Personalized URLs Play an Even More Prominent Role
by Ethan Boldt, editor-in-chief, Inside Direct Mail
Direct mail is very visible and is a part of the daily life of most Americans. For those two reasons alone, companies have traditionally relied on direct mail to get out their marketing messages. Other advertising avenues, such as billboards, TV commercials, radio spots, and emails, also compete for prospects' attention and loyalty, but only direct mail physically gets into people's hands in their own home.
For that reason, direct mail is also a frequent target of name calling ("junk mail!") and worse, legislation ("Do Not Mail" that stand very little chance at passage) in many States. And lately, amid the economic downturn, it's also become the victim of lower response rates.
However, because of those reasons cited in paragraph one, direct mail is not going anywhere. In fact, with the powerful addition of Personalized URLs to the arsenal, direct mail may even be positioning itself for a comeback. "I think the channel’s forever altered, but not forever gone," says Nancy Harhut, executive creative director at Harhut for Hire and former executive creative director at Hill Holiday. "People still trust the mail, like to touch their mail, and sometimes prefer the privacy, security and record of mail."
Here's how it shakes down, according to some well known direct marketers:
1. Direct Marketing's New Holy Trinity?
While social media and mobile marketing is becoming more popular, they both remain small potatoes compared to what Harhut calls marketing's "Holy Trinity": direct mail, email and Personalized URLs. "Direct will still lead acquisition efforts and then be used to punctuate customer deepening campaigns. There’s been some evidence that all the email we’re sending is hurting its efficacy, while at the same time, direct mail has been 'rested' long enough so that now it’s working even better than before — what’s old appears new again," she describes.
Meanwhile, she believes that SoMe and mobile will find their rightful place in the communications mix, but will always be minor players. Instead, she's adamant that the DM-EM-PURL approach will grow more prominent. "Smarter targeting, more data-driven communications and increased personalization will become necessities," says Harhut, who mentions that the historic problem has always been data quality but that most companies have access to clean, robust data today.
2. Personalized URLs Help Create a Channel-less Future
Most companies have siloed their marketing efforts, but Harhut thinks that self-interest will begin to trump channel. "If the target sees something of value, then that will be more important than where he or she sees it," she explains. "The humble closed-faced, teaser-less, 'hand addressed' #10 or 'greeting card' will continue to pull. Mail that carries an 'ignore at your peril' air about it will continue to get opened."
In other words, creative mail that skillfully employs the usage of Personalized URLs will only enhance the chance a prospect will respond. Because Personalized URLs are so eminently trackable, then the credit of a conversion will then be given to both the direct mail piece as well as the landing page.
Indeed, with this channel-less future, direct mail may change its role for many campaigns. "It will be a still be a driver to action, but will have a dramatic shift toward use as a follow-up tool," predicts Grant Johnson, CEO of direct marketing agency Johnson Direct. "It's much more effective than email from a prospecting aspect and some of those companies who abandon mail will come back and use it to begin the dialogue. As the web grows more and more, mail will play a key part in driving new visitors. Email as a retention tool is very powerful, but too much email, spam blockers, and overuse will make it less effective and some firms will go back to mail."
3. New Testing Group: the Landing Page
Just as testing remains a key to successful direct mail, the same is true with pURL campaigns. "Don't forget that testing here should still apply, yet is woefully missing," states Johnson.
For example, a test that shows that conversion rates were much lower than anticipated usually point out the landing page wasn't synced properly with the direct mail piece, and that could extend to the data, the personalization, the creative or the offer. "Not syncing the landing page with the direct mail piece that brought the prospect there is the #1 destroyer of conversion rates," affirms Bob Bly, copywriter.