Are you looking to increase return rates on your current direct mail program or trying to decide if direct mail will be an effective marketing tool for you?

Well, you are not alone.

Mail still plays a strong role in today’s communications; it has simply evolved like the rest of our industry. One route to delivering the desired results and success for you and your clients is to add an interactive layer to your direct mail campaign.

There are many digital communications tools available to you today that provide personalization and interactive content. So how do you go about taking steps to bring digital content into your direct mail program and which tools do you incorporate? Do you even know what your options are? Here are a few tips that can help start you in the right direction:

1. Know your audience

For some recipients direct mail will be the way to go, for others, they may prefer an email campaign. Understanding your recipients’ preferences can go a long way toward a successful campaign. If you aren’t already, conduct a survey – or obtain your client’s data – of your recipients’ communication preferences and habits. Analyzing this data will unlock valuable insights about which channels are most relevant to your users.

2. Develop a marketing plan

Before you begin, it is important to understand the goals and objectives you wish to achieve then plan accordingly. Here is where you will lay the groundwork for an interactive component.

3. Establishing a clear call to action

It’s important for you to instruct your targets on what they need to do to receive what you’re offering, e.g..: mail back this card to receive two free issues of our publication. If it’s not clear what you’re asking your audience to do, chances are no action will be taken.

4. It’s all about the data

Good data and effective use of that data are the key building blocks to delivering targeted content that ultimately leads to a positive ROI. It’s crucial to determine where you get this data from (i.e. collected directly from customers or other micro-level activity, or purchased from a list provider) and how you’ll use the data to build profiles to more accurately deliver mail in the form that the targets prefer to receive it.

5. Understanding mobile device significance

Once you have the data figured out, you need to figure out how to link your print and digital resources. Some of the technologies that printers and mailers can and are using to bring more value to content owners and consumers include:

• A pURL a personalized URL that takes the recipient to a web site landing page that is built, typically on the fly, for that individual using data that has been collected or purchased to target the message. So for example, a pURL such as www.auto-ad-promotion.com/johnsmith would take Mr. Smith to a landing page which references his five year-old Chevy and invites him to visit his local dealer for a new minivan.

• QR Codes can be personalized just like a pURL but because they are simply scanned with the mobile device, they provide easier, more immediate access to online content. Imagine targeted text along with an eye-catching QR code on an envelope. QR codes can provide a route to adding creativity and relevance to mail pieces. For example, adding a QR code that launches a relevant coupon when scanned.

Hashtags are most conducive to social media and are used to both tag and search for content. For example, a hashtag such as #mailtechnology, would be used to publicize related content and create a community of interest around it.

Image Recognition (IR) uses the mobile device to scan the image and link it to content on the Internet. It can be built from any image, a paragraph of text, a picture etc. and is seamlessly embedded into content.

• Digital Watermark is an imperceptible and unique image pattern that is embedded in the content and can be used with both images and text. It can be personalized just like a QR Code and it supports variable interactive content based on the context of the image, such as videos or other promotional content

Augmented Reality (AR) offers more complexity and sophistication than the other tools discussed. With AR you get an augmented view of the printed content by placing your mobile device over the content. An example of this would be that the printed material shows an ad for a new car. This technology provides a great opportunity for direct mailers, printers, and their customers to differentiate themselves.

Another great feature of adding mobile devices into the equation is the additional data they create. Many of the above applications capture information (data) about customers so that you can get the right message to the right person and also the opportunity to introduce tailored content to the landing page.   The key is learning how to capture, manage and transform information about clients to produce relevant, targeted campaigns.

Always remember that the most successful campaigns stem from a marketing plan, offer a clear and strong call to action, and deliver high quality content across print and digital. Pull those aspects together and you will see results.

Is your business ready to advance its print and digital communications? The time is now.