Direct mail is an essential marketing channel for any company seeking to build relationships with existing and prospective customers.
During tough times, these relationships are even more critical. Distribution of timely mailings with new destinations and offers is vital.
Mail is a personalised way of doing this and is well suited to travel, which was among the top 10 sectors listed in Marketing Direct magazine's 2008 report on The Top 100 Direct Mail Spenders in the UK.
Spend rose by nearly 50% on the previous year. But one of the biggest misconceptions is that direct mail is just for major players. Even the smallest operators can use it to increase business.
During tough times, the temptation is to cut back and wait for the crisis to blow over. But experience from those who have weathered previous economic downturns, suggests that investing in marketing during these times is a way to boost business.
An analysis of the Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies database presented at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising conference in March 2008, found companies that maintained their marketing budgets during a recession gained an additional average of 1.3% of the market share during the recovery period.
Data on prospective customers is becoming cheaper to buy and easier to integrate into marketing programmes, so there is little excuse for not being better targeted and achieving higher response rates from mailings.
Data on consumers who use travel services can be analysed and segmented with precision and mailings can be personalised to a fine degree.
Good consumer data - either for targeting new business or to enhance customer databases - is not just the preserve of large companies. Today, data can be bought in smaller volumes or on a pay-as-you-use basis, and database software solutions are available off the shelf.
However, a word of caution: firms intent on despatching clumsy bulk mailings, hoping their brand will benefit, will come unstuck.
Recipients expect direct mail to be relevant and marketers must realise that poorly targeted mail can damage a brand or customer relationship.
Get the best technology
Mailroom technology makes it easier to put together cost-effective marketing mailers. Folding, inserting and franking technology offers users convenience.
Postage can make up a sizeable portion of the cost of most mail campaigns.
With rates frequently changing, employing the latest intelligent franking machines that link to the internet to provide downloadable postal and soft-ware rates, is key for smaller players in the sector. Just last year Royal Mail announced a 2p discount for first and second-class franked mail.
Use transactional mail
Another way to get the most out of mail and cut costs is to use transactional mailings to carry marketing messages as well.
The increase in maximum weight for a standard letter sent via Royal Mail from 60g to 100g three years ago created an unprecedented opportunity to do more marketing through transactional mail, but many businesses have failed to take advantage of this.
With the mailing of itineraries, confirmations, tickets, statements and other administrative communications, there is huge scope to include brochures, special offers and other marketing messages at no additional cost.
Track and measure campaigns
In a recession, it is more important to be able to prove return on investment and justify any marketing spend.
Direct mail results can be more accurately measured than advertising campaigns and most other promotional activity. A company knows how many mailings it sent out and to whom - and how many and who responded.
Before sending out a mailer, ensure mechanisms are in place so that responses can be easily tracked and measured. This data can then be fed into the planning of the next campaign, resulting in a more cost-effective marketing strategy.
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