As consumers move their media preferences toward customized, one-to-one vehicles such as iPods, satellite radio and TiVO, marketers are challenged in managing multi-channel messaging opportunities, according to direct marketing experts at Pitney Bowes.
Indeed, as spam is auto-dumped from personal computers, traditional mail has regained and maintained a great deal of relevance, usefulness and profit potential in the marketing mix.
According to the Cable & Telecommunications Association, 70% of American consumers prefer to receive advertisements and promotions by mail. Letters including transactional mail constitute a US$36 billion dollar industry in the US alone, and the entire global mailing industry - including shipping packages - tops some US$900 billion.
According to John Schloff, vice president of marketing for Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies, mailstream marketing - the direct mailing of marketing materials that lead to other channels - is arguably the fastest way to optimise both B2B and B2C customer communications management. Printed mail, whether postcards, letters, catalogues or brochures, can all be used as catalysts to drive web site traffic.
As Schloff explained: "Mail continues to be a traditional medium that drives behaviour in the digital world. And the customer intelligence data delivered throughout the mailstream is essential to marketers who are optimising their customer communication management, and also benchmarking their marketing performance."
Proper customer communication management is necessary for effective one-to-one marketing with mixed media that merges digital and physical channels. Direct mail today already comprises data-rich systems and processes that provide mailers with options for making their customer, production and channel intelligence more comprehensive and more precise than ever before.
Indeed, careful - and intelligent - data integration can make each communication more relevant to each customer's individual needs and preferences. Relevance and accuracy are the result of combining data with the traditional hygiene factors of name and address cleansing and standardisation.
Moreover, automatic inserting, mailing and tracking technologies are enabling direct marketers to gain greater accuracy and efficiencies. According to Schloff, "When mailing operations use communication intelligence across both production and delivery channels, then they are practicing mailstream marketing."
Brands that use the traditional mail channel have a particular taste for highly personalised, relevant marketing to current clients. Financial statements, mortgage bills, credit card statements, insurance premiums, even drivers' license renewal forms, all arrive directly through the consumer's front door to deliver timely and useful information.
Five best practices
As a result of its research into the subject, Pitney Bowes offers the following best practices to optimise mailstream marketing efforts:
- Leverage customer intelligence.
Use your data intelligently to create more personalised messages that enable cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and to ultimately foster customer loyalty.
- Deliver only relevant communications.
Your message is travelling with an important personal document (e.g. a bank statement, or an insurance policy's explanation of benefits). Be respectful of the medium by keeping the marketing message aligned with the purpose of the document. In addition to content alignment, a relevant document is always accurate.
- Apply the highest data quality practices.
The shortest route to the waste basket is a wrong address or a misspelled name.
- Mandate the highest mailing accuracy and integrity
... especially with personalised transactional mail and inserts. Misdirected mail can put customers off the brand completely. The wrong marketing message - or worse, the wrong personal document to the wrong person - is a far greater problem than just creating a bad impression.
- Practice event marketing.
Be opportunistic about events in your target customer's life such as birthdays, graduations, home moves, weddings and births. Sending helpful promotions around life events can create close connections with customers.
A white paper, entitled 'Toward an Optimized Mailstream', has been made available for download (free of charge) from the Pitney Bowes web site - click here.