Some marketers were showing signs of renewed interest in physical mail as an effective way to make an impression and stand out from the crowd. And then… well, you know what happened when the virus confined people to their homes. Businesses shut down, marketers canceled campaigns, and mail volumes quickly dropped.
COVID-19 took the momentum out of the movement, but will mail be permanently affected? That’s a question we can’t answer yet, but assuming the economy will eventually recover and the Postal Service remains viable, I think interest in the mail will be renewed.
The reasons for the pre-pandemic uptick in mail’s popularity will still apply whenever commerce resumes. Email, social, search, and text will continue as primary marketing strategies, but to get attention for their offers while augmenting their digital efforts, businesses will eventually reinvest in the mail.
Mailed communications get opened more often and create action more effectively than any other channel a marketer can choose. For print/mail service providers, the trick is convincing marketers that the extra cost to run a direct mail campaign is worth it. The way to do that is increasing the value of mail even more. Use tactics like higher deliverability, better targeting, and personalized messaging to increase the ROI of direct mail campaigns.
The Business Shut-Down Will Change the Game
A by-product of the pandemic has been a surge in the use of tools allowing remote workers to interact, participate, and collaborate. I’ve been invited to a lot of Zoom meetings lately! After social distancing is no longer necessary, some organizations will decide that work-from-home (WFH) is a practical strategy. A portion of WFH staffers won’t be coming back to the office full time. As people spend more hours in front of screens at home, physical communications that arrive in the mail will be a welcome diversion. Mailed communications will stand out from the hundreds of emails consumers must wade through every day. I think postal mail will still play an important role so long as campaigns are well planned, integrated with digital channels, and carefully targeted.
As they emerge from mandated closures, local brick and mortar businesses will be interested in re-building their customer bases. Mail can play an important part in this effort. As areas of the country open up, governments are telling many businesses to limit how many customers they can serve at a time or directing companies to implement new procedures. Local mail is a great way to reassure customers about safety measures while encouraging them to shop in person with coupons and discounts. Maybe discounting purchases for in-store customers wearing the branded masks they got in the mail would work!
Preparing for the New Normal
Hopefully print and mail service providers are using any extra time they have now to evaluate their procedures, talk to customers, and create strategies for success once the economy gets rolling. This would be an ideal time to explore ways their businesses can add more value to direct mail campaigns. They can enhance customer data for greater personalization, generate variable offers with digital presses, or integrate mail with electronic campaign elements. Print/mail service providers can change the focus away from cost per mail piece and towards conversations about achieving customer objectives.
While waiting for the recovery, this would be an excellent time to use online resources for training and research. Get the sales force trained on consultative selling and line up partners who can augment traditional print/mail services in areas such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and graphic design.
The mailing business took a hit, but I’m optimistic about the creative and forward-looking people of this industry who will not be complacent about how they prepare for recovery. Mail is so much different from the electronic communication channels upon which we rely, especially during a lock-down. When businesses re-open they will need to attract customers again-perhaps under the post-pandemic “new normal” way of doing things. Mailed communications will still be the way to break through digital clutter and re-engage with customers.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at www.printmailconsultants.com and www.pmccontentservices.com. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.