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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Embrace New Technologies for Better Direct Marketing Campaign ROI
By Jamie Klemcke

With the growth of social media and online marketing, many marketers have turned away from direct mail campaigns, arguing that traditional mailings are no longer an effective way to market to prospects. But I contend that abandoning direct mail right now would mean that you miss out on some of the most effective and cutting-edge prospecting strategies today. In fact, I believe that direct mail is more important than ever for launching a multi-channel direct marketing effort—especially when it leverages digital media and innovative marketing technologies. Today's direct mail can be a cost effective way to target prospects, collect valuable lead data and measure campaign performance in real time.

Direct mail campaigns now are vastly different from the days of huge mailings that were sent to every known address in a zip code. Advances in the printing industry have streamlined the direct mail process, making it easy to present each targeted recipient with a unique and highly relevant message. Additionally, innovative digital technologies now make it possible to pinpoint specific prospects based on demographics, launch direct mail touches based on event triggers, and capture real-time response metrics in order to determine immediate ROI.

Let's take a look at some of these technologies and explore how they can enhance your integrated marketing campaigns, ultimately leading to improved ROI tracking.

Personalization and variable data printing
Marketers have been using personalization in direct marketing for years now. Personalization, however, is much more than addressing a recipient by their first name. Today, personalization implies that a marketing communication piece delivers not only a personalized greeting, but also customized images, messages, and offers for each recipient, enabling the piece to not just capture the recipient's attention, but to back it up with content relevant to that unique prospect. The more a client knows about each recipient, the better they can target individuals, creating offers that are uniquely relevant, and thus establishing more of a connection with the customer or potential customer that can improve conversion throughout the sales pipeline.

Of course, it's easy to decide that each recipient should receive an offer and creative that is uniquely targeted to them, but prior to the development of variable data printing, the cost of producing pieces customized for each individual recipient was simply too high. Today, digital printing allows the use of variable data in the production process that gives marketers the ability to personalize printed marketing messages for each individual recipient and a lower price point.

Technically speaking, variable data printing (VDP) is a form of on-demand printing in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be altered from piece to piece without slowing down the printing process. By using information from a client's database, each direct mail piece can have specific fields based upon previous behaviors or information that a potential client has provided in person or via the web. Examples include a personal salutation, an image of a product they've previously purchased, a unique promotional code tied to that specific individual, a personalized URL, quick response code or custom text-in mobile code.

It is also important to note that variable data printing is powerful in testing marketing materials before rolling out a full campaign. In short, VDP provides the flexibility to test marketing materials using short print runs, and then to adjust messaging and creative as needed.

Unique codes
In addition to improving response rates by featuring customized offers, variable data printing makes it possible to implement a variety of tracking methodologies to easily measure responses at the individual level. At the simplest level, each recipient can be assigned a unique code to respond to their offer. For example, a postcard could provide a 20% discount on a product purchase and require entry of a discount code during the checkout process. If the code is unique to each recipient, it is remarkably easy to determine which recipients have responded to that offer.

Personalized URLs (PURLs)
A PURL is a domain name, usually containing the recipient's first and last name, that takes that person to a personalized landing page. These URLs function similarly to unique codes in that they drive a responder to a unique URL which has been created specifically for that individual. The resulting landing page can potentially be a response form that has been pre-populated with information already obtained about that individual. Such information may include, for example, name, address and account number. Since pre-populating forms generally leads to better completion rates, offering a PURL can improve a campaign's ROI. Landing pages associated with each PURL can also feature specific information about the person's recent transactions, offer customized surveys, and be tied to an automated email follow-up.

Fortunately, PURLs aren't uniquely tied to direct mail campaigns. They can also be used in email or text marketing campaigns, though the availability of variable data printing now makes them more available for use in printed marketing materials.

Quick Response (QR) Codes
QR codes refer to a two-dimensional barcode included in a marketing piece. Using a smart phone with a reader, a recipient can easily scan the code with their mobile device instead of entering a code by keyboard. Scanning the code drives the responder to a specialized mobile page, making it easier to go to the website immediately. Codes may be used to drive a variety of actions, which might include requesting more information, booking an appointment or securing a coupon.

QR codes take advantage of the ubiquitous nature of smart phones and can easily be assigned to every recipient in a campaign. These codes connect people between traditional media and new media in just a matter of seconds, making printed materials truly interactive and immediately trackable. They can be used anywhere that a link to information in the online world would quickly assist consumers.

Mobile Marketing
It's no secret that offering multiple response methods improves response rates, so it stands to reason that offering a text response option can lead to better campaign ROI. Adding a text response option can be as simple as offering a number to text for additional information. More complex campaigns might provide a mobile coupon which can be scanned at the cash register during checkout, or allow the user to opt-in to an ongoing text message communication stream with a keyword and a short code. This communication stream would allow the individual to receive promotions, product alerts, mobile coupons and virtual mobile loyalty cards.

I believe that direct mail is here to stay, at least as part of a multi-touch marketing campaign that may also utilize email, mobile, and even telemarketing. But today's direct mail is no longer the costly, mass mailing of the past. New technologies ensure that marketers can create direct mail campaigns that specifically target individuals, present personalized offers and enable credible, even real-time, response tracking. Better tracking, plus more affordable variable data printing, means more effective direct mail programs and a stronger ROI for your campaigns.

It's a very exciting time to be a marketer, but don't discount the role that direct mail can play as part of a sophisticated, multi-channel marketing campaign.

About the Author:
Jamie Klemcke is the Director of Marketing for QuantumDigital (, the technology leader in digital print, providing direct mail, email marketing and multi-channel marketing services.
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