The Rise Of Performance-Based Direct Mail

When the going gets tough, marketers invariably search for improved ROI on their marketing dollars. Indeed, in these gloomy economic times – with tightening budgets and plummeting earning statements – the days of ‘spray and pray’ are a distant memory. Marketers know their jobs today depend on doing more with less, and the result in an inevitable switch of marketing budgets away from channels that don’t work, over to those that do. Ultimately, it all comes down to measurability, as you can’t judge what you can’t track.

In this challenging environment, direct mail with Personalized URLs stands out in the crowd. This marketing innovation combines direct mail, the most effective and powerful marketing channel available, with the measurability and interactivity of the Internet. It can be argued that this form of cross-media marketing is the most effective tool available today.

A study conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) last year reported that 73% of consumers in the US prefer to receive product offers via direct mail, illustrating the continued relevance of the medium.  Moreover, according to John Birkehshaw, author of “The Future of Print on Paper,” direct mail is predicted to have growth of around six-percent per year through 2010.

Direct mail remains popular in today’s environment for several important reasons. First, direct mail is observably effective and can be used for direct response, especially when compared to other traditional forms of advertising, such as broadcast or newspaper ads, that are better suited for branding. Just as importantly, due to recent advances in printing technology, direct mail can now be personalized to a high degree, giving consumers an experience more similar to what they would find online. Third and perhaps most importantly, direct mail can be linked to the Internet – the most popular and quickest-growing advertising channel of all – using Personalized URLs. This linkage adds all the benefits of the Web to direct mail, including but not limited to real-time reporting and interactivity.

The Internet has really changed everything. Over the past dozen or so years, the rise of the Web has resulted in a marked shift of marketing budgets towards the Interactive channel. A large reason for this is the inherent measurability of this medium, allowing for detailed campaign reports in real time, accessible 24/7. Not surprisingly, marketers have become spoiled and now expect view campaigns results anytime, anywhere on the Web.

Since the advent of the Internet, direct marketers have struggled with the ability to provide their direct mail recipients a means to respond online in a way that can not only be tracked with any certainty, but presents recipients with content relevant to the promotion at hand – a core tenant of direct marketing in the first place. Technology has finally met the challenge, and Personalized URLs now fill this void.

For commercial printers, integrating Personalized URLs and cross-media services into a commercial printer’s product offering also connects their customers’ investment in print to Web analytics, visitor and response data, all of which is essential for calculating ROI. Further, offering marketing services requires collecting, understanding and quantifying marketing data. If Print Service Providers truly wish to transform into Marketing Service Providers, adding a cross-media solution to their existing infrastructure service offering is a mandatory step.

For the marketer, access to better data means smarter marketing, better targeting, increased personalization and quantified ROI. For the Print Service Provider, having access to their customer’s marketing data also means having a finger on the proverbial pulse of a client’s marketing spend. In fact, it can even be argued that having access to marketing data is a requirement for offering marketing services in the first place, as it’s impossible to sell, understand, quantify or recommend marketing without having access to results. Printers who not provide quantifiable ROI will be reduced to selling a risky commodity, with little or no ability to prove effectiveness or influence a client’s marketing decisions.

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