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11 Unique Direct Mail Strategies to Connect with Your Members

Even in a digital era, traditional mail still seems to be effective. Direct mail is still a great way to reach a target, even if that target is in the younger 20’s and 30’s age bracket.

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With the ever-advancing technology, marketing campaigns are leaning more and more on the digital side. Lately, it's all about display ads, social media, and SEO. But, traditional media is far from forgotten.

In fact, in some cases, it’s more effective than ever. Direct mail is still a great way to reach a target, even if that target is in the younger 20’s and 30’s age bracket. Of that 19-36 age group, a shocking 92% say they have been influenced to make a purchase by a direct mail piece. That’s an astounding response rate. For Generation X, just one generation ahead of this younger demographic, 77% indicated they had made purchases due to the influence of direct mail. While these figures are pretty outstanding, there’s one more fact that may just blow them out of the water: some studies have indicated that in some cases the cost-per-lead for direct mail campaigns is lower than with digital campaigns. This shows just how powerful direct mail can be when the right tactics are aimed at the right target.

Now, when done incorrectly, direct mail can be just as big of a disappointment. The pieces that don’t stand out – that don’t grab the reader’s attention – that don’t cause the recipient to linger on it for more than a second – are headed straight for the recycling bin without a second thought. You can avoid this scenario by forming detailed direct mail strategies for your campaigns. From design to practical implementation, your direct mail campaign needs to be meticulously planned and its progress tracked along the way. Here are the top tactics to remember when forming your strategy to make it the most effective mail campaign possible.

1. Be goal-oriented

What’s the point of your campaign? Are you trying to get current members to renew, or attract new members? Are you gathering registrations for an upcoming event? Determine your goal first and foremost, or else you won’t be able to tell whether or not your campaign was a success. Not to mention, your overall purpose gives you a guideline on how to tailor your language.

2. Create a targeted list

Direct mail is only going to deliver a low cost-per-lead if you’re not wasting mailers on cold leads. Focus in on your target audience by only sending your marketing piece to a relevant audience – current members, former members, those within your industry, or those who have a wide sphere of influence within your industry.

3. Craft your writing

What you say and how you say it are equally important. You want to get your audience to read your mailer – but you don’t want to sound like the infamous internet clickbait (“You won’t BELIEVE what’s inside!!!”). Make sure your mailer has a bold headline that captures attention in a succinct, catchy way. Then, get right into the main body without dawdling. You only have a few seconds to get your reader to decide that your information is useful and valid, so make them count.

4. Design Matters

Your design needs to stand out from the crowd with so many competing mailers. Don't be afraid to get creative with color, fonts, and visuals. And don’t forget about the headlines! A captivating headline can draw people in and make them want to learn more. Use a mix of fun imagery, clever phrasing, and bold features that draw attention to your mailer. Don’t forget the small details, either. Make sure everything is aligned correctly and spaced for a visually appealing result. With a bit of creativity, you can create an effective design that demands attention and leaves members looking forward to your next mailer!

Remember: Design is the first impression that your audience will have about your mailer.

5. Use a different format

Mailers don’t have to be your typical stuffed envelope or boring postcard. Think outside the box on your designs, and consider something that is fun to open and thus less likely to be tossed aside. There are lots of direct mail designs that involve unusual folds, die-cuts, pop-ups, or other unique features. This type of mailer not only informs the reader, but it gives an encompassing experience that’s simply not replicable in a digital format. While we’re on the subject of traits unique to direct mail, it’s also good to consider the tangible aspect of mail. It’s not just the look of the paper – it’s the feel. Using an unusual texture or even a combination of textures causes people to look twice and linger over their mail. Touch can be the missing piece that amps up an otherwise bland piece of mail.

6. Include an offer

Everyone loves a deal. Your mailer needs to provide something useful to the recipient, whether it be a freebie, a discount, or an upgrade. If you’re trying to get something from your target, it’s only fair to offer them something valuable in return.

7. Provide useful information

Sometimes you don’t need to offer anything in order to get results. A little content marketing can pique interest in your association by setting you up as a thought leader and showing off your expertise. Establish your authority by publishing an industry insight magazine to inform your audience and persuade them of the benefits of joining a professional association.

8. Make it trackable

Direct mail doesn’t leave digital footprints like an email or display ad does. Rather, you have to deliberately include a way to track your mailer, or you won’t know how much success to attribute to your campaign. Utilize QR codes or use Augmented Reality (AR) in your mailers for a truly interactive experience. With this combination of old-school and new-school marketing techniques, direct mail can be an effective way to make an impact on your target demographic. Your direct mail piece will guide your visitor to a landing landing page, and then you can begin to track their journey from there. The best part, you'll be able to know exactly what directed to them to your site!

9. Test your mailers

Campaigns constantly need to be tweaked in order to see improvement. After all, how do you know whether people responded to your sleek design, or to your offer? What exactly was it that got them to open your mailer and respond? You need such answers if you want continued success in your campaigns. Perform regular A/B testing by segmenting your list and changing one facet of your mailer to see which gets better traction. Then let that information inform future campaigns, and continue to test other traits so that each campaign is better than the last.

10. A wide open market

Performing a successful direct marketing campaign is all about balance – blending just the right amount of science (predictive modeling, testing, and tracking) with art (design, format, and messaging). But that’s what makes direct mail such a unique marketing avenue. Anyone can send out an email every few days. But on average, only 21.5% of emails will be opened. People simply receive too many emails on a daily basis to open and read them all. It’s easier to stand out among 5-10 pieces of mail in a mailbox than it is to catch attention amidst scores of promotional emails in an inbox. This situation creates an unprecedented market for direct mail. If we’ve already seen that older and younger demographics alike enjoy interacting with direct mail, why not set yourself apart and carve out a mailing niche with distinctive marketing pieces that make a tangible impact?

11. Reach for something physical

The benefit of direct mail is that it takes full advantage of people’s increasing fondness for tactile, personal experiences. Receiving a fun or exciting piece of mail makes a more lasting impression, as our brains are more drawn into the whole experience and our senses our engaged. One professor notes in Wired, “Perhaps the tactility and physical permanence of paper yields a different cognitive and emotional experience.”

If this is the case, we do well to incorporate far more traditional media in with our digital strategies. Direct mail will be an objective, physical experience that stands alone in a swarm of digital advertising. With a better understanding of how direct mail affects your audience and hard strategies for sending an effective campaign, you can deliver traditional outbound marketing that actually takes hold of your audience. Without proper planning, it’s true that direct mail can be a waste of effort and money. But, with careful design and implementation, a direct mail campaign may just be the key to increased readership, engagement, and retention.