Like many terms in the digital marketing lexicon, “marketing automation” is widely used in discussions and presentations but isn’t truly descriptive. Marketing automation usually focuses only on email automation and never embraces integrating print into the marketing automation mix. Adding direct mail is easy and combining triggered email and postal mail boosts the results exponentially.
What is Marketing Automation?
Before discussing why you should add a non-digital medium to an automated digital process, a brief description of marketing automation will be helpful.
Marketing automation is any practice that automates the marketing process. Automation kicks in when a customer or prospect responds to a blog post, social media post, or cold outbound email produced by a marketing organization. The prospect may, for example, respond to offers for a free download, webinar registration, or request more information. Marketing automation software (popular brands include HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce Pardot) registers the customer’s response and initiates another action.
While dozens or even hundreds of actions are possible, a few typical activities include:
Email Marketing: Sends an immediate email to the customer and schedules additional automated emails to be delivered later in the sales cycle.
Lead Nurturing: Any marketing communication intended to further develop the relationship with a lead or contact, moving them through the buying process. Organizations can track the engagement of these activities and personalize the communications based on behaviors, interests, and perceived intent.
Social Media: The marketing organization can track what their audience posts across social platforms, who shares content, and with whom they share it.
Analytics and Reporting: One of the greatest benefits of automated marketing is accumulating data and providing analytics and reports. This helps the marketing organization decide what is working for them.
What might be missing here?
Print and Direct Mail
As marketing organizations customize the digital experiences of their audience, they have a chance to create a more relevant and personal experience by adding printed direct mail into the equation. Direct mail marketing continues as one of the most powerful marketing tools available, yet digital marketers using automation software tend to ignore it and therefore are missing an entire touch point opportunity. Adding triggered direct mail with email promotion and nurturing escalates message effectiveness in both channels.
Marketing Automation and Direct Mail
Before adding direct mail to a marketing automation program, you must define criteria and guidelines of who will receive postal mail (i.e. those most likely to respond to the offer). Each criteria will affect a trigger point. When a contact meets the criteria, such as a lead score, they automatically receive a piece of postal mail that matches the actions they have taken online. An inquiry from a male contact looking at a specific pair of shoes online would receive an entirely different direct mail piece than a female who clicked on an ad for a luxury purse. A contact living in Detroit could receive an entirely different mail piece than a contact living in Atlanta, and so forth. The more personalized and relevant the printed piece, the better the response.
The underlying thread of everything you’ve read about digital marketing and direct mail is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, when considering response rates.
When to Mail: Lifecycle Based Triggers
Direct mail isn’t just for nurturing the prospect to complete the sale. While the medium excels in closing the deal by placing something tangible and permanent in a contact’s hands, it also supports the relationship post-sale. Post-sale communications should begin right after customers place an order. Don’t wait until it’s time to renew. Marketing automation systems send triggered emails based on customer behavior or events. The same strategy applies to direct mail.
Events that could trigger a direct mail piece or package include:
- Welcome letter or welcome “kit”
- Printed thank-you card for placing a new order
- Printed certificate after reaching a loyalty or rewards point goal
- An anniversary card celebrating the customer’s first order, along with a discount or gift
A direct mail piece is the perfect, personal way to complete a sale started by a digital response. Print is also a great way to build brand awareness and loyalty by adding direct mail to the marketing automation sequence. Several studies over the last few years have revealed that direct mail integrated with personalized digital messaging can produce a sales lift of up to 19%. Electronic media creates consideration, but print closes the deal.