By Greg Whiteman, manager for market research, USPS®
With consumer spending sliding and the economy in a downturn, marketers are more pressed than ever to build relationships with target audiences. They must develop a bond that goes beyond a single sale and into long-term engagement with the brand. This type of interaction isn’t a marketing luxury, either. Engagement is quickly becoming one of the most important and hotly contested industry battlegrounds of 2009. And no channel can engage as potently as direct mail.
Consider that most businesses grow by acquiring new customers or increasing the spending of existing customers. When you create a relationship with a consumer, you increase the likelihood that you will either win that customer’s loyalty or increase their share of wallet.
To this end, mail remains an ideal medium. It is a fundamental, familiar, easy and safe communications pipeline into homes. Moreover, mail stimulates multiple senses at once. And unlike typical Internet marketing — where the consumer has to initiate contact with the company — mail brings your brand to the consumer. In fact, one USPS study shows that 98% of consumers bring their mail in each day, and that 77% of customers sort through and organize the mail immediately.
When consumers receive mail, they know they are in complete control of the relationship. They can open the envelope, remove the contents and decide whether or not to keep them. They know it’s a secure, private message, which helps them be open to an ongoing dialogue. There are none of the privacy concerns that in digital marketing frustrate the connection the company is trying to forge.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that the digital realm can’t strengthen engagement.
But mail can target in a way digital just can’t match. In the home, one person is typically responsible for handling the mail. Known in our circles as the CEO of the Mail, this person is also the household’s bill payer and principal shopper in 85% of homes. That’s the person most marketers want to reach. There’s no similar connection between a computer user and the manager of home life. E-mail messages may get to the right home, but not the right person.
By the right person, I mean the influencer in the home. For instance, our research shows that, in three-fourths of American households, women are CEOs of the Mail. In these households, women are also overwhelmingly responsible for responding to marketing offers: 95% determine which ad materials to keep; 93% clip coupons; and 86% write the checks. So not only can mail engage, but it’s much more likely to engage the person most responsible for purchase choices.
Some marketers feel mail is not as effective at brand building as it is at generating response. But mail can be just as effective at building a relationship with a brand.
For instance, large retailers have always used mail to retain and strengthen relationships with existing customers. While some store mailers, like coupons or special promotion notices, aim to get customers in the store, other pieces communicate changes in the relationship with existing customers, such as upcoming merchandise or special events. The retailers differentiate themselves by building a deeper relationship with their consumers, resulting in a definite advantage in the marketplace. Mail can engage customers like no other medium because consumers already trust it and are open to receiving it in a way that makes building marketing routines and relationships around it very easy.
—Source: Deliver® Magazine April 17, 2009 (www.delivermagazine.com). Deliver is a U.S. Postal Service publication.