in PROPER ink. You open it expectantly and unroll a handwritten letter from the managing director of a company that would love to work with you, succinctly stating the reasons why they can offer something different. “Intriguing”, you think (and you feel like you’ve gone back in a time machine to the 1990s), so you place it on the side of your desk, rather than straight in the recycling.
- That afternoon, you get an email from the same managing director (you recognise his name and the company from the letter, so you give it a quick scan, rather than playing the usual ‘how quickly can I delete this unsolicited email’ game). It doesn’t tell you anything new, quite the opposite in fact: Patrick (let’s call him Patrick) hopes you received his letter and simply restates his desire to work with you and the few short reasons why he believes you should be interested. He signs off by wishing you a good day and promises to be in touch soon. “Interesting”, you think.
- When it comes to Thursday’s post round, your receptionist looks even more excited than she did on Tuesday. This time, she presents you with a box. Not a boring, cardboard, yet-another-Amazon-delivery box, but one that is colour-printed all over in branding that you recognise from Tuesday: it’s Patrick’s company again. You pop open the simple seal and ease the lid up to reveal a cleverly designed and interestingly formatted piece of print, sitting on top of a relevant and useful gift. “Impressive”, you think, removing the gift and placing the box on top of Tuesday’s letter.
- You guessed it, that afternoon you get a second email from Patrick. You’re crazy-busy, so you flag it for another day.
- Over the course of the next week, and as the first email descends helplessly out of view in your inbox, you get two further emails from Patrick with slightly different subjects (you actually got three, but you batch-deleted one of them accidentally, and so never saw it). You don’t even get chance to flag these new emails, but you definitely clocked them. In the back of your mind, you resolve to give Patrick’s company some proper consideration when you get five minutes, because, although you hate to admit it, Patrick’s right; his approach is of interest (although the annual conference that you need to organise is pretty much wiping you out at the moment).
- A few days later, with the conference done for another year, and as life in the office starts to get back to mild bedlam, rather than full-on insanity, a call comes through for you. As you prepare to randomly select one of your routine excuses to dodge the cold-call before it even gets put through to you, there is a spark of recognition in the company name; it’s Patrick’s company, and so you accept the call and the rest is history.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got” is a bit of a mantra at Factor 3. And I think that handwritten letters and quality DM pieces, teamed with well-timed (not scattergun) emails, could be the answer to modern day cut-through. If the conversion reward is valuable enough, it will, by definition, be well worth the time, effort and investment.
Am I talking a load of outdated claptrap? Answers on a postcard…