Direct Mail: The Key To Unlocking The Potential of Customer Experience
Customer experience (CX) is having a moment – and it’s about time. And as far as direct mail is concerned, there couldn’t be a better time.
Organizations and their marketers are finally seeing the light and are focusing more on how they treat key audiences (including their employees), and how to leverage that treatment for marketing and performance gains.
Superoffice calls CX “the new battlefield” and notes that:
- 86% of buyers would pay more for a great customer experience
- High-end customers are willing to pay almost 20% more for high-end goods and services in exchange for a great customer experience
- Almost half of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience
- Companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in CX
Meanwhile, Salesforce has found that:
- Three-quarters of business leaders believe relevant and reliable CX is critical to performance
- 90% of service professionals say customer service is the responsibility of the entire company – not just their department
- Companies which excel at CX have 1.5 times as many engaged employees as CX laggards
- Companies that invest in employee experience are four times more profitable
- These companies also tend to be 25 percent smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation
That’s powerful stuff – and that’s really the tip of the iceberg.
Why CX makes so much sense
Why are more companies heading down the CX path? One big reason is because it’s just so logical.
To start with, why would you not treat your customers well? They’re your customers, the people who buy your products and services, but in many cases they’re more than that. They’re people that you’ve spent a lot of time and money inculcating a relationship with.
Oftentimes they’re your friends. At the very least they’re people you don’t want to lose, because replacing them is so darn hard, and more expensive by the hour.
That’s one thing. Another is that it’s much easier for customer-service people to treat customers well, especially when they’re empowered and have the tools and resources to make things right for customers.
Studies have shown that empowerment is at least as compelling a motivator as money when it comes to employee retention. And if you thought replacing customers was difficult and expensive, whooeeee! Wait until you try to replace your best customer-service reps.
And that’s still not the best part.
The best part is that when you treat customers really well, not only do they stick around, and your best employees stick around, but they start doing your marketing for you.
Consumers crave authenticity, and often find that authenticity in social posts and reviews. If your customers are really happy, they’re going to leave great reviews and blast it all over social media, and that’s the equivalent of thousands of neighbors telling their neighbors about this great experience they just had.
You can’t buy that kind of marketing juice. Literally.
So let’s recap: A really good CX program can help you retain customers, retain employees, lower marketing costs, and increase repeat purchases … and everybody feels good about the process and better about themselves.
That’s why CX is so hot.
DM and CX
Okay, so where does direct mail fit in?
Direct mail, as we’ve discussed many times, is a very high-touch communications medium.
The term “high-touch” is kind of a frou-frou thing that’s bandied about where it shouldn’t be, but it applies in the case of direct mail.
Direct mail is not generally tossed off casually. It’s not a snippet of code or a few lines of electronic text.
Someone, or several people, took a great deal of time to think about what they wanted to say and how they wanted everything to look and feel and even smell. They involved a designer, a printer and likely a direct-mail specialist.
They thought hard about the desired end result, and decided they wanted the recipient to feel special, and take action because they felt they were being given an offer personally.
To use another word that gets thrown around way too causally, good direct mail has a very “bespoke” feel which aligns perfectly with CX-based marketing.
So how do you get direct mail to drive a CX program to that happy land of overall satisfaction and bottom-line results?
Here are a few thoughts.
What makes you happy? What makes you feel like the most special person in the world? Dig deep and answer that question, and then apply that to your direct mail.
Results vary, but very often that special sauce includes:
- A high level of personalization
- A really good offer with direct appeal
- High-end packaging and delivery
- Paprika – not too much; just the right amount
You may not be the target audience, as Steve Jobs purportedly pointed out, but you’ll do in a pinch.
Ignore the paprika for just a second and focus on the top three. How personalized can you make it?
This is where having a great customer-relationship-management system (CRM) really pays off. Dig deep into your CRM and see what you can glean about your customers. Look for things like:
- When’s their birthday?
- Where’d they vacation?
- Do they have pets?
- Do they have a family?
- What causes are they passionate about?
You think CRMs don’t capture this stuff? Many do – and can deliver hyper-personalized messaging as a result.
(Here’s a hint: The CRM gold is in a customer profile, an employee profile, or the stuff your salesperson talks about with your clients before getting into the meat of their sales pitch. Capture that in your CRM using custom drop-down fields or, if you must, text boxes. The more you can capture and quantify that, the better you’ll be able to customize appeals.)
A great offer
If you think you can’t afford to give your best customers an incredible offer, or pay your employees more, consider the cautionary tale of a business that was staffing its call center with $10-an-hour employees and experiencing 120 percent turnover.
In other words, it would start the month with 100 call-center employees and end the month with 80 – few of whom actually started the month in the call center.
The business did some calculations and determined it could have paid its original employees $45 an hour and still have been far better off than continuing to plug the gap with $10/hour employees.
When considering an offer for your best customers, don’t just look at how much margin you’re eating – look at how much it would cost you to get and keep a customer at least as good, and also look at who they’re talking to and what they say.
If you can get one of your good customers to recommend you to others, what could you stand to gain – and what expenses aren’t you expending?
Opportunity cost is a slippery number. If you don’t account for all the values wrapped up in a positive customer experience, you’re valuing your existing relationships too cheaply.
High-end packaging and delivery
This is where the “experience” aspect of CX comes in. What do you want people to feel when they hold that envelope in their hands? What sensations are you looking to generate when they open the envelope and examine its contents?
Is every sensory aspect consistent with your brand? Is the messaging on-brand? Is the offer unmistakable? Is it easy for the recipient to take action on the offer?
And finally, when everything has been opened and consumed, what do you want the customer to feel?
Be intentional. Work backward from the desired outcome – and not just the desired outcome, but the desired emotion. Can you define how you want people to feel, and can you deliver that feeling in your mail piece?
While there’s much more to creating a superior customer experience than just a mail piece, that piece can be a major differentiator … which is how the CX game is won.
Want to use direct mail to drive your CX program – or do you want to know how your business can be more CX-focused? Contact us for ideas.
By Jim Felhofer 7/11/22