Dynamic Direct Mail: Making the Mail Piece “Sticky”

In 2012, 354 billion corporate emails, 400 million tweets, and 1 billion Facebook posts were created daily. Given that the number of smartphone users keeps increasing, those numbers are probably higher for 2013. But many of those messages are falling on deaf ears: a 2011 survey conducted by Xerox revealed that consumers remember four out of the 3,000 messages they receive daily. The survey also revealed that four in 10 respondents find information and offers related to their specific interests valuable in promotions they receive during the holiday season.

“This survey validates that earning a spot at the top of a consumer’s mind, and ultimately driving a purchasing decision, takes insight, individual attention and can be influenced by the way the message is delivered,” said Christa Carone, who was Xerox’s chief marketing officer at the time.

This is actually good news for direct mail marketers, and their service providers. In particular, those who employ dynamic direct mail to help their customers get their message heard.

Engaging the Customer

Dynamic direct mail can encompass different characteristics that help make the piece more, well, dynamic. Certainly personalization, aided and abetted with variable data imaging, is a big piece of the puzzle, allowing brands to zero in on customers that are more likely to purchase their products or services. A key driver in this effort is big data, gathering mounds of info on every purchase made to help marketers in their efforts to target specific demographics for all types of promotions and advertising.

Yet another way to make mail dynamic is to enhance it with personalized phone calls, texts, or emails—an approach developed by AccuZip, and described in more detail below.

Dynamic direct mail, says Jeffrey Peoples, CEO, WindowBook, is carefully relevant. “Data brings additional dimensions to direct mail, helping to make it dynamic,” says Peoples. “Because of data, we know that the recipient clicked on a link related to a white paper, or attended a seminar or some other kind of event.” All of this information helps inform marketing decisions, and keeps the marketing dynamic, changing based on what the customer is doing.

“Direct mail may have more cost, but it also has more value for the right kind of marketing,” says Peoples. Dynamic direct mail is also interactive direct mail, integrating the other marketing efforts the customer has enacted, and with the use of data and personalization, as well as QR codes and PURLs, an effective part of a multi-channel campaign.

“Dynamic direct mail is part of an overall campaign,” says Peoples. “We don’t recommend you just use direct mail, just like you don’t just eat protein. Using dynamic direct mail adds value to what the client is marketing, delivering a higher return on investment.”

The element that direct mail brings that can’t be touched by digital efforts it its ability to elicit an emotional response, triggered by its tactile characteristic. There’s still nothing quite like opening a package delivered through the mail. “The digital world is great, but it doesn’t deliver that tactile element, it doesn’t have that tangible physical aspect that mail does or generate that emotional response,” says Peoples.

WindowBook’s part is to “enable our clients to get the discounts available through the USPS,” says Peoples. “The Post Office doesn’t see issues from a client perspective. We do. We do two webinars every week; at least one email a blast to 14k people to educate our customers to what the Post Office is doing.”

Adds Peoples, “We make big mailers big bucks—over 50 percent of all business mail is produced with our assistance. Our mission is to get as much value as we can get for them.”

Mail that Talks

Once that direct mail piece is created using data, personalization, etc., there are other ways to make it dynamic. AccuZip’s programs continuously create value in that mail, says Robert Bell, director of social media communications. “The issue is, how do you make mail sticky,” says Bell.

AccuZip is set to release a program called LivingMail, a part of its AccuTrace product suite that delivers much more than the traditional direct mail piece. The patent-pending service lets the brand communicate with the consumer via bi-directional text messaging, emails, pre-recorded or text to speech phone messages.

“It increases the personal relationship as well creates more open rates,’ says Bell. “When you make it personalized to someone, you are creating a new dynamic in the relationship. LivingMail is the first bi-directional mail program; mail has never bi-directional, it’s always been one way communication, from the sender to the recipient.”

It also eliminates the need to use a call center—the calls are automatically triggered using the LivingMail program.

LivingMail customers can schedule messages to be sent while the mail is en route or after it has been received. “There is a first scan and stop scan—there are lots of triggers you can use,” says Bell. “For instance, you can have the message say, ‘push one to talk to a live operator, push 2 to RSVP, etc.’”

Here’s how it works: Suzy logs into LivingMail and records a message; when the letter gets dropped in the mail it is scanned by the Post Office triggering a phone call to the end recipient, who hears the pre-recorded message. When the mail piece hits the New York Post Office, it is scanned again; triggering a different phone call that lets the recipient know it is out set for delivery that day or will be at your house in two hours.

The AccuTrace toolkit also brings a whole new level of service that enhances the mail piece, with IM barcode tracking, QR code generation and tracking, a free mobile smartphone app, and a Google mapping facet that functions like a GPS for the mail you send, mapping every tractable mail piece as it makes its way to the recipient. It can also send out email and SMS notifications so the sender knows when the mail is out for delivery.

“If I send out 10,000 letters from California, and 5,000 of those are delivered to Portland, Oregon. I can use the mapping tool to identify where piece of mail is, once it is scanned by the Post Office,” says Bell. “ If only 2,000 get identified, I know 3,000 are missing.“