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It’s easy to believe the better days of print marketing are behind us and that digital marketing presents the only viable array of tools for advertising and building brand messages. In an age when people have to be intentional about “unplugging,” it does seem accurate that print collateral may be going by the wayside, and the temptation to make this assumption only increases when considering a high school and college-age target audience.

Recent research contradicts this conventional wisdom, however, and as Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief of Direct Marketing News, so eloquently states it, “Your ROI is in the mail.” Conlon cites CMO Council numbers that show response rates to targeted direct mail are more than 4% higher than to email. Further metrics show that 79% of consumers act on direct mail immediately, also higher than the 45% immediate response rate for email. Further, 40% of consumers polled by CMO Council stated that they engaged with a new business as a result of direct mail, and 70% of those polled said they renewed a relationship with a business after receiving a direct-mail piece.

Direct mail on its own is strong, but it’s even more effective when paired with digital support. If an offer is well targeted and compelling and utilizes the best of the direct mail and digital worlds, “a 10 to 30 percent uplift in conversion is a good target when combining the two channels,” says Richard Rushing, senior director of digital strategy at Epsilon. Digital and print can play to each other’s strengths quite nicely. While the appeal of digital is its ease and immediacy, there is still something humanizing about receiving a tangible form of communication from a brand you have a relationship with. This can motivate a recipient to act, and that action is best facilitated via the ease and simplicity of digital response.

So, what makes an effective direct mailer in the digital age?

Christy 2

  1. Personalization

Adding a simple PURL (personal URL) to a direct-mail piece can make a significant impact. Robert Morris University recently discovered that compared with their generic campaigns, personalization efforts produced a 79% lift in response rates.


  1. Promo Codes

Adding a promo code with an expiration date to a direct mailer can create a sense of urgency and exclusivity that drives up response rates as well.


  1. Landing Pages

When the mail recipient visits the landing page associated with the offer in the mail piece, dedicated content focused only on that offer builds excitement and anticipation and motivates conversion. If the mail piece merely sends the visitor to the homepage of a site and the visitor has to dig up the offer, the likelihood of conversion drops dramatically.


  1. Follow-up

Whether the tracking is done via a landing page or a PURL, knowing who responded to the direct mail and following up with additional communication creates opportunity to build a relationship with the potential customer even if they do not purchase immediately.


  1. Compelling Creative

Last but far from least, a direct mailer that is not visually compelling goes straight to the trash in most households. The creative must accomplish the pivotal work of making the offer stand out and capture the attention of the recipient while being easy on the eyes and giving the potential consumer something fresh and enjoyable to view as they consider beginning or increasing a relationship with a brand. I would also add that adding “bring this in to redeem the offer” improves both longevity and response.

At Catalyst, we have recently been stepping up our game on the direct-mail front, keeping these main points in mind as we work.