Marketing automation is dramatically cutting the time it takes to respond to prospects and customers. It is efficient and drives scale. It is also proving to be more effective than manual processes. Five years ago, when marketing automation (and the inbound method) was beginning to gain traction, Nucleus Research pointed out that it was driving a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. The gains since then have been substantial with many more companies embracing the inbound marketing methodology and automation platforms. Marketing automation is also increasing message personalization at scale. In essence, it is transforming all communication channels including direct mail which has once again become popular for its unique contribution to driving engagement despite postage costs.
Why is direct mail becoming popular with marketing automation? HubSpot, a leading marketing automation vendor in its most recent 10K report to the SEC provided good reasons:
- Online advertising has limited engagement. According to DoubleClick, as of November 2015, overall 3-month average industry click-through rates on display ads is only 0.2%
- Email services and spam filters are increasingly enabling customers to filter out and de-prioritize promotional messages
- 91% of people have unsubscribed from email marketing lists
- More than 220 million phone numbers have been placed on the U.S. Do Not Call registry
This trend has led tech-centric direct mail companies to offer direct mail workflow automation solutions that plug & play with off-the-shelf CRMs and automation platforms as well as integration services to support proprietary customer databases. The promise of direct mail workflow automation is that direct mail can be:
- As easy to send as email
- More relevant than ever because of automated event triggers which can increase response 5x
- Integrated with, and guided by, digital analytics to refine target mailing lists thus reducing waste
- Easy to track with data brought back into the marketing automation platform
- The key to a higher ROI relative to other communication methods
As already mentioned, direct mail pieces are become increasingly personalized. With today’s technology and big data resources, it’s not enough to personalize by just using recipients’ names or other variable text. Rather, direct mail personalization increasingly includes variable images to create unique mailing pieces whether they are photos or artwork selected according to geographic or demographic characteristics or website interactions. For example, Google’s Street View API is significantly helping real estate investors connect more intimately with prospective home sellers. Recipients immediately recognize the photo of their home and the visual cue causes them to engage longer and examine the message more closely. This method is also being used in the home improvement industry and by home owners associations. As a result of marketing automation, we are now entering the age of hyper personalized direct mail as offered by the digital marketing firm, Enthusem.
Digital marketers are increasingly seeking direct mail offerings referred to as automated direct mail and programmatic direct mail. Over time, the USPS’s Informed Delivery program will drive this further because it is inherently changing direct mail to add a digital component.
Companies who embrace marketing automation and leverage the full spectrum of communication methods including automated and programmatic direct mail will advance ahead of their competitors. The nice thing for most businesses is that they’re not behind the curve – at least not yet. In 2014, a study by Mintigo reported that only 3% of the 1.6 million mid-market U.S. businesses with a website presence had implemented any of the most common marketing automation applications. However, the landscape is changing fast as testified by the growth of marketing automation companies like HubSpot which has increased its customer base by 454% since 2012.