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Direct Mail Marketing: How much data have you given away?

Previously I blogged about the contents of my mailbox on a random day, read it here – “Direct Mail Marketing“, and challenged readers to play along by examining each piece of mail they received in a given day. Moving from the “contents of your mailbox review”, let’s break down the mechanics of direct marketing.

The name Ed Mayer does not ring a bell for most of us, but we encounter his contribution to the world of direct mail marketing every day when we open our mailboxes. Mayer is referred to as the “Father of Direct Marketing.” He developed a direct mail formula called the “40/40/20 rule.” While Ed popularized this formula in 1965, it is still a relevant and guiding principle of direct mail marketing fifty years later.

The 40/40/20 rule states that the emphasis or work of creating a direct mail campaign should focus 40% on determining the audience, 40% on crafting a compelling offer message, and 20% on the creative format.

Before diving in a little deeper: if you are thinking that direct mail marketing is really a thing of the past and that this 40/40/20 rule doesn’t apply, please note that this principle applies to electronic campaigns, such as e-blasts, as well as many of your other marketing efforts. Focusing on the first 40, there are many options when selecting the right audience. There are millions of people you could reach, but finite budgets and subsets of people to whom your campaign applies; so it is time to whittle away the millions to develop a core audience for your campaign.

Steps to define your marketing audience:

  1. Start with geographic reach. This is the basis for the postal service so it is a great place to start. Within geographic reach you could choose a country, state, county, city, zip code, neighborhood, or even a street.
  2. Next determine demographics. Common parameters are age, gender, average income, interest groups, etc. Defining your demographic will also affect your message and offer.
  3. Is advanced data available? Thanks to POS systems and various ways of capturing customer profiles, you may be working with a mailing list that has been developed in house. Depending on how this list was created you may have varying degrees of data about your customers.

direct mail marketing audience target

Combining steps 1-3 in varying levels of focus will result in one of the following strategies.

Saturation or Mass Mailing: This approach is used when you want to reach a large audience in an entire geographic area.

  • Geographic        +++
  • Demographics  –
  • Advanced Data –

Target Saturation: Here you are after a slightly smaller audience that has a bit more focus. In this case we start to use filters to eliminate some addresses from our list.

  • Geographic        +++
  • Demographics  +
  • Advanced Data –

Batch Targeted: This more targeted mailing seeks to align your campaign with a group of people to whom you can tailor your message to their interests and needs. For example this might include an interest group centered around a hobby.

  • Geographic        +
  • Demographics  ++
  • Advanced Data +

Personalized Targeted: This type of direct mail shows up with a personalized message or is tailored to the preferences of the recipient. This much more targeted approach can have positive and adverse affects. Have you ever received something from a company and wondered how they knew so much about you? Most often this would occur when a customer has filled out a profile sheet or given a company specific personal information in some form. For example you may have provided your birthday, areas of interest, magazines you read, next estimated vehicle purchase, etc.

  • Geographic        +
  • Demographics  ++
  • Advanced Data ++

Micro-Targeted: This is the most advanced level of audience development. Micro-targeting may be the result of very advanced data collection. An example of this would be receiving an offer for a specific product that you buy from a company, but haven’t purchased in a while. Looking at personalized and micro-targeting within direct mail marketing, may cause you to stop and think about how much data you have willingly given away for free.

  • Geographic        –
  • Demographics  +
  • Advanced Data +++

While defining your audience can take time and effort, it can save you costs in the long run on postage, printing and can raise the effectiveness of your campaign. It may be something you have to build over time if your goal is to become more and more targeted.

Reference: Act Now! A Better Response to Direct Mail