If you're under 30 you may think Direct Mail is ancient technology. Passe'. A marketing dinosaur in an increasingly electronic age. But before you write off Direct Mail as being irrelevant, youngster, you may need a bit larger perspective than your tender years allow.
What you may not realize is that direct mail is the Grand Dame of marketing. Like Grand Dames everywhere, Direct Mail lead the way to Direct Marketing. Like what other Grand Dames—Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor—did for the film industry, Direct Mail did for Direct Marketing.
If Hepburn and Taylor showed ingenue actresses who followed how to act with style and maximize their assets, Direct Mail showed upstart media like email, websites, microsites, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, other social media and YouTube how to do it with style... and how to maximize their results.
Segment data, test packaging, test messages. Use personalization, teasers and pinpoint messaging to get the best return on investment. The first media to do it all—and to do it all right—was Direct Mail.
But life goes on. Sometime around 1960 the electronic invasion began and direct marketing rules started to change. Equipment got smaller, faster. New technologies arose to take advantage of these smaller, faster thingies. Other new technologies allowed better data capture and collection. This is where you enter the picture, newbie—at the dawn of the electronic era.
The wave of new media changed the way we communicate, giving us many new ways to do so. And because the older generation really does want to communicate with the younger (please ask your Mother), Direct Mail had to learn a few new tricks as well. After all, a True Grand Dame can evolve—just look at what Elizabeth Taylor became. (I could digress at length, but will avoid the temptation.)
Today, savvy marketers of all generations say Direct Mail has proven to be one of the most effective means of driving leads to websites and mobile platforms.
How did Direct Mail do it? By integrating new technology into print media. That's how. Personalized urls (PURLS), and quick response codes (QR codes) are only two of the most obvious techniques Direct Mail has made its own.
Variably printed PURLs direct prospects to personalized microsites customized to the individual recipient's interests and concerns. On the self-named site, recipients can leave specific information about themselves, which allows the marketer to prequalify leads and segment lists for more accurate messaging later.
Want another great evolutionary and revolutionary example? Try QR codes! QR codes take a recipient with a smart phone straight from the printed page to the mailer's webpage, YouTube video, or FaceBook page.
Want to promote something with a web-based address? A QR code is the fastest shortcut to get an interested person there. Want to segment your list into different messages or different platforms? Use different QR codes—one for each message or platform.
And it gets better! The USPS is so excited about QR codes, that it is offering a 3% postage rebate in July and August of 2011 for mail pieces that meet the requirements. I mean, when have you heard of the government giving the public something? Big banks and brokerages, car manufacturers, oil drillers, Big Ag and pharmaceutical megalopolies, sure. But you and me? This is amazing!
But more is coming. This is only the beginning. Direct marketing is evolving as I type. Intense list segmentation and data mining is creating the possibility of ever more personalized approaches. Variable Data Printing ensures that each recipient can get a message and graphics specific to that person's needs and interests. I can't begin to predict where Direct Marketing will be in even a few months. But someone somewhere is working on an amazing new app today that will change the conversation yet again tomorrow.
After all, Grand Dames don't become Grand Dames by sitting around on their tushes and eating bon bons. They get out and do things. They make things happen. They change themselves and their worlds.
That's what Direct Mail has done... and is doing. In the process it has become marketing dynamite.