If you want to drive traffic to your website, which media should you use?
Email delivers traffic quickly and at low cost, though open rates can be low. Social marketing shows great potential, but it takes effort to make it work. Then there are PPC, banner ads, and other online strategies, all of which deliver varying results.
But what about traditional direct mail?
Too many people suffer from an "oil and water" mentality when it comes to mixing online and offline media. But they work well together. And when you need to drive online traffic, an integrated approach can often work wonders.
According to the 2009 Channel Preference Study by ExactTarget, direct mail influences 76% of Internet users to buy a product or service online. Better still, direct mail remains the one medium that gives you direct and reliable access to nearly everyone in your target market.
How do you drive Web traffic with direct mail? Here are some pointers.
- Make a compelling offer. It's not enough to ask people to visit your website. You need to give them a powerful reason to do so—a compelling and valuable offer, such as a free trial, seminar, white paper, savings coupons, or sample. It must be something they want, not just something you want them to see.
- Use an easy-to-type URL. Unlike email, where you can include a clickable link to your landing page, in direct mail you can only print a URL. Your prospect must type it into a browser. The shorter and easier it is to spell, then, the easier it will be for people to visit your page. If you create a separate domain exclusively for the promotion, the URL can be much shorter. If you want the landing page on your site, redirect from the unique URL to your page.
- Test a personalized URL (pURL). a pURL gets extra attention and creates curiosity. For example, a pURL using my name might look like this: DeanRieck.Widget.com. This is easy to type and allows for tight integration of the direct mail piece and landing page for tracking.
- Try personalized copy. Just as a pURL gets attention, personalized teasers, headlines, subheads, and body copy attract attention and encourage reading. Use personalization with restraint—to avoid the appearance of an over-the-top sweepstakes mailing.
- Issue a clear call-to-action. If you want your prospect to complete a survey, for example, say "Go to BobSmith.Gadget.com and fill out our survey to claim your $100 Savings Coupon." People are more likely to respond when you specifically tell them what to do.
- Push response with a deadline. As in most direct marketing situations, people are more apt to respond immediately when they know they have a limited time for doing so. With whatever offer you make, state a deadline near the call-to-action.
- Test various formats. Because of printing and postage costs, many people use postcards to drive Web traffic. But you can also test self-mailers, flyers, and envelope packages. The amount of pre-sell required should dictate the format. The simpler and more valuable your offer, the less pre-sell you need. Only testing can show you for sure.
- Build a special landing page. Generally, it's not a good idea to drive traffic to your homepage. There are too many choices on those pages and too many ways for prospects to get lost. By creating a unique landing page and driving people to that page, you can control the message, track response, and collect information for follow-up and future direct marketing efforts.
- Capture contact information. A one-time visit offers limited value. Good direct marketing practice dictates that you use a first visit to begin a dialog. And to do that, you must at least ask for the visitor's email address and maybe first name (to personalize future communications). Depending on the value of the offer, you might also be able to get full name, mailing address, and other information to build your in-house database.
Should you use email, social, and other online media? Absolutely. But smart business people don't make decisions based on personal preferences or novelty. They make decisions based on what works.
So if traditional direct mail is working for others, you should test to see whether it can work for you as well.