TARGETING & ACQUISITION  |  The new reality – using direct mail to enhance your email programs in the CASL era

 By Dave Ward

It might be an understatement to say that email has become a powerful marketing tool. In the mid-to-late nineties, text-based email was plain and rather boring. But today, email features a robust suite of options to make messages visually pleasing, as well as functionality to expand message content by linking to websites, microsites, contests or relevant articles. Further, these links can feature pURLs (personalized URLs), which are data driven tools that can help you connect insightfully with customers and prospects. Beyond this, we can even monitor results and determine who has opened our emails and what links they have clicked on. This is powerful information.

As you know, email can be used to promote sales, events, industry news, blog content and a myriad of other items. Compared to direct mail, email is very inexpensive as there are no print, mail preparation or postage costs. It is a valuable tool that you would expect to find in every marketer’s arsenal, and those who use it effectively continue to reap the benefits.

However, with the introduction of CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) on July 1, 2014, the stature of email in Canada was forever changed. Today, we can no longer communicate via email unless we have implied or express consent. This means that, for the most part, we can only communicate with individuals who have provided express consent or with whom we have existing business relationships. Moreover, we should expect to be challenged by authorities should we send promotional emails to anyone falling outside of these groups.

Still, having already demonstrated the tremendous value of email, it only makes sense that we would like to broaden our email lists and communicate with more people to showcase our wares or expertise. Of course, most businesses that use email to communicate news and events have facilities that allow people to sign up for these email deployments. There are also various sites where you can also sign up for further engagement with different brands. But just how do we get new prospects to sign up now that we can no longer communicate with them via email?

In an “e-world” one would expect options to include online advertising and embedded links within various social media platforms. Will that do the job? Maybe. But, why not take a closer look at direct mail – the very medium that email has often sought to displace?

We have already noted that direct mail can be considerably more expensive than email, but what if the direct mail campaign helps you to effectively broaden your email reach? In that case it could be a very worthwhile investment.

Many people go fishing but not all of them are successful. The same can be said for direct marketing. Some people use it very effectively, but others experience poor results. There are reasons, but it mostly comes down to fishing in the right waters at the right time with the right bait. So, before we embark on a direct mail campaign to augment our email list, we should take a close look at what we want to say, how are going to say it, who we are going to say it to and, last but not least, how we are going to motivate people to sign up.

Let’s start by looking at who we want to receive our message. When attempting to establish this target market, I do not think that you can go too far astray by simply looking at your current customers. Who are they? Where are they? These types of questions should help you to develop a valuable profile of prospects that you might target. For an addressed mailing, you might go to a broker to purchase a list of prospects that match your profile, or you might do some web research to gather business name and address data if you wish to target a particular business market. For Unaddressed campaigns, Canada Post’s Precision Targeter can help you to hone in on specific markets.

Next, take a serious look at how you are going to get peoples’ attention. We managed the fulfillment on a multi-phase campaign a few years ago that saw a return of $1.00 in ongoing monthly revenue for every $1.47 spent – truly astounding. I might add that the overall cost per piece was $16. Yes, it was expensive, but it also got a lot of attention and delivered remarkable results. Of course, you can get attention without spending this much money. Some things that can help are special shapes or die cuts, powerful headlines, and exceptional creative and physical presence.

Targeting the right markets and having peoples’ attention are two important first steps, but how can you get them to actually sign up to your email list? Well, sometimes you have to prime the pump. Ask yourself what is the average value in future potential sales for each person that subscribes to your list? Using that as a guide, what can you give in discounts, samples or premiums that might be commensurate with this? Would you invest in a $20 bottle of wine for a new relationship that might provide you $1,000 in ongoing annual revenue? I certainly would.

I would like to finish off on a final important note. Remember that it’s not about you; it’s about the customer. The real value of dealing with you lies in the benefits you can deliver, and in particular, how you can help solve your customers’ problems. A friend of mine once said, “Business is a fair exchange of values” and as long this prevails the business relationship stays healthy. Getting a new prospect to sign up to your email list is one thing, but more importantly, you have to demonstrate the ongoing benefits of dealing with you.

Yes, overall, marketing in Canada experienced a significant change now that CASL is a reality, and for those of us that value email as a marketing and/or communications tool, we now have to look to new ways to expand our lists. It might seem odd to use a medium that has been dramatically affected by email to further develop your email database. However, email remains a very powerful and cost-effective marketing and communications tool and intelligent investments in ways to continually build your valued email list can only enhance your bottom line. Direct mail might just be the answer.

Dave Ward is President of Highland Marketing and is a strong proponent of multi-channel direct marketing and campaigns that are tastefully different, stand out and get noticed.

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Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.

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