Is Direct Mail Worth It?

We are often asked by our clients if direct mail is worth the investment. The quick answer is that yes, I believe direct mail can make a positive impact as part of a comprehensive marketing program. I have read many recent articles and studies that show the effectiveness of direct mail. So why do marketers continue to doubt it?

99% of the time, after I am asked if I believe direct mail works, I am asked how we can help our clients track the ROI for direct mail programs to prove to upper management that it is worth the time and expense. This is the more complicated part of the equation.
First we need to setup our direct mail program in order to track it. For instance, use USPS tools to know when your direct mail will be delivered. Then use these as triggers for other marketing messages, such as email, telemarketing, or web display advertising using IP targeting. Drive users to custom landing pages or PURLs in order to track traffic from your campaign.

Once a prospect has made it to your website, continue to follow-up with them using retargeting ads and marketing automation software. Don’t forget to personalize your campaigns and messages as much as possible.
Second, and just as important as tracking your direct mail campaign, you will need a system that collects and analyzes the data from all communication channels in order to attribute responses correctly.

Attribution is the process of correctly assigning a value to every marketing activity in terms of the revenue it produces. Attribution models primarily fall into two categories: single-source and multi-source. For me, multi-source models are more effective at determining the ROI for specific programs. Knowing the last place someone was before they clicked through to your site is important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, it may attribute greater success to a particular marketing channel while underestimating the value of the previous campaign.

In the above example (in which the delivery of the direct mail piece triggers an email), the single-source attribution model would only give credit to the email. But it may have been a combination of the direct mail and email that motivated the user to click through.

In the multi-touch attribution model, a marketing automation system tracks leads from first touch to the time they become a customer. The system will assign a fractional weight to successful touch points in the attribution chain, thus giving credit to each touch point.

If you want to prove that your direct mail campaigns are providing ROI, you will need infrastructure that can track it and then attribute customer behavior to the appropriate channels.