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How to Use Direct Mail to Drive Targeted Website Traffic

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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.


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Dean Rieck is a direct-marketing copywriter and consultant (www.directcreative.com), and publishes the popular Direct Creative Blog (www.directcreative.com/blog) and Pro Copy Tips (www.procopytips.com).

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  • by Peter Tue Aug 3, 2010 via web

    Direct mail influences 76% of Internet users to buy a product or service online, proves that DM is a great method to attract customers.

  • by Deb Kennedy Tue Aug 3, 2010 via web

    Really enjoyed this article, one of the few I've come across lately that does a great job bridging the gap between online and offline media. So many people think its one or the other and don't understand the value in using one channel as a means to supplement another. Thanks for posting this.

  • by Erik Formica Tue Aug 3, 2010 via web

    As a vendor to the DM community it is refreshing to see someone finally pointing out the great synergy that exists between mail and web. My company has seen great success with client campaigns that link these aspects especially through the use of service/product specific landing pages. Great post!

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 3, 2010 via web

    Yes, yes and YES! Our clients have had tremendous success via the use of PURLs and without question Direct Mail is, and always will be, a very effective marketing tool.

    Awesome post Dean!
    Steve Olenski
    fmidm.com

  • by Todd Foster Tue Aug 3, 2010 via web

    Another great article on how print is a vital role in the communications mix. I would offer one other technology and that is QR codes!

    We have done several QR code promotions for clients and use them for campaigns ourselves. This is an inexpensive method to drive traffic to a website.

  • by Steve Gordon Tue Aug 3, 2010 via web

    Great article...My clients are finding consistent results using direct mail to drive website traffic...with solid ROI.

    Steve Gordon
    1000smallbusinesses.com

  • by Clare Laurie Wed Aug 4, 2010 via web

    Great to hear more about joining up online and offline marketing - thanks Dean!

    Whilst many businesses have moved all direct marketing activity to email (usually because it's 'cheaper'), this has actually cleared the mail channel to make it far easier to get attention for your message - as long as the message is relevant and well executed. Consider: how much mail do you discard without opening compared to how many you emails you delete without opening?

    The added benefit of using email and DM together is measuring its effectiveness. I've recently run a campaign myself (coincidentally for a conference precisely about the topic of joining up online and offline marketing - http://cometojump.com) and the email open, click and response rates from those who received a mail piece prior to the email were each more than 100% higher than those who simply received the email. Adding a phone call into the mix pushed this even higher...

    Consumers move seamlessly between online and offline, and the marketer should consider what is the relevant message to send and in what format: play to the unique strengths of the format you've chosen.

    Clare Laurie
    Econsultancy.com

  • by David Vogel Wed Aug 4, 2010 via web

    Excellent topic and points. To track the impact of your direct mail campaigns on site traffic, I'd also recommend using Google Analytics (free) and their new "Annotations" tool. Step by step instructions here: http://blog.mailprint.com/index.php/1/tracking-direct-marketing-google-anal...

  • by Katya M Thu Aug 5, 2010 via web

    For our company, direct emails is #1 more clicks than google when we send them out. However, this effect dies out over time.
    I find LinkedIn to be a GREAT referral engine - only google and direct search bring more traffic than LinkedIn on a regular day.

  • by David Spaulding Fri Aug 6, 2010 via web

    Great article, Dean, and I agree that direct mail remains a viable marketing channel when integrated with other marketing mediums. However, with any marketing platform, it’s important that companies incorporate preference management into their campaigns, helping ensure that their customers only receive marketing messages about products and offers relevant to them, and only through the channels they choose. Sending a direct mail piece about an irrelevant offer to a customer who has specified that they want to receive only email messages can drive them away and result in lost sales. By integrating customers’ preferences into marketing campaigns, companies can decrease the chance of annoying customers with unwanted marketing messages, while reducing the amount of wasted resources companies spent on reaching out to customers in the wrong channel.

    If you’re interested in learning more about preference management, and how companies can integrate it into any marketing channel, my recent blog post http://www.portraitsoftware.com/blog/direct-marketing/smarter-email-marketi... expands on it, explaining how valuable it can be to the success of a campaign.




    David Spaulding
    http://www.portraitsoftware.com/

  • by Ron Boyle Mon Aug 16, 2010 via web

    And with QR codes, printed DM pieces can now be "clickable" with PURLs and standard URLs taking clients directly to the web site. DM can now be part of the digital marketing stream...DM remains effective!

  • by Deborah Krier Thu Aug 26, 2010 via web

    Not that I disagree that DM can be a driver of online sales, but 76%?! What's the methodology behind that statistic?

    If this number was based on match-backs rather than a hold-out test, as I suspect, then 76% is greatly overstating the effectiveness of DM. Kevin Hillstrom covers this topic extensively on his blog at http://blog.minethatdata.com, if you want to read more about properly measuring the relationship between DM and online sales.

  • by Karen Kouf Mon Sep 27, 2010 via web

    No one addressed the growing concerns about the environmental impact of DM. Even if a great piece is printed on recycled paper and selectively mailed, so much ends up in the trash that many folks (understandably) get angry. I loved the ability to measure success with DM in the early days but now web analytics tell us so much more about customer needs, there's no way DM will continue for many more years. Integrated campaigns...yes...but soon this will only refer to electronic channels.

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