This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.


Mail can be the doorway for an interactive conversation with the customer, but it can be a bit overwhelming to get started. If you are going to embark on this communications journey with your customer, you need to think like a marketing company and not like a printer or mailer offering a single service to your customer. You need to understand the tools and how this interaction can help your customer’s bottom line (and therefore help your bottom line).


So, where does one start? You may hear several terms that suggest some marketing strategies for you to follow, and some sound very similar. Terms like multi-touch, multi-channel, cross media, integrated media, and the new buzz word in the marketing industry — omnichannel marketing. While it is not really critical you fully understand which one is which, it is crucial to understand the opportunities you have to help the customer connect with their customers. It takes some time to become competent with some of these strategies, so you might consider trying it out by marketing to your own customers.


Multi-touch: Contacting the recipient multiple times, typically with the same media, although some people will mix the media and then it becomes…

Multichannel: Using multiple media to complete a campaign

Cross media: Using multiple media to complete a campaign

Integrated media: Creating a campaign where the various elements build or work together to direct the recipient to the intended goal of the campaign (this is typically when social media enters the process)

Omnichannel: This process takes integrated marketing and expands the market to both typical retail markets as well as online services


So, what are some basic elements you need to learn to work with when you are creating an integrated campaign? The first is to recognize that people are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages throughout their day, but mail is in a unique position to deliver the introduction and create a connection to the company. This would typically be a link on the mail piece that takes the customer to the company’s webpage or to a page where they can sign up for more information or receive a special coupon or discount. It is important that the link is set up to be accessed from either a smartphone or a computer, which means you now need to be in the business of creating web pages — or at the least QR codes that can take your customer’s customer to your customer’s web page. A QR code is simply a trigger for connecting to the Internet. At this point in time, a QR code is the most common connection tool, but there are a host of other tools being created to work with Near Field Communications (NFC) to read a RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification), as most of the new smartphones are being manufactured with this as a standard element.


So, thinking like a marketing person, how do you know what is right for your customer? Most companies want to create a dialogue with their customer, and the idea of an integrated or omni-channel campaign is to create a targeted connection that can gather more information from the customer and offer them relevant information that is specifically appropriate for them. To do this, you need to become more of a business partner with the customer, understanding their needs and the goals of their marketing campaign. This becomes a value-added service you can offer the customer, and if you are successful in learning how to improve their response and/or their conversion rates, you can charge more for the service you offer.


Let’s Look at an Example

To give you an idea of what you might need to learn to become successful with an integrated campaign, let me outline a project and the learning experiences for a group of students that were working on a live marketing class assignment at Clemson University in the Department of Graphic Communications. We were trying to replicate a case study presented by DirectMail.io, where they created a marketing campaign that started with a postcard that had a “buy one, get one free” coupon offer. In addition to the coupon, the postcard gave the recipient a chance to win a free meal from the restaurant once a week for a year if they left their contact information on a mobile website. If they shared the offer on social media, they would receive a second chance at the free meal offer. They also could post a link for their friends to download a mobile coupon for the buy one, get one meal that the original coupon offered.


What did we need to learn how to do to make all this work? The design and printing of the postcard was no problem; after all, it’s something we do all the time. However, we needed to tool up to create the mobile web pages to collect the address information, offer a link for sharing the offer on social media, and create another page for recipients to offer the original mail coupon through their smartphones to their friends. Tracking the social media posts proved to be a stumbling block on our first attempt at this campaign. While the students were comfortable using social media, they had no experience tracking social media. We learned after our first attempt that we needed to collect their Facebook name and Twitter handle to be able to track them on Hootsuite for the free meal offer. Learning how to track their posts and tweets was a totally separate task. Our first effort produced reasonable results, but our second try (when we were able to track the social media posts and collect all of the contact information for the customer) was much more successful. We were offering the customer a more complete package to solve their marketing problem. Hootsuite is only one option to consider; there are a wide variety of tracking options available.


There are a lot of case studies available that you can read to help develop a strategy to create an integrated marketing campaign. What is critical is to learn about the customer’s needs and create a plan using all your company’s resources to offer them something that brings value to their company in a way that your competition cannot. Remember, it is not like you can just purchase a software program that instantly makes an integrated campaign that will work —you need to add the special sauce, which is your company’s expertise. Bring the unique and creative brain power of your staff to the table to serve the customer and you cannot go wrong. Just remember it takes time to develop this ability. There’s no better time to get started — don’t put it off.


Dr. John Leininger is Professor, Department of Graphic Communications at Clemson University. He can be contacted at ljohn@clemson.edu.


Resources:

URL to learn about and make QR Codes: http://www.QRStuff.com or http://bit.ly/integrate-2

Snap Tags: http://bit.ly/integrate-3 and http://bit.ly/integrate-4

Digimarc: http://www.digimarc.com/ or http://bit.ly/integrate-5

Augmented Reality: http://bit.ly/integrate-6

Near Field Communications: http://bit.ly/print-17-1

Xerox Digital Printing Case Studies: http://bit.ly/integrate-7

MindFire case studies and whitepapers: http://bit.ly/integrate-8

Best Social Media Monitoring Software in 2017: http://bit.ly/integrate-9

Integrated Media Research Center (IMRC): http://bit.ly/integrate-10

Clickable Paper by Ricoh: http://bit.ly/integrate-11

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