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Stand out in a noisy world by surprising your customers

Personalized direct mail can wow your customers, build deep relationships, and boost profits.

By Michael Epstein · November 11, 2021
Hero image with an icon of an envelope representing email

As an eCommerce veteran who's run marketing for multiple eight- and nine-figure brands, I've seen companies exclusively chasing new customers while forgetting about serving those who'd already chosen their brand, product, or service.

Make no mistake: your current customers are your best lead sources. 

You've already earned their attention. They've chosen you and said, "yes, please!" Since you've acquired them, they're also the cheapest. And once you get a customer repeating, it gets easier to keep them coming back.

But there's a problem: most online businesses use all the same worn-out tools when it comes to grabbing those oh-so-crucial second and third sales. They're all competing in the same digital sandbox—and it's messy and loud in there. Differentiation becomes nearly impossible when your competition starts to offer the same features, value propositions, and prices. 

Sure, you could spend your way to mindshare with brand advertising like Coca-Cola or McDonald's, but that's not practical for nearly all of us. Instead, you have to remain top of mind by creating a brand experience unlike any other. In other words, making your customers say "wow" is no longer optional. 

After years of testing different ways to get this wow moment, I found a goldmine: most online businesses woefully ignore the offline world—forgetting that these days we're lucky to get a 15% email open rate. Harnessing the power of surprise and delight, I created successful win-back and VIP campaigns using personalized direct mail. 

Get your business into people's homes, not their inboxes

The results from the direct mail campaign were astonishing: the businesses I was running would see a 9-20x return across various niches. Best of all, we were getting eyeballs in people's intimate places where no one else was: inside their homes, kitchen counters, and living rooms. In my house, my wife keeps a stack of the promotional postcards she receives from her favorite brands and feels compelled to use them.

I knew I was onto something, but it was an unsustainable, logistical slog. I'd waste time with clunky spreadsheets, finding a print house, managing graphic designers, and trying to calculate the ROI of campaigns. And since there was no automation or triggers, I was doing it all manually in huge batches.

And that's when I had my aha moment. How could I make creating personalized direct mail as easy and targeted as an email campaign or flow? That's when PostPilot was born. And since then, I've seen thousands of brands achieve their wow moments. 

Before offering some tips on how to make it work, here's an example, so you can see what I mean. Morris 4x4 is a top online retailer for Jeep accessories, and like many of us, they face fierce competition and high acquisition costs. They're targeting valuable "Jeepers" who are on a never-ending quest to spiff up their rides.  

They used the tools we're all used to: email and social media ads targeting their customers. And their messaging was spot-on: it was personalized, used strong imagery, and created a sense of urgency. But there was a glaring problem: most customers weren't even reading it. And they're likely not reading your emails, either. Which means that no matter how dazzling your offer is or how clever the subject line, you're still leaving big money on the table.

In addition to win-back emails, Morris 4x4 tested sending personalized postcards using PostPilot. They started with customers who had not purchased in the last 70-90 days, selecting a random subset of 2,000 customers to receive postcards along with regularly scheduled emails. The remaining 15,400 received email only. Here's a look at the postcard that took 15 minutes to create.

The postcard from Morris 4x4, with a picture of a Jeep on the front that says "Done with your Jeep build, Dennis?" and has a limited-time 10% discount on the back.

The customers who received the postcard generated 160% more revenue with 87% fewer recipients. (That's an 18.5x better conversion rate and a 680% ROI. We did the math.)

Then they took it a step further and used PostPilot to send handwritten notes to their VIP customers who made over a certain number of purchases. (Our proprietary robotic technology allows us to write handwritten notes at scale with the personality of a human hand. We use real pens with real ink. Heck, even the envelope is handwritten and affixed with a real stamp.)

A handwritten postcard and envelope addressed by hand

The results spoke volumes. Over 60 days, Morris generated nearly 11x the revenue from customers that received the handwritten card versus those that received email alone. And they were able to deliver this level of wow at scale since they didn't have to write everything out manually.

How to deliver wow at scale

I hope it's clear that, if you want to boost customer loyalty and lifetime value, direct mail is at least worth a try. If you decide to give it a go, here are a few tips to help you maximize your results.

  1. Send to customers who haven't been back within a specific timeframe (e.g.,  45-120 days). The number will vary based on niche and industry, and you should choose your timeframe based on how often your loyal customers come back.

  2. Provide one compelling offer and an expiration date. A common mistake is to give customers several options, which leads to indecision. Stick to one clear offer. And make sure to have a defined expiration date to compel action.

  3. Don't reinvent the wheel. Use a template (PostPilot has free professional design services too) to create your custom card. No need to start from scratch every time.

  4. Integrate your direct mail app with the other tools in your tech stack. You'll want to connect your mailings with your eCommerce platform or your CRM. If your apps integrate with Zapier, you can trigger the sending of a custom card when a customer meets your criteria. 

Ultimately, you can have the best of both worlds: the powerful results that come from offline marketing plus the integrations and behavioral-based automation the digital world has to offer. 

A little goes a long way

Breaking through the noise in a loud world is more challenging than ever—and in a digital world, humans crave real, tangible connections with your brand. You'll stand out and generate higher lifetime value. Oh, and you'll get more referrals and stellar reviews and create raving fans who stay loyal to your business. The payoff is worth it.

This was a guest post from Michael Epstein, a principal at PostPilot, a platform that allows you to send personalized postcards automatically and at scale. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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