A batch of marketing people who are new to postal mail may be coming your way, now that direct mail has experienced a resurgence in popularity. That could present some challenges for seasoned mailing professionals used to working with customers who are more experienced.

Some digital marketers have long ignored direct mail because it was "old-fashioned," "not sexy," and "too expensive." As they venture into postal mail pool for the first time, they probably don't know what they don't know. It may be up to veteran mail professionals to educate them. That’s you!

Here are some things new mailers who are used to digital communications should know about direct mail:

1. Direct mailers don’t waste money producing undeliverable, poorly targeted, or irrelevant mail.
In digital channels, where production and distribution costs nearly nothing, spending time to clean up the data may seem unnecessary. But it’s vitally important for direct mail. You should never spend money on paper, ink, production, and postage to create mail that has little to no chance of producing the desired result. This means it takes more time up front to clean and validate mailing files. Plan on a little extra time for your mailing partner to optimize your data.

2. Direct mail professionals take the time to proofread documents and double-check accuracy before pressing the “print” button to start a production job.
Unrecognized mistakes in an email, social media post, or text message may be embarrassing, but fixing them is cheap. Not so with printed materials. Once they’re printed, your only method of correcting errors is re-running the job – an expensive proposition. Be sure to examine pre-production proof copies. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Direct mail can be tracked. Attribution is possible.
Using methods such as Informed Visibility from the US Postal Service, each mail piece in a job can be tracked individually as it travels throughout the delivery network. With methods such as QR codes and personal URLs, marketers can also determine which mail recipients responded to the call to action on the mail piece, so marketers can follow up. With direct mail you still get valuable metrics.

4. Colors in print can differ from colors on digital devices. Color choices affect cost.
The CMYK color gamut of a printing press may not include all the colors that can be produced on a computer monitor. Electing to print colors such as bright fluorescents can require custom inks at significantly higher cost. The paper on which the images are printed will also affect the color of the finished product. Ask your print partner for color advice.

5. Involve mailing professionals early
The USPS has specific requirements regarding mail piece design, but marketers don’t need to know all of them. Just ask mailing professionals to review designs and proposed materials before you finalize them. A minor adjustment in piece dimensions or address placement can make a big difference in the cost of a mailing. Talk to print/mail vendors early in the process. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

6. More data is available
A name and address can be the key to accessing data that allows marketers to target and personalize their offers. Mail service providers can enhance mailing lists by augmenting bare bones data files with information about age, income, home ownership, credit scores, and more. With additional information, marketers can filter unlikely prospects from the list and send compelling, relevant offers to those who remain. If your prospect list lacks postal addresses, mail service providers can arrange to have them appended.

7. Personalization enhances direct mail success
Modern digital printing devices can personalize mail pieces in many ways. You can vary the text, offers, images, and nearly every other aspect of a direct mailer, much as you can with email. Personalization and segmentation strategies will improve the performance of a direct mail campaign. Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all solution.

8. Make it multi-channel
Linking direct mail to digital marketing channels is easy. One method, Informed Delivery, offers extra impressions and interactivity for almost no additional investment. Ask your mailing professional how it works. The US Postal Service even offers rebates for mailers who run Informed Delivery campaigns. Multi-channel approaches yield better results.

9. Mail delivery takes time
In the USA, the length of time it takes the US Postal Service to deliver mail varies according to the mail class and depending on where mail is deposited vs. the location of the recipients. Your mailing professional can track the mail campaign using data supplied by the USPS. If timing is critical, techniques such as drop-shipping can give mailers greater control over in-home dates. Give yourself enough time to account for production and delivery.

10. Direct mail works best with multiple touches
A single mail piece may create a better response than an email, but mail works best when you mail repeatedly to the same list. This is particularly important when brand recognition is the goal. Experts suggest marketers will see better results if they plan for multiple mailings.

Print and mail operations may seem intimidating to marketers who have spent their careers worrying about keywords and clicks. Helping them understand what to expect and how to avoid mistakes is one way to increase the odds they will realize satisfactory results from direct mail campaigns. Share information with digital marketers, and they will see that mail isn’t as difficult as they thought.

Mike Porter works with companies in the printing and mailing industries to help them raise awareness for their companies, improve their rankings on search results, inform potential customers about the value of their products and services, and keep prospects interested as they proceed through the buying process. Learn more about his services at www.pmccontentservices.com. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.