Personalised direct mail – marketing that nudges customers

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
October 13 2016,
May 27 2020

Back from annual leave, I’m still finding sand in my pockets and foreign coins in the corners of my purse. While my heart is heavy and my tan is rapidly fading, my inbox is already almost empty. It’s not that my “out of office” autoresponder inspired others not to write again for a while – everyone knows THAT doesn’t happen – but because my first mission on my return was to ruthlessly machete my way through it.

Email was initially recognised to have numerous and obvious advantages over the other comms channels. But these “pros”– speed, cost, 24/7 access, etc. –  have rapidly become “cons”. Because, while the volume of emails broadcast is soaring, the quality of content within many of them continues to plummet.

Email has become an irritant; a nagging reminder that however many we read, respond to, or archive, we never get ahead of the game. The cherished (now long-defunct) AOL chime “you’ve got mail” has been replaced with an annoying, constant “ping” from our inboxes.

Personalised direct mail on the other hand…

So, while my electronic inbox is a challenge to be risen to, and an adversary to be conquered, the physical mail that has appeared while I’ve been sunning myself is quietly and politely waiting for my unrivalled attention. Apart from its obvious good manners, direct mail (and specifically personalised direct mail) has three other “pros” that, particularly during the “consideration” stage of mine and any other consumer’s journey, sets it apart from email:

It’s got impact

A favourite fashion retailer has, while I’ve been away, launched its new sparkly Christmas range. An email might alert me to that fact but it’s the printed catalogue I’m saving for the weekend or an evening when I have time to peruse and evaluate it. And, with email open rates rarely hitting the 20% mark, a subject line alone cannot hope to satisfy AIDA, the well-worn, sales acronym. That is, 

  • Attention - grab the reader’s attention
  • Interest - get them interested by advocating benefits
  • Desire - make them want it with a tempting offer
  • Action - call them to action with a deadline

It’s relevant 

Data-driven content combined with digital print makes for dynamic, personalised and unique printed pieces. When it comes to festive-season partywear, said retailer knows it’s all about ME. Menswear? Forget it! So, without even looking I know that they’ll have used my purchase history and buying habits to determine both the imagery and products on offer… not a tuxedo in sight.

It has longevity

Ever used the search functionality of your email software to try and find a deleted promotional mail? No, me neither. That’s the nature of email marketing, rather like the offers retailers refer to as “when it’s gone, it’s gone” (WIGIG). A catalogue though, even a leaflet, has the power to endure and to be handled, viewed and re-read in a way that email just doesn’t. In fact, Royal Mail’s MarketReach* studied and reported on advertising mail’s “multiple opportunities for people to engage with brands” citing that it can remain in the home for an average of 17 days.

So, while my inbox is briefly empty, party frock selection I think. Next? Well, a holiday brochure, of course!

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