Direct marketing is a field that quite often goes unnoticed or, at best, is the last phase of the communication planning process. It is a tick box on a list of deliverables and usually does not get the attention that TV commercial gets, both on the creative agency and in-house side. Instead, it ends up following the ATL campaign message or is an outlet for current promotion or abandoned baskets. Yet, even with limited stakeholders’ attention, it is often a channel with the highest ROI and efficiency.
While it has its specifics, as always-on communication with somehow limited means of expression, you can successfully apply the basics of human psychology and interactions to make your content better. The shortest advice? Don’t be boring.
Company leaders can sometimes act as a newly married couple that wants to show all their friends and family pictures of their honeymoon in Egypt and their newborn baby. What in the world can be more exciting to see? For companies, it can be their product or origin story. So let’s proudly show it to the world! While the same as 100 pictures of pyramids in a slideshow, communication will be effective with brand exposure and limited interaction (again, the TV comes to mind), sometimes the same approach is translated to emails or other direct communication. Although there are still clear KPIs to show customer weaning interest (ranging from more extreme, as unsubscribe, to more minor, as dropping ORs), direct marketing lacks means of feedback that we all know from social media as comments or laughing reactions. That said, we have to resort to more subtle cues when planning and to refine direct communication.
As with all marketing, the good starting point is to be as customer-centric as possible. What do we know already about our customers that can feed into our content planning process? If we are yet to start the loyalty or direct communication program, what seems to be our best bet to be attractive? In both cases, the idea of providing instant gratification might be helpful.
There is one way to provide it that became a mental shortcut for direct marketing efforts – discounts. Although it can be a helpful strategy, especially in some moments of the customer’s lifetime, it is a two-edged sword. Especially in industries following clear seasonality, customers might learn to calmly wait for the structured discount period or even open new accounts for a welcome discount for.. third time this year. But I would advise looking for other ways to reward the customer for opening our message – it can range from humor, through individualized project recommendation, to knowledge that will make our customer shine at the next home party. Of course, it can never be separate from the brand tone of voice and strategy, but let’s not limit ourselves to discounting, as strictly transactional communication can be easily disrupted by someone new with the bigger promotional budget.
So, while the details will differ business by business, here are some thought starters for something that will be interesting for your recipients outside the closest family (or the most engaged fans that will warmly welcome any message coming from you). Sticking to Egypt example, instead of the 98th picture of your spouse with the pyramid, you can share:
- Insider deal – connection with the hotel owner for a bigger room at the same price (for example, early access to general sale);
- Honest review and personal recommendation – you know your friends, in which city they should stay, which restaurant is only Instagrammable, and where you can get great food? (personalized product selections, users’ reviews, bestsellers);
- Usable knowledge – a secret recipe for a dessert that you traded your soul for, the best museums to visit, and time to travel;
- Jokes, anecdotes, punchlines – if you can make them smile by telling how camel ate your hat, it is as valid instant gratification moment as any, and cost less than souvenirs for everyone (or direct discount on every signal coming from the customer).
Such a thought process is just the beginning of designing content or reevaluating your existing efforts. I hope it will be a good reminder that direct communication is a two-way transfer of value – and you don’t want to become the brand equivalent of this one friend that everyone avoids for a month or two after holidays.