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5 tips to optimize your print and digital communications

by John Hankins

If you've given up on mail marketing, you may want to take a second look.

Are you looking to increase return rates on your current direct mail program or trying to decide if direct mail will be an effective marketing tool for you?

Well, you are not alone.

Mail still plays a strong role in today’s communications; it has evolved like the rest of our industry. One route to evolving mail to deliver success for you and your clients is to add an interactive layer to your direct mail campaign.

There are many digital communications tools available to you today that provide personalization and interactive content. So how do you go about taking steps to bring digital content into your direct mail program and which tools do you incorporate? Do you even know what your options are? Here are a few tips that can help start you in the right direction: 

One route to evolving mail to deliver success for you and your clients is to add an interactive layer to your direct mail campaign.

1. Know your audience

For some recipients direct mail will be the way to go. For others, they may prefer an email campaign. Understanding your recipients’ preferences can go a long way toward a successful campaign. If you aren’t already, conduct a survey — or obtain your client’s data — of your recipients’ communication preferences and habits. Analyzing this data can unlock valuable insights about which channels are most relevant to your users.

2. Develop a marketing plan

Before you begin, it is important to understand the goals and objectives you wish to achieve and then plan accordingly. Here is where you would lay the groundwork for an interactive component.

3. Establishing a clear call-to-action

It’s important for you to instruct your targets on what they need to do to receive what you’re offering, e.g., "mail back this card to receive two free issues of our publication." If it’s not clear what you’re asking your audience to do, chances are no action will be taken.

4. It’s all about the data

Good data and effective use of that data are the key building blocks to delivering targeted content that ultimately leads to a positive ROI. It’s crucial to determine where you get this data from (i.e., collected directly from customers or other micro-level activity, or purchased from a list provider) and how you’ll use the data to build profiles to more accurately deliver mail according to your targets' preferences.

5. Understanding mobile device significance

Once you have the data figured out, you need to figure out how to link your print and digital resources. Some of the technologies that printers and mailers are using to bring more value to content owners and consumers include:

  • pURL — takes the recipient to a landing page that was built uniquely for that individual based on either collected data or purchased data to help target the message. For example, a personalized URL (pURL) such as www.auto-ad-promotion.com/johnsmith could take Mr. Smith to a landing page that references his five year-old Chevy and invites him to visit his local dealer for a new minivan.
  • QR Codes — can be personalized like a pURL, but because they can simply be scanned with a mobile device, they provide recipients with easier, more immediate access to online content. Imagine targeted text that is supplemented with an eye-catching QR code on an envelope; with QR codes, you can add instant creativity and relevance to your mail pieces.
  • Hashtags — are most conducive to social media and are used to both tag and search for content. For example, a hashtag such as #mailtechnology could be used to publicize related content and create a community of interest around it.
  • Image Recognition (IR) — uses mobile devices to scan an image and link it to content on the Internet. IR can be built from any image, a paragraph, or a picture etc., and then seamlessly embedded into your content.
  • Digital watermark — is an imperceptible and unique image pattern that is embedded in your content and can be used with both images and text. It can be personalized just like a QR Code and support variable interactive content based on the context of the image, such as videos or other promotional content
  • Augmented Reality (AR) – offers more complexity and sophistication than the other tools discussed. With AR, you get an augmented view of printed content by placing your mobile device over the content. An example of this might involve printed material that requires recipients to interact with their devices to see an ad for a new car. This technology provides a great opportunity for direct mailers, printers, and their customers to differentiate themselves.

Revitalize your direct mail results

With powerful new technologies, you can advance your print and digital communications for today's unique opportunities.
Another great feature of adding mobile devices, such as through AR, into the equation is the additional data they create. Many of the above applications capture information about customers so that you can get the right message to the right person, and take advantage of opportunities to introduce tailored content onto landing pages. The key to success is to learn how to capture, manage and transform information about clients to produce relevant, targeted campaigns.

Always remember that the most successful campaigns stem from a marketing plan, offer a clear and strong call-to-action and deliver high quality content across print and digital. Pull those aspects together and you will see results.
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John Hankins is a Strategic Program Manager, Production Print Cloud Services, Ricoh USA, Inc.