Marketers Win by Catering to Millennial Direct Mail Fans

Remember when marketing gurus were calling direct mail “dead,” drowned by a wave of digital, mobile, and social technologies? Well, research keeps resurrecting mail from its low-tech tomb. In fact, recent studies find that Millennials–the 22- to 36-year-old, tech-savvy generation supposedly addicted to mobile devices and digital networking–are bigger fans of direct mail than older generations in some ways!  That’s information that printers, mailing services, and a list broker and direct marketing consultant like AccuList USA can use to convince clients who hesitate over direct mail spending.

Millennials Like Direct Mail in General

For example, a recent study by InfoTrends and Prinova found that response rates for direct mail remain high for all demographics, including Millennials, who open direct mail received at the same high rate of 66% as recipients overall. More significantly, Milennials as a group respond faster to mail–within 2.4 months–which is less than the average response time for all respondents. Plus, the InfoTrends research found that a big 63% of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within that three-month period actually made a purchase! Along similar lines, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conducted a survey on direct mail’s political impact on Millennials and found that at least 42% of Millennials prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, that twice as many thoroughly read political mail, and that Millennials are more likely to be prompted to action by mail, with 66% likely to research the candidate and 54% visiting the candidate’s website after receiving mail.

But Millennials Also Prefer Specific Mail Tactics

However, research also shows that all mail pieces are not created equal. Mailings that resonate best with Millennials are targeted and personalized, per research. Luckily, sophisticated targeting and personalization are possible with today’s variable printing, programmatic and automation programs, and database segmentation and analytics. Millennials demand printing quality as well, with one quarter of surveyed 25- to 34-year-olds saying they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality. Mailers going beyond the standard No. 10 envelope–including 3-D dimensional mailers, pop-ups and intricately folded pieces–are playing to this audience that appreciates visual creativity. Plus, engaging copy counts, with 25% of that same surveyed group saying they consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. That doesn’t mean that printed mail can be divorced from Millennials’ digital lifestyle. Data in eMarketer’s survey report “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” shows that Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in stores, and are comfortable with mobile shopping. The Millennial preference for digital/mobile shopping means that integrating print and digital–via QR, AR, or PURL–can significantly boost response, as shown in multiple studies. Research also shows that video is a response-getter for Millennials’ digital promotions. And now mailers have the printing technology to jump on the video bandwagon with audio players and video screens incorporated in direct mail.

For a good overview of recent data on direct mail and Millennials, see this article from The Financial Brand.

For Direct Mail, What’s Old Can Be New (& Effective) Again

AccuList USA offers mailing lists, data services and direct marketing services to direct mailers in many business and nonprofit arenas, and that requires us to keep up with the latest options combining print and digital technologies. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the tried-and-true, pre-digital tactics that still deliver response! Real-life examples noted in recent Target Marketing magazine articles underscore that point.

Envelopes That Grab Attention

Thank Paul Bobnak, director of Who’s Mailing What!, for sifting through mail volumes to spot some successful new takes on old tricks for attention-getting envelopes. In his recent Target Marketing article, he noted the reappearance of four “old-school” tactics. One is an envelope highlighting Yes-No-Maybe stickers, once a favorite of subscription drives. The prospect is given three options on the reply form, with a sticker for each. Bobnak cites a recent mail piece from UPMC, a healthcare system: The Yes-No stickers are visible in an outer envelope window, while the “Maybe” is inside for recipients to self-qualify for follow-up mailer persuasion. Posting an outer envelope quiz is another proven way to intrigue prospects and get them to open a mailing to learn more–a ploy often used for health care and financial services offers. Bobnak shows how a few qualifying envelope questions work well today for the Harvard Health Letter as an example from publication marketing. The interoffice-routing-style envelope is an old trick for catching the attention of office workers and has been a go-to for B2B. Despite e-mail’s workplace dominance, interoffice paper still exists, and Bobnak notes the recent engaging nonprofit marketing use of an interoffice envelope by Sacred Heart Southern Missions, a social ministry. Then there’s the photo lab envelope, seemingly obsolete in this digital photo age. But high-quality printed photos still come in envelopes, Bobnak reminds, and that syncs with the creative services message of Dissolve, a stock footage agency, which recently prospected with a photo lab envelope containing quality photos from its collections.

Letters That Drive Response

Once recipients open the envelope–although use of QR, AR, PURLs, etc., are great new digital tools to boost response–the old-school marketing basics of the letter copy offer still matter. In another recent Target Marketing magazine article, Summer Gould highlighted seven items required for a great direct mail letter. With a few of our own additions, the seven key elements are: a first sentence that hooks the reader; an offer that is attractive (yes, a freebie or discount still entices); a story line that engages and pulls important emotional triggers (such as the well-known marketing motivators of fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, and need for approval); flattery that convinces the reader he or she is special and appreciated, which today requires more personalization than just a greeting name; questions that qualify the prospect or customer (just make sure you expect the answers based on your data); a problem solved by your product or service; and benefits that matter to the prospect or customer. Why the reminder of what seems like marketing common sense? Because it’s unfortunately not always common practice! Dazzling dimensional creative will not make up for an offer misfire.

Combining proven marketing tactics with technology, “snail mail” continues to deliver a response rate ahead of other channels. To see physical examples of what Bobnak describes, go to www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/4-old-school-direct-mail-tactics-still-work/

USPS & Science Encourage Merger of Digital & Mail Efforts

For any direct marketers who haven’t committed to combining direct mail with digital media, 2017 is a perfect year for experimentation. At AccuList USA, we have seen the positive impact on direct marketing clients’ results (and have developed our Digital2Direct program in support). And now  “brain science” and U.S. Postal Service incentives further increase the attractions of a mail-digital marriage.

Brain Science Shows Impact of Mail-Digital Mating

For example, an article from The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently highlighted the “neuromarketing” evidence for mail-digital pairings.  (Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing.) ANA cites a recent study by Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General, “Tuned In: The Brain’s Response to Ad Sequencing.” The research explores the relative effectiveness of physical mail and digital advertising in cross-media marketing campaigns, using not only self-reported responses but actual MRIs of participant brain activity while viewing ads. A key finding: Consumer “willingness to pay” was significantly higher when media was delivered across both digital and physical channels rather than a single channel. Another notable study, “A Bias for Action: The Neuroscience Behind the Response-Driving Power of Direct Mail,” comes from a partnership between the Canada Post and True Impact Marketing, a leading neuromarketing research and strategy firm. Their study seeks to quantify the effectiveness of physical (direct mail) and digital (e-mail and display) media by focusing on two key indicators of media effectiveness: ease of understanding and persuasiveness. The results indicate that while digital media provide key platforms for customer interaction, direct mail is actually better at closing the marketing-sales loop. So for marketers, a mail-digital combination offers the best of both worlds and helps bridge the gap between interaction and action.

USPS Promotes Enhancing Mail With Digital Power

Why wait to reap the benefits? Especially now that the U.S. Postal Service is offering a range of 2017 programs that make the economic decision easier. The new Informed Delivery program, which inserts mail into consumers’ daily digital routines, is one example. Informed Delivery users receive e-mails that capture grayscale images of the address side of their mail. Currently, preview images are for letter-sized mailings processed through automated equipment, but flat mailings, such as magazines and catalogs, can be displayed if the mailer supplies a color image to be included in the Informed Delivery notifications. Under the program, marketers can take advantage of three potential touchpoints with one mail piece: an advance preview via e-mail/app, actually delivery in the mailbox, and inclusion of a unique URL in the digital preview to drive trackable traffic to a website. Plus, the USPS has two more promotions supporting mail-digital pairing. The Emerging & Advanced Technology Promotion (March 1 – Aug. 31, 2017) encourages mailers to integrate direct mail with advances in mobile technology using NFC technology, Video in Print (ViP), Beacon technology, “Enhanced” Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality (newly included this year) or, as of 2017, use of Digital to Direct Mail to boost response with dynamically printed, personalized messaging automatically triggered by digital interaction. Mail-digital pairing is also rewarded by the Mobile Shopping Promotion (Aug. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017), which encourages mailers to invest in technologies that take recipients directly from the mail piece to a mobile-optimized online shopping experience via Quick Response (QR) Codes, Snap Tags, Watermarks and other technologies. For details on these and other USPS promotions, see https://ribbs.usps.gov/mailingpromotions/documents/tech_guides/2017PromotionsCalendar.pdf