Direct mail and brand measurement
In our last blog we looked at the various ways that direct mail can help build your brand. However, while brand-building is fantastic, it’s merely an idea unless you can measure your success – and know how much of it you can attribute to direct mail.
If you’re considering direct mail and are wondering how it can help with brand measurement, or if you’re currently using direct mail and are looking for better ways of measuring its impact on your brand, try the following:
- Create with measurement on your mind
- Always be linking back to your brand
- Brand your call to action (CTA)
- Think like email
- Cross-reference with your list
- Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark
Create with measurement on your mind
The best way to have a measurable campaign is to keep measurement top-of-mind every step of the way – and that starts at campaign creation.
Specifically, you want as much certainty as possible surrounding the key questions:
- Was it received?
- Was it opened?
- Was it read?
- Did they perform the desired action(s)?
If you really want to know that your mailing was received, sending the mailing in a form that requires a signature will give you that information – though at a steep cost.
Returned mail will also provide a rough measure of receipt – with the emphasis on “rough.”
And while you could have recipients fill out an enclosed receipt form in addition to other calls to action, that takes away from more important CTAs.
These answers are far from perfect. A much better way of getting a handle on receipt and open is by having a clean list – and working with a direct-mail specialist who knows something about list maintenance and cleaning.
As for your mailing being read and acted on, consider the placement of your key CTAs. Placement towards the “beginning” of your mailing will show it’s been opened; placement towards the “end” will show it’s been read – but remember that not everyone reads to the end of any marketing piece, including mailings.
To see if your CTA is being consumed, test prototypes of your mailing with colleagues and friends, and ask whether they interacted with the mailing in the sequence you designed. Was their “beginning” your beginning, or did they skip right to the “end”?
Also, ask whether the call to action was clear and compelling – and whether they made it to the CTA without bailing.
If this process seems foreign to you, look at it as user-experience testing, taken from its normal website setting and applied to a mailing.
On the back end of the mailing, make sure that your URLs are unique and tied to your main website URL. Be sure to have the developer insert the appropriate code snippets so that your new pages can be measured via Google Analytics.
If you’re using cookies, have them in place prior to the mailing.
The best way to make sure your campaign is measurable is to think measurability from the get-go. It’s significantly harder to tack on at a later date.
Always be linking back to your brand
Let’s be clear: for your direct-mail campaign to measure brand, it has to be brand.
It can’t and shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists to serve your brand, in the context of everything else you’re doing to build your brand.
It’s been mentioned many times (including in this blog) that direct mail can benefit from a QR code or a URL that takes people to a landing page that’s identified with your campaign, whether it’s a personal URL (PURL), a campaign-specific URL, or a landing page.
That’s absolutely true, but you need to take things further and examine whether these pages you’re creating for your campaign are advancing your brand image and aims.
Do the pages follow brand guidelines for color, font, and logo placement (and, for that matter, does your campaign)? Do they use the appropriate brand language – not just slogans, but also product terminology, capitalizations, and any other brand-specific terms?
Finally, does your landing page include links for people to learn more about your brand? You have to walk a fine line; you don’t want to distract people unnecessarily from the activity you want them to complete, but you also want to make it easy for interested people to learn more about your brand.
Once the back end of your mailing is set up to appropriately deliver appropriate brand messages, then and only then can you measure the impact of your mailing on brand.
If you don’t get the branding right, nothing you measure has utility. It’s all just a bunch of numbers.
Brand your call to action
While you want your call to action to encourage people to complete some sort of concrete action, you also want the action to be identified with your brand.
Here’s an example of how things can go awry: You want to build your mailing list, so you run a promotion where prospects are sent a postcard with a QR code, where they’re directed to supply their name, address and email address to be entered into a drawing for a Visa gift card.
This sounds like a fairly standard mailing … but in terms of brand measurement, what can you measure from a brand standpoint?
The postcard may carry some branding, but it may also carry little more than the name of your company and a logo. The call to action doesn’t reference your brand or product, the landing page is minimally branded, and the giveaway is non-branded. Nothing addresses your brand attributes or reinforces your brand messaging in any measurable way.
You have the opportunity of a lifetime to build your brand – and you blew it.
A call to action is a rare opportunity to tie your brand to a concrete action, whether it’s going to a website or going to an auto dealership with a key.
Generic calls to action too often result in blah behaviors. Keep your branding elements strong and to the forefront; after all, you’ve placed your organization’s messaging right in someone’s hands. Take advantage of that.
Think like email
Think about the connection between an email and your brand. Normally the email has a header with your logo. At the bottom of the email are links to your website. There may be ads on the side, again reinforcing your brand. All can be clicked on and measured.
There’s a lot of branding, brand-building, and brand measurement that goes on in the context of an email.
In a direct-mail piece? Not so much.
If you set one of your emails side-by-side with one of your direct-mail pieces, you might be amazed at how many more brand-interaction opportunities the email provides.
So … have you ever considered bringing that mentality over to direct mail?
There is absolutely no law against building a direct-mail campaign that uses a PURL and a campaign-specific website to deliver two levels of measurement: redemption of a personal offer as well as further investigation of your brand.
Code is relatively cheap, and assuming your developers have some bandwidth, doubling up on the brand measurement may provide valuable additional insights into how your customers and prospects interact with your brand.
Cross-reference with your list
Don’t forget about your list amidst all this messaging!
All prospects and customers are not created equal. Before this process began, you probably had a short list of people who you really wanted to get the message.
It’s vitally important to make sure your VIPs are getting your mailing, so earmark them on your list as the mailing goes out, and monitor them for signs of activity. If you don’t see any, follow up with a phone call.
Ask if they received the mailing but also ask some simple brand questions – and be sure to document the answers.
Sample questions may include:
- What did you think of the mailing?
- What do you think it said about our brand?
- Was the call to action clear?
- Did it change your impression of the brand?
- Do you have any questions?
In addition to going micro, go macro. Break apart your list by key attributes and see if there are commonalities among who’s opening and responding and who isn’t.
For instance, if none of the people in a given geographic area are responding, maybe it’s time for a talk with that territory’s sales rep. Similarly, if a high number of current customers are responding compared to prospects (and by “high” it might be a 20:1 or 30:1 ratio), maybe your prospect list needs reviewing … or you have a high level of brand loyalty.
Brand-building is most effective when every target audience is getting the message and is understanding the brand. Looking at your results in the context of the demographic breakdown of your mailing list helps you spot macro-level trends and make adjustments as needed.
Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark
Measuring brand changes is only possible if you know where your brand stands before and after the campaign.
Regular brand-awareness and brand-favorability research should be part of your overall marketing program. With a major direct-mail campaign it’s particularly useful to measure the “lift” provided by the campaign.
Key questions to ask are:
- Is your brand top-of-mind? Can customers and prospects name it without being prompted?
- What attributes do people associate with your brand – positive and negative? How does this compare to competing brands?
- Have people tried your brand? Have they tried your competition? How frequently? How recently?
- Have people seen your mailing? Your ads? What do they think of them?
- Would people buy your product again, or recommend it to a friend?
Examine the demographic breakdown of your survey respondents and compare it to the composition of your list. Look for commonalities and areas of divergence. Remember, who’s not getting your brand messages is at least as important as who is.
Your brand is everything. Direct mail can help you gain a greater understanding of how customers and prospects view your brand purpose through how they interact with your brand.
Want to learn more about how we can help in brand measurement using direct mail? Contact us for more information.
July 19, 2021 by Dan Topel