The marketing landscape continues its progressive sprawl as seemingly everyday new platforms, messaging channels and emerging technologies are unveiled. All these fancy, new tools promise to create Intriguing! Exciting! Cutting-edge! ways for marketers to better reach our customers on individual channels.

But there’s a glaring caveat here. It’s not enough for brands to only reach their customers on these different channels alone; engagement, retention and conversion happen when brands coordinate their messaging seamlessly across all channels as the customer journey unfolds.

In order to accomplish this, modern marketers need to embrace integrated omni-channel campaigns. Channel-specific platforms are great at tracking activity and various degrees of engagement but aren’t always factored into broader, omni-channel efforts. Simply put, these tools are neat, but when they don’t work together, they’re actually fragmenting your customer experience.

And this brings us to our channel-specific topic today: direct mail. Given the lengthy and storied past of physical mail as a marketing channel, it’s easy to assume that this channel lacks the cutting-edge appeal of other, newer messaging channels—this certainly isn’t so. Direct mail is a powerful conversion tool and a perfect complement to your omni-channel campaigns.

Direct mail is a great standalone tool on its own, but by activating this offline channel in tandem with your online channels (email, mobile messaging, and social ads), you can transform your campaigns into truly relevant experiences. Below, we’ve shared four tips to help you optimize your direct mail messaging as components of successful omni-channel campaigns.

Optimizing Direct Mail: 4 Tips

1. It’s Time for Spring Cleaning

Great omni-channel campaigns are born from using different types of customer data (profile, behavior, sentiment, context, and more) to seamlessly tie different messaging together as part of a comprehensive brand experience. To get there, you’ll first need to get organized.

Shifting toward omni-channel marketing requires a single platform capable of ingesting and organizing all of the customer data that is continually logged by your different tools. Once consolidated, universal customer identifiers (e.g. email addresses) are necessary to start associating these growing data sets with unique subscribers. In relation to direct mail, gaps in address information must first be filled before you can expect to use this channel effectively.  

But here’s the good news! With an omni-channel mindset, you can find creative ways to build out campaign touchpoints to do just this. For example, sending personalized, dynamic emails confirming or updating customer addresses as part of welcome or promotional campaigns in return for some sort of offer (e.g. special coupon, sneak peeks, etc.) are great tactics to exchange data for value. Similarly, you can accomplish the same objectives by incorporating these types of “asks” into your push or in-app messaging campaigns.

As your relationships with your customers grow, look inward at the data which indicates the relationship is primed for such an intimate ask (e.g. engagement, interactivity, buying behavior, click pathing, etc). Once you have address data, you’re ready to unlock this new channel.

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2. Catch the Eye of the Beholder

As far as the direct mail “user experience” goes, most people retrieve their mail from the mailbox, quickly scan and assess their daily deliveries before deciding which messages get their further attention. This means you have only a few moments to catch the eye of your customer to deem your message worthy of engagement.

There are articles abound about how to make your mailers stand out—a few of our favorites are here and here—but one of the most effective ways to stand out is by ramping up personalization efforts.

As a quick win, try using postcards to recognize personalized milestones to start earning good will. Perhaps your data indicates that your customer is celebrating a birthday, making a significant purchase, or celebrating an anniversary with your service—these simple nods to activity are great personalized gateways toward validating and acknowledging engagement.

Take it a step further by targeting customer cohorts with highly specific promotional content. If you have audience segments who engage with unique content on your website or app, try supplementing your next promotional campaign with a postcard in lieu of the traditional email. This ability to translate a completely personalized online experience into an offline piece of mail can be a wow-worthy customer moment.

Remember, consistency cultivates trust—you’re personalizing your customer’s digital interactions, so bring this same mindset into your direct mail efforts.  

3. Call to (Appropriate) Action

The underlying force of omni-channel marketing is the continual learning about your customers. Every action in warrants modifying messages out; this is what makes the direct mail channel so exciting! Mail can be so much more than a top-of-mind awareness tool if you set the right objectives for experimentation and analysis.

Remember, the CTA of your postcard will serve as your vehicle toward attaining the overarching goals of your full omni-channel campaign—it’s your primary marker for customer engagement for this unique event. The success driven from these CTAs will inform and affect those of other channels further down the line.

Consider developing unique CTAs determined by segmented cohorts, lifecycle stages, engagement levels, or other variables of your choosing. Among these subgroups determine the unique value propositions your mailers are including. For example, in relation to welcome campaigns, is your CTA to pushing them back online toward purchase? Downloading an app? Joining the social community? With these varying goals in mind, you can bolster the direct mail campaign with digital messaging on your other customer channels.

Once you have the specific objectives outlined, you’ll have a better grasp on how your customers interpreted and responded to the mailer in the near term—the ultimate metric of message success. Longer term, you’ll have this data to assess how this channel performs across campaigns as shapers of the broader customer experience.

4. Letters and Triggers and Breadcrumbs, Oh My!

Remember, direct mail should not be considered a one-off blast tool. Fully integrated omni-channel campaigns are automated and direct mail is no exception. Rethinking the purpose and objectives of mailers can open up limitless possibilities for use cases and can easily be triggered by unique events. In a data-first environment, mailers can be sent in response to the informational breadcrumbs your customers are leaving behind.

Automating the omni-channel journey allows us to respond in real-time to the changing behaviors of our customers. But this also means we need to constantly think about “what comes next” and anticipate the future needs of our customers; marketers still must design the experiences before they can be fulfilled through automation.

Now thinking back to the behaviors that just triggered your direct mail, what next steps will you lay ahead for the customers who engaged? What about those who didn’t? If your CTA prompts engagement online, what new data can you capture to build on top of this?

Let’s theorize about what you’ve discovered after a customer engages direct mail: address location data, device preference, channel responsiveness, content resonance, engagement time, engagement length, conversion behavior, queries or browsing interest, and likely much more!

Now it’s time to route this new information into the next moving pieces of your campaign for even deeper personalized outreach—this is what it means to truly be relevant among your customers! Automation will help you anticipate your customers’ next steps with sequences of events while ensuring you’re sending content that is relevant to them.

Go Omni-channel with Iterable + Inkit

Direct mail is a high-value customer communication channel and it’s extremely important to impress with a tangible representation of your brand. You can do this by leaning hard on your subscriber data to personalize the entire experience—showing that your brand truly understands each individual customer will keep them coming back for more. Who knows, you might even get pinned to the fridge!

If you’re currently sending direct mail as one-off blast campaigns or just starting to consider what value direct mail might bring to your business, it’s time to adopt a new strategy. With Inkit and Iterable’s integration, you’ll be able to easily manage the customization and sending of postcards at scale as part of your seamless omni-channel campaigns.
Interested in learning more about Iterable’s direct mail automation integration with Inkit? Come see it in action by requesting a demo.

Ryan Brelje is a Content Marketing Manager at Iterable and creates content which fuels the company’s omni-channel experiences across all marketing channels. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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