Given the budget outlay required to produce and deliver print communications, the medium is rarely found at the top of many marketers’ lists these days.
But the unexpectedness of the medium can help you stand apart.
Plus, direct mail response rates (3-5% as a rule of thumb) hold their own against other tactics. Email click-through rates can be in the same range at 4-5% [Source], and in-feed Facebook ads that tend to cap at 1% [Source].
If you have the opportunity to experiment with print media in your marketing program, here’s how to nail it:
1. Define Your Goal and Budget
Unless you have a marketing budget the size of Procter & Gamble’s ($$$$$), hoping to “generate awareness” among a broad audience solely with print media is unlikely. If you’re thinking of nurturing leads, retaining customers, or supporting a larger branding effort, a print piece could be a fit.
Be clear about how a print piece will support your overall marketing strategy, and if you’re expecting sales as a direct result (aka direct marketing), crunch the numbers before taking the next step.
[(Number of recipients) * (4% average response rate) * (your conversion rate) * (your margin)]/ [Total Budget (design + production + fulfillment + project management)] = X. If X is greater than 1, go for it!
Here’s a spreadsheet you can use to plug in the numbers:
Example: If you’re targeting 10,000 recipients, expecting a 4% response rate, and based on past experience you convert about 15% of leads to become paying customers, than you’ll have 60 new customers. If you make $200 per customer, and you’re spending $8k on this campaign, you’re good. (You’re generating 50 cents on each dollar spent.)
2. Write the Content
What do you want to say? You have limited real estate. There’s no “infinity scroll” on paper. (Maybe the augmented reality engineers are working on that…)
- Keep it SHORT.
- Be consistent with your brand attributes.
- Let the message drive the format.
- And don’t forget the call to action!
3. Design the Piece
It’s soooo easy to jump straight to the design phase and try to iterate the content later.
Don’t do it. I’ll admit, this is a lesson I’ve had to learn repeatedly. There’s something about seeing your words in layout form that can make you change your mind. However, when you’re working with a designer to make text changes over and over, the extra rounds get expensive and drag out your timeline.
Instead, use PowerPoint to get a feel for how the text will take up space on the page.
Your designer will need to know if this is a large or small postcard, envelope/letter combo, saddle-stitched booklet, “3D” mailer, or other size and shape. If you’re not sure, ask for suggestions or past work samples from your designer when you’re scoping the project.
Stay consistent with your online branding, but provide your designer with logo file formats (.eps) and color modes (CMYK) intended for print.
4. Think About “User” Experience
To steal an online product development term, think about the use case of this print piece. How will he or she interact with it? What do you want the experience to be like?
Consider paper stock, print quality, and envelope design. Will the piece be exposed to weather? Stuffed into mail boxes? A little wear and tear is generally understood by recipients, but if you put tissue-thin fliers on car windshields, don’t expect the customer have an easy time peeling it off.
Likewise with the call to action: Are you asking people to scan a QR code that directs to a page with the exact same content as the print piece? (This is sadly common.)
Make it easy for the recipient to take the next step.
5. Plan the Delivery Method
If you have a mailing list for your target audience, you’ve got a head start. That’s not always the norm now, depending on how long your business has been operating and what customer data you’ve collected along the way.
Otherwise, the USPS has a program that lets you mail to specific carrier routes, at a lower postage rate than if you had recipient addresses. This is a great option for small businesses targeting local consumers.
6. Bridge the Digital Divide
You’ll be so proud of your printed piece when you get samples from the printer. Post a pdf or a photo to your blog (especially if it contains particularly valuable content to for customer). Like this:
There are tons of other ways to reinforce a print campaign online.
Re-use the content and call-to-action to produce a companion online ad or ad series. Or tweak the imagery to re-use on your social media profiles, for example as a new Facebook cover photo.
7. Measure the Response
Results of print marketing can drag on for longer than an email campaign because of the nature of the medium. Printed pieces just hang around longer.
You’ll get the biggest bump in the 2 weeks after you send it, but don’t be surprised if leads trickle in up to 6 months down the road.
What has been your experience with direct mail or print marketing campaigns (in this decade)? Worth it or not?