Direct mail is back in style.

With a greater and greater percentage of marketing budgets being directed to digital campaigns, competition is fiercer than ever and for many marketers, that means that standing out is becoming harder and more expensive than ever.

A growing number of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are turning to direct mail because they’re hitting the limits of what digital can deliver.

Ryan Babenzien, CEO of the sneaker brand Greats, put it simply: “Digital is noisy and direct mail is calm.”

The good news for marketers is that, as oxymoronic as it might sound, direct mail can today be treated much like a digital channel because it is now possible to programatically create and manage direct mail campaigns. In other words, marketers can send physical mail almost as easily as they can send email.

To profit from this capability, however, marketers need to use direct mail thoughtfully. Here are four tips for doing just that.

Personalise

Just as personalisation can be a game-changer for digital marketing campaigns and customer experience, personalisation can and often should be applied to direct mail. Even the most basic data, such as name, can help a direct mail piece stand out.

Historically, personalising many kinds of print materials on an individual basis would have been too costly to be viable but again, thanks to programmatic print services, in many cases marketers will find that it’s surprisingly easy and inexpensive to personalise print materials in meaningful ways.

Integrate

To maximize direct mail, marketers should think holistically and integrate their print campaigns into campaigns they’re running in other channels, including, of course, digital. Retail provides the best examples of this as retailers have in recent years embraced print catalogs, proving that predictions of the retail catalog’s death were greatly exaggerated.

For example, after Toys ‘R’ Us failed, a number of large retailers sought to capitalize and incorporated print catalogs into their broader marketing efforts during the holiday shopping season. Amazon got into the act with a print toy catalog that it distributed to customers by mail as well as at Whole Foods
locations.

And Target attempted to make it easy for recipients of its print toy catalog to purchase products from the catalog online. Using the Target mobile app’s barcode scanner, shoppers were able to hover over a catalog page, retrieve information about the products on it, and add products of interest to their
shopping carts.

Retarget

Retargeting has proven to be an incredibly effective tactic for digital marketers and there are many ways marketers can use retargeting with print. Because of print’s ability to stand out, it is especially well-suited for reaching out to individuals who might be considering a high-value action.

For example, a retailer could send a special coupon code to a customer who had abandoned a cart containing high-ticket items. A real estate agency could send a flyer to a client who had viewed one or more properties on its website multiple times. And so on and so forth.

Combined with personalisation, print mail retargeting has the potential to be a very powerful tool.

Attribute

Direct mail, like most non-digital channels, presents some attribution challenges. But fortunately these are often easily addressed. For instance, coupon codes and special landing pages can be used to identify and track individuals who respond to a mailing.

Of course, not all direct mail campaigns rely or should rely on discounting, and even landing pages can be problematic as recipients of a print mailer won’t necessarily go to the landing page if they recognize the sender. Instead, they might go directly to the sender’s website or mobile app.

With this in mind, some companies are developing more sophisticated attribution approaches. For instance, Article, a DTC upstart that sells furniture, built an attribution model in-house. As Digiday explained, “To do so, it set a time period of two months to watch for results…and used a holdout group
to track traffic and conversions from demographics that were sent the catalog, in comparison to ones that weren’t. What the brand watched for in terms of results was traffic to product pages featured in the catalog, engagement on social media in the regions that received the catalog, and primarily, sales.”