Why Every Marketer Should Consider Direct Mail During COVID-19

For the past several weeks, with much of the world sheltering in place, many of INWK’s creative and client engagement teams have been hyper-focused on helping brands engineer marketing solutions in a consumer landscape turned upside down overnight.

  • Retailers shifting to 100% e-commerce.

  • Non-profits facing fundraising shortfalls due to canceled walks, benefits and other events.

  • Spirits brands with no on-premise activation due to bar and restaurant closures.

  • Hospitality, tourism and entertainment all but forced to a screeching halt.

The list goes on and yet, despite the business diversity, the conversations are all quite similar. “How do we adapt to the immediate commercial impacts of a pandemic of unknown length?” “When will this be over” and “How will my business need to change for the long term once we’re on the other side of it?”

And today’s focus: How can I best engage consumers when the journey is changing?

As marketers from virtually every industry wrestle with this challenge, many may be overlooking a significant opportunity right in their own back... er, front yard. A consumer touchpoint with daily user engagement and nearly 100% household penetration.

That opportunity? Direct mail.

For many consumers, work-life and home-life are now largely one and the same. Marketers should carefully reconsider just how important that daily trip to the mailbox has become. No longer a reflex, no longer mere muscle memory; a stop at the mailbox is, in fact, just that... A stop.

A moment to breathe. To recharge. To regain a small piece of the outside world.

As marketers, we strive for “the right message, in the right place, at the right time.” In other words, getting in front of your audience when they are most likely to be receptive. In this moment, the mailbox is one of those places.

Sure, we are consuming digital media like never before and it remains a critical component within a carefully integrated channel mix. But in this moment, it can also be a double-edged sword as our digital life is where the proverbial “clutter” has taken up residence and shows no sign of moving out.

The noise is unavoidable and navigating it can be costly for marketers and exhausting for consumers. But that journey to the mailbox can serve a new purpose. For consumers, it can become a welcome break from screen time. For marketers, it’s an opportunity to create a meaningful and tactile 3D experience in world that increasingly exists in 2D.

Of course, being in the right place at the right time is only part of the equation. Direct response marketing is most effective when your goals align with the goal of your consumers, so a compelling and relevant sales offer or other value proposition (more on that in a minute) is key. Clear and direct calls-to-action are a must.

Consider this simple content hierarchy framework:

Equally important is clearly defining and, if applicable, segmenting your audience to ensure relevance and improve performance. And because the channel was built upon test versus control optimization, identifying at least one key variable to test will only increase the ROMI of your efforts.

For businesses able to maintain relatively consistent transactional activity – either through e-commerce and/or delivery, a no-contact professional service or essential classification of your brick-and-mortar – campaigns that drive direct sales opportunities are certainly welcome and expected by consumers and shouldn’t be shied away from.

But be careful, because now is a time to support your customer rather than “sell” to them. No two households are experiencing this pandemic in the exact same way, so avoid assumptions about how much available time and/or disposable cash the customer may be willing to commit. Rather, remind your customers of what you stand for and what you are doing right now, and build an offer strategy and messaging framework that demonstrates your commitment to them – to help them save, to help them simplify, or to provide them with clear added value.

As for those other value propositions, in industries where immediate sales activity may be more difficult, think beyond the traditional sales offer. What other actionable consumer behaviors can you influence that create value for both your business and your customer? With the right value proposition, using direct mail to attract, promote and incentivize online response and engagement could drive long-term returns on your marketing investment.

  • Does driving app download or user enrollment/registration provide prospective new customers with useful, engaging content, while also providing you with a platform for ongoing relationship nurturing via the mailbox?

  • If you have a loyalty program, are there point-earning opportunities to engage consumers in working toward rewards for when normal business resumes?

  • If driving immediate cash liquidity is your top priority, consider a targeted discount gift card program (e.g., buy a $25 gift card for $20). It’s incentivizing consumers to spend and keeps an immediate revenue stream active for your business.

These examples scratch the surface of potential opportunities. Direct mail should be a serious consideration for your channel mix, regardless of your campaign strategy. And if you need help along the way, from strategy development to creative, from test planning to list building, from production and fulfillment to performance analysis, we’re here.

For more on how Direct Mail can impact your ROMI, connect with us today.

Marc Giannettino

Vice President, Creative & Digital Marketing Services