What is direct mail automation, and how does it differ from old-school mass mailers and postcard marketing?
We get this question a lot at Inkit. The answer: When you combine sophisticated direct mail software with a marketing automation platform, you can automate direct mail—triggering postcards as easily as automated digital ads.
Direct mail automation strategies use digital marketing and analytics, event triggers and personalization to power what is already one of the strongest performing marketing channels out there.
Using Inkit as your direct mail automation provider, you simply:
- Design a postcard in our plug-and-play builder.
- Set up a trigger in your CRM/automation platform to mail as needed. (Check out our integration partners here).
The entire process is very similar to creating an email and adding it to your campaign builder. The difference, of course, is that instead of your message potentially languishing in an inbox unread, it’s going to get into your customer’s hands. (The vast majority of Americans open their mail daily).
This is a far cry from how direct mail used to work.
What Direct Mail Automation isn’t
Before we tell you more about how automated direct mail works, let’s dispel some direct mail myths.
Many digital marketers shy away from direct mail automation because they just don’t know that much about it. When they think of postcard marketing, terms like “junk mail,” “snail mail” and “dinosaur” may be tossed around, and for good reason.
Until pretty recently, direct mail was all of these things:
- Expensive. Traditionally, direct mail has been cost-prohibitive. From the creative design process, to the printing, to the postage, it took significant overhead to send a postcard. This led many companies, especially brands immersed in online marketing, to neglect to even consider direct mail—even though it performs better than most digital channels combined. With any marketing effort, you need to be able to ensure your campaigns are not only cost-effective but generate ROI. Now, you can do exactly that with a strong, modern, direct mail automation strategy.
- Sluggish and manual. It used to take months of lead time for brands to send a postcard, and it can still take this long if you use traditional direct mail vendors and an old-fashioned process, using spreadsheets and CSV files instead of CRM direct mail integrations. At Inkit, the speed-to-market of direct mail automation is similar to that of email automation. In fact, we’ve sped up everything except the actual delivery. (Sorry—we can’t make USPS deliver your mail any faster!)
- Poorly targeted. In the past, direct mail marketers primarily blanketed zip codes, sometimes hitting specific demographics, with broadcast mailers. Often, marketers purchased lists from address brokers for this purpose. While this can still be a fine strategy in certain scenarios, it’s not always cost-effective to cast such a wide net. With Inkit’s direct mail automation software, you can use your CRM to cull highly targeted, built-in audiences, or trigger one-off postcards based on events.
- Inaccessible. Because of the significant resources involved in sending direct mail postcards, direct mail as a channel has remained largely inaccessible to small- and medium-sized businesses. It was expensive and most printers required huge batch sizes (meaning you needed a mailing list of 10,0000 or more addresses). We changed that—we’ll even mail just one postcard at a time if that’s what your campaign calls for.
To put it simply, in the past the messy logistics involved in sending direct mail gave marketers a choice of either disengaging from the channel or devoting significant resources to a highly manual process.
Benefits of Direct Mail Automation
Inkit offers software that automates direct mail, tackling all of the challenges listed above and making it easy for companies to send targeted postcards at scale.
With Inkit, direct mail automation is:
- Omnichannel. Let’s say you’re part of an e-commerce company that has invested in segmentation, personalization and building digital campaigns to reach customers online. With the right technology and integrations, you can use this same data to find your audience offline. Direct mail automation with Inkit should not be separate from your online marketing efforts—with Inkit, direct mail is cross-channel. Simply upload your postcard into our builder and add direct mail triggers where you need stronger open or response rates in your workflows. Set up your mailers using trackable links, QR codes or redemption codes so the data feeds back into your CRM for a truly cross-channel direct mail experience.
- Customizable. With Inkit’s plug-and-play dashboard, you can personalize mailings with very little effort, using dynamic content, increasing your response rates. (In fact, we’ve seen redemption rates as high as 18%). When you automate this direct mail process, you can create ongoing revenue streams. NatureBox sent the personalized postcards below (noting each customer’s specific store credit balance) as a retention effort.
- Triggered. Maybe you are a retention marketer for a subscription business and you’re already triggering emails and SMS messages, but you’re struggling with low response rates. Even with adequate segmentation and triggers, many consumers are becoming adept at tuning out digital ads. Study after study shows that direct mail gets better response rates than digital in the age of email overload, and now you can add direct mail triggers to your retention campaigns (and other marketing campaigns, too).
- Testable. Let’s say you’re a fintech marketer charged with making sure you not only regain ad spend but show proof of concept for every campaign idea. Because of some of the limitations of traditional direct mail, postcard marketing has not always been very trackable or testable. It would definitely cost you if you wanted to know for certain which CTA, design or offer performs best. With Inkit, you can easily track, test and optimize mailers. We encourage you to run A/B tests on direct mail pieces on an ongoing basis.
- Optimized. Are you a marketer who currently manages mailings manually? Sending a piece of direct mail can involve a lot of work behind the scenes. Some marketers work hands-on with printers in order to ensure processes run smoothly. When you use Inkit to design and automate direct mail, we deal with the printers for you. All you have to do is upload your postcard, insert it into your campaign and hit “send.” You focus on the marketing, we’ll handle the logistics.
Direct mail automation with Inkit allows marketers to spend less time transmitting information into spreadsheets, negotiating with printers and managing other logistics and more time analyzing and improving their campaigns.
How to Get Started with Postcard Automation Today
Companies have a couple options when it comes to direct mail automation. We recommend integrating Inkit with your CRM for the most seamless, cross-channel direct mail experience. This will truly allow you to create, trigger and send direct mail as easily as email.
We are working to add direct mail integrations with all of the best CRMs to make this approach accessible to more marketers. Please contact us if you don’t see your CRM listed on our integration page. We will let you know where it is on our schedule and how to set up direct mail automation workarounds in the meantime.