In this episode, I talked with Summer Hahnlen, Senior Director, Direct Mail Expert in Residence at Lob. Lob uses cloud software to help businesses send smarter mail, faster through automation.
Much of our chat dealt with how companies can connect – and reconnect – with customers by using mail that speaks to them one-to-one.
Summer talked about how companies that market with smart data and planning can increase their campaign ROI by mailing quicker:
These are just a few of the topics we covered:
- Her background in direct mail marketing
- Ideas for personalizing direct mail (e.g, how about QR codes?)
- How to deal with increasing costs
- Tips for maximizing campaigns across channels
- Why direct mail works so well
Here are some questions and answers (edited for clarity and space):
- How can marketers benefit from triggered direct mail?
So triggered direct mail is what I like to call just basically smart marketing.
Because when you think about the way that the industry has gone over the last, you know, 5-10 years, you think about the advancements that have been made in technology, and also in our ways of leveraging data.
And a triggered campaign is basically a marketer’s response to any type of customer action, whether it’s visiting your webpage or maybe even a competitor’s webpage.
It’s a customer who has maybe left your brand and you’re reaching back out to them through a win-back program. And it’s a really smart way to reach out to customers who have just taken an action and develop a personalized look and feel that will keep them top of mind and develop even stronger brand recognition and affinity.
- Talking about direct mail retargeting in general. Are there some best practices that you discovered that worked for retargeting customers?
So retargeting or win-back programs can be run a number of different ways. I’ve seen them run with just an acquisition champion … and those programs do not tend to work as well. I have some historical background in rebuilding win-back programs. And most recently rebuilt one for a pretty big telecom customer where they did use an acquisition champion and they had a pretty low response rate and they were spending quite a bit of investment on direct mail.
And we completely restructured their program so that we could reach out to those customers on a one-to-one basis, reach out to them more quickly, we’re able to get direct mail in their hands within two to three days of when they were calling to disconnect, and acknowledging the customer, acknowledging the reason why they left.
If you know that, we’ve seen a lot of success with brands acknowledging that they had a failing. [W]e saw a huge success with Domino’s when they did that, basically said, “We know our pizza is not great”. And you know, telling customers that you miss them, that you have a special offer that is just for them, and making them feel important to your brand is essential for getting them to come back.
- What are some good ways to personalize mail? How can mailers make sure they have the best data for these campaigns?
So personalizing direct mail does not begin and end anymore with including someone’s name. I think that that’s been the fallback for a lot of companies, historically. Well, hopefully, we break that trend.
And some of the really easy ways to personalize your direct mail moving forward is working with technology partners like Lob that can do this for you, where you insert personalized URLs, where you can track that customer’s buy flow from beginning to end; personalized QR codes, I think we all have become incredibly familiar with QR codes through COVID and restaurant menus.
I would say 2-3 years ago, people were not as savvy with QR codes, and now everyone just pulls out their phone and they know exactly what to do, and they expect to see QR codes.
Personalizing your piece with an offer that is specifically for them, even including something like a lifestyle image that more closely resembles the demographic of the customer that you’re reaching out to or includes if it’s a triggered campaign based on going to someone’s website or winning back a customer, you could include maybe a meal that they’ve ordered multiple times, if you’re a meal delivery service.
Or perhaps a cell phone that they were just shopping on a competitor’s website for, and you have that data.
The possibilities are endless, and it’s one of the reasons that I’m really excited to be at Lob because it’s a one-to-one creative and consumer relationship.
- What are some tips to create a winning offer?
I wish I could say there’s a golden ticket … when you think about every company’s different business objectives and their lines of business within those objectives, and the different ways that you can now reach out to customers – there’s not necessarily one format that works best. There’s not necessarily one call to action that works best, but I think that a couple things are still true.
The more that you can space out what you’re trying to say, give it some breathing room, give it some negative space to make what you’re trying to say more important and impactful. I think that’s always a great way to go.
Less sometimes is more – it’s about intriguing the customer to take the desired action.
It’s also about making sure that you’re being incredibly clear about what action you want them to take. I think a lot of times, as marketers, we get wrapped around the idea of the brand look and feel, which is essential, but you also want to make sure that you don’t miss out on telling them why you’re reaching out to them and what you want them to do. And in some cases it’s as simple as a six by nine postcard, which is like the new format for 2022 … everyone’s really excited about that.
Or maybe with an older generation, for a brand that is all about education and reinforcement of value, it’s a one-sheet two-page letter, because you know that your customers are engaged and they’re reading through and they want to feel like they’re being educated. So in that case, you want to include more.
So I don’t know that I can tell you exactly what everyone should be doing, except just make sure that you have a very clear objective when you set up your campaign and you stick to that objective all the way through creation and data selection, because that will get you the most bang for your buck.
- What can mailers do with their mail pieces and planning to maximize their campaigns across different channels?
I think direct mail historically, just in the last 20 years that I’ve been involved, has been seen as a siloed channel, a channel that is standalone, that you use maybe for just a more mature audience or a certain type of, line of business because that’s what’s worked before and that’s where you trust it to work again.
I think there is a huge movement across some of the larger marketers out there of incorporating omni-channel experiences that leverage direct mail as a part of that effort.
So let’s give it like a real-world example of say you’re reaching out to…let’s go back to win-back, a win-back customer and you’re a big telecom, and you know that someone has just disconnected.
The quickest way that you can reach out to them as an SMS or an email. You know, something very targeted gets into their home. But what if you could then partner that with referencing a direct mail piece with a special offer that you know will arrive in that home within a one- to two-day time period after that because you’re able to track it through the system because, say, you’re using Lob?
There’s also the opportunity when you think about setting up your campaigns to have everything actually arrive in the home, so to speak, either on the screen or in the mailbox on the same day and reference one another, or have special offers that piggyback off of one another, that have the similar look and feel, that have that brand consistency.
It’s not about throwing something up against the wall and hoping that it sticks. It’s about reaching out with a multichannel effort and the way that you set that up is with smart data and smart campaign planning and thinking ahead and then watching it succeed.
Here is our conversation. We’ve added timecodes for your convenience.
Thank you again, Summer, for an interesting and informative chat! To learn more about Lob, visit Lob.com.
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