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Direct mail and digital marketing can work in tandem to drive recall and action.SUPPLIED

In the digital age, direct mail remains a powerful tool in the marketing tool kit of small businesses. When both channels are used together, marketing experts say businesses can amplify their message to consumers and maximize their reach.

“Research shows that there is definitely a place for direct mail in the marketing mix. It works better than many people think,” says Sara Clodman, vice-president, public affairs and thought leadership at the Canadian Marketing Association.

She cites research from Canada Post: “Consumers have a 10 per cent higher brand recall with direct mail and digital than pure digital campaigns,” says Ms. Clodman.

With both forms, businesses can target customers by demographics, psychographics and geography, and segment specific postal codes or even addresses, notes Audrey Jamieson, president of Marketing Kitchen Inc. in Markham, Ontario.

Digital marketing and direct mail each have their strengths. Digital can be faster and cheaper. While direct can often be more captivating, and drive greater brand awareness or response.

Ms. Jamieson says direct mail “is a lot more engaging”, as consumers make a conscious effort to retrieve their mail from their mailboxes and take the time to read it. “You are in a different psychological frame of mind when reading your physical mail than when you are with your digital mail, which can often be seen as an interruption” she says.

Effectively, this can make a brand more memorable, especially if the mail is from a local business with which customers can connect, says Dave Vander Ploeg, executive vice president, business development at DRMG Inc. in Toronto.

Direct mail can literally put a small business' message into the hands of the right target market. Research shows that consumers act on it, whether that means ordering a product or service, visiting a physical location or website, or engaging on social media.

Mr. Vander Ploeg says that direct mail is more transparent and facilitates greater trust, and is also a stimulus to go online. “It doesn’t fight digital mail, but works in harmony with it,” he says.

With direct mail, small business marketers can choose from among the one-to-many option (Neighbourhood Mail), one-to-few (Postal Code Targeting), and one-to-one (Personalized Mail). The solution all depends on the business needs, such as increasing awareness, acquisition or loyalty.

There’s a synergistic relationship between direct and digital mail, says Brenda Porter, director of customer experience at Mail-O-Matic Services Ltd. in Burnaby, B.C. Several studies indicate that “direct mail drives business to digital platforms,” she says. Ms. Porter suggests that people “are more likely to read an e-mail about a product if they previously received a flyer about it.”

According to a Canada Post study, 53 per cent of people are more likely to read paper-based mail than e-mail, and almost one-third share direct mail ads they receive with someone else. Other research by Canada Post found that more than one-third of small businesses have used direct mail over the past 12 months, mainly because it allows for targeting.

When executing a combined digital-direct mail initiative, businesses can send catalogues, flyers, postcards, coupons and special offers to customers, which either leads them to a bricks-and-mortar location or online. Ms. Jamieson says direct mail promotions and offers are also a great way to reach out directly to customers who already support your business.

The current environment offers another incentive for direct campaigns. “With more people staying at home during the pandemic, and less visits to restaurants and shops, direct mail is a distinct way for brands to reach consumers in their homes to nurture those relationships,” says Ms. Clodman.

At a time when people are maybe consuming too much content digitally, direct mail is also a way to stand out.

Any campaign, says Ms. Porter, needs defined objectives, inspiring creative, and access to reliable data for targeting the right customers. Businesses must have the ability to precisely measure the results of any campaign and determine their return on investment, adds Mr. Vander Ploeg.

Consider the compounding effect too. Businesses can enhance their brand recognition and recall when they use each medium at the right time, and employ both to work better together.

“Marketers who combine both approaches will improve consumer outcomes,” says Ms. Clodman.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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