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Getting Started with Direct Mail Automation

Written By Amber Breeden

May 4, 2023

Direct mail automation offers the ease and efficiency of email marketing with the higher response rates you get with traditional direct mail. More productivity, better ROI, and fewer time-consuming tasks—what’s not to love, right? But setting up and implementing a direct mail automation program can feel daunting. Whether you’re trying to reverse engineer automation into an already robust direct mail program or you’re completely new to direct mail, it helps to have a plan.

We’ve put together a list of questions to help you identify where direct mail best fits in your overall strategy and determine who is in your target audience. In this post, we’ll also help you decipher the data you have so you can craft personal, relevant messaging for each segment. You may not have ready answers to each of these questions, and that’s okay. Working through these questions will help you understand your goals and develop an effective strategy for implementing automated direct mail.

1.What existing marketing programs do you already have in place? How are they working?

Start by taking stock of your current marketing efforts and results. Are you doing any direct mail now, or have you focused solely on digital marketing to date? Understanding where your marketing is performing and underperforming can give you some direction on how direct mail could fill a gap.

2. What role do you envision direct mail playing in your marketing strategy?

While direct mail has traditionally been used for acquisition, it can also be a powerful retention tool when it comes to cross-selling services, creating a memorable welcome experience, or thanking customers for their business. It’s worth noting that, outside of marketing, direct mail can also be useful for human resources (think onboarding new employees or sending benefits information) or operational communications like invoices and renewal statements.

3. If you’re currently sending direct mail, are those touchpoints part of a pre-defined customer journey?

Is your direct mail recurring and predictable? Some direct mail can be automated more easily than others. If you have a clearly mapped customer journey where you’re already sending direct mail at certain points or intervals, that’s a good place to think about introducing automation. But if your direct mail is very nuanced or tied to a one-off event (an annual conference, for example, that gets updated and redesigned each year), it might be more difficult to automate.

4. Who’s your target audience and what do you know about them?

What profile information do you have that you can leverage to create relevant communications? Are there key data points you can use to create audience segments? It’s sometimes easier to start with a one-to-many approach rather than a one-to-one approach in messaging.

5. Do you have mailing addresses for your customers?

This might seem like a “duh” question, but you’d be surprised how many companies only have email addresses for their customers. If you don’t already have mailing addresses in your database, we can help with appending address data or conducting a data collection campaign. 

6. Where does your data live, and what condition is it in?

Is all of your data in one central system and easily accessible? Do you have data hygiene practices in place to ensure your data is clean and accurate? The success of your direct mail hinges on the quality of your data. If it’s not deliverable, it’s a waste of your time and marketing budget. We have processes in place to verify and update addresses, but the better your data is from the off, the better off you’ll be.

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7. What tools are you currently using to manage your marketing programs?

Do you have an established CRM, MAP, other digital marketing tools or platforms (Zapier, Braze, etc.)? This information will help determine the right implementation plan for your system.

8. What do you want your audience to do when they’ve received your direct mail?

Every single piece of direct mail you send needs to have a clear CTA, whether that’s visiting a website, picking up the phone, making a purchase, following you on social media … you get the idea. Your CTA is the key to measurement and attribution. How do you plan on tracking your direct mail engagement/response? While it may seem like this is jumping ahead to messaging, it’s helpful to think about this early on in case your CTA requires other work (like creating a landing page).

9. What does success look like for you when it comes to direct mail?

What are you trying to achieve? Is it brand awareness, generating leads, increasing revenue? Knowing the end goal will help you figure out how best to measure your direct mail performance and decide what metrics matter most.

10. What’s your budget?

It’s no secret that direct mail is more expensive than most other marketing channels, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. It just means you need to be thoughtful and selective about who receives direct mail, when, and what type. If you already have a line item in your marketing budget for direct mail, we can work with you to create a direct mail program that helps you stay on budget. If, on the other hand, you are adding direct mail to your marketing plan for the first time and need guidance on the costs associated with what you’re looking to do, our team can help with that too.

11. What kind of quantities are you estimating?

Direct mail costs and even some postage classes vary based on quantity, so it’s important to have a realistic idea of how much you’ll be sending for each batch or campaign. What are your annual volumes and how does that breakdown to a live drop of the direct mail?

12. How frequently do you anticipate sending direct mail?

It’s important to think about the production time required for different types of direct mail. Even automated, specialty packaging is going to have a longer lead time than a postcard or letter. If you know you’ll need to mail each week, you might want to consider a simpler format that can get in the mail faster.

Automating your direct mail requires a bit more than just flipping a switch. But with a little forethought and planning, you can have an automated direct mail program that suits your needs up and running in no time. If you find you’re struggling to answer any of the questions above, our team is happy to help you work through them during the onboarding process.

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