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Business Opportunities

Direct Mail

As marketeers return to traditional print, direct mail offers opportunities for printers to win more jobs. Genevieve Lewis discusses the possibilities of print once you get personal

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Direct mail has faced a resurgence as part of the marketing mix

You’ve got mail

The news that digital advertising does not garner as much attention as you may think might surprise you or it might not. But as the numbers clicking through decline, there is an upward trajectory for the use of direct marketing.

While it is obvious that marketing personnel will not base their entire campaign around print, it is more than likely going to play a part in it. This is where a printer can win a contract to print personalised leaflets and brochures that are specifically targeted to the recipient. Most of the time, these printed products incorporate a voucher or a discount code that will allow the receiver to save 10% and motivate them to go online and have a look.

Many companies have successfully utilised personalised direct mail or doordrop media – printed products that are not personalised but offer vouchers and offers on in store that week or month. One particular food store is Farm Foods which often send out booklets that include vouchers a certain amount of money off if you spend over £30 for example.

At the recent Power of Print conference organised by Two Sides UK, managing director of Whistl Doordrop Media, Mark Davies, explained the difference between personalised direct mail and doordrop media, and that it is based on postcode rather than personal information. Davies also notes that several companies are returning to this method.

But, you say, what about General Data Protection Regulation (that’s GDPR to you and I)? Well, because doordrop methods are based only on postcode and not on having a database full of addresses, phone numbers and names, it is completely GDPR compliant. Davies comments: “Whistl, by its very nature, is GDPR-compliant.”

Despite having no limit set by GDPR, doordrop media is not the most talked about thing in the industry. It is the idea of adding that personal touch, appealing to that singular customer that may have added something to their basket and then deleted it. Personalised mail can also work well incorporated with digital.

Bhurs has origins in magazine printing

For example, a customer logs on to a website but leaves without purchasing anything. The retailer can send an email first reminding them that there is something in their basket. If the customer still does not return to make the purchase, then perhaps sending a personalised booklet or leaflet with a voucher specifically for them can persuade them to return and make the purchase.

So why are marketeers returning to direct mail as a part of their plans? Stuart Bamford, national post press sales manager for Friedheim, comments: “Like many things that are currently ongoing, marketers are beginning to realise the value of print as a commodity and how much of a large attraction good quality print is, to their own customers.

Factoid: The Royal Mail can trace its history back to 1516 when Henry VIII established the ‘Master of the Posts’.O

“I would go so far as to say the resurgence can be attributed to the fact that people are sick of the junk filling up in their inboxes due to how cheaply they can be targeted by marketeers, instead they are turning back to a more expensive option knowing that the public no longer has junk filling up their letter boxes.”

But is the resurgence in interest in direct mail solely down to less junk emails entering our inboxes? Bamford continues: “In some cases, GDPR has had a detrimental effect, those who were caught not taking it too seriously were caught out by those who planned ahead and made sure of their compliance, which meant they gained real traction in the marketplace. Many thought it was a storm in a tea cup, not knowing that the tea cup was a lot larger and the storm had gathered momentum enough to warrant a lot of thought and planning.

“Direct mail providers and marketeers alike are now much more responsible with their data, and if they didn’t take the use of such data seriously before, they sure do now. However, saying this I can think of some pretty big names who have always treated the data with respect and the lifeblood of their industry that it has deserved. It’s these companies who have grown their direct mail business into mammoth, highly-efficient and smart solution enterprises.”

Let’s get personal

So, what is key to getting the most out of direct mail? Bamford continues: “Personalisation is key for the marketeers to be able to target, analyse and strategize their next campaigns. This, however, can lead to personalisation purely for the sake of it. This doesn’t work, everyone can do a mail merge. The key to successful personalisation is relevance. Whether the mailed item has been targeted to the particular end user, their specific needs, their specific desires.

“This is where the data comes in useful, by correctly analysing the data to target specific segments with different messaging, different mail pieces, different effects, marketing professionals can receive massive leaps in conversion. The personalised mail item is hugely important to the overall strategy and needs to be carefully planned out. Simply added the end users’ name will no longer cut it.”  

The catalogue mail order market has long identified that print and online go together and that people want to browse online but they also want to flick through and page turn

Tricord, a Northern Irish firm based in Lisburn, concurs that well-thought-out personalisation is the best way to get the most out of direct mail, which is more favoured over simple doordrop media. John Rodgers, a director at Tricord, says: “The catalogue mail order market has long identified that print and online go together and that people want to browse online but they also want to flick through and page turn. They’re both very strong complementary components in the marketing mix.

Tricord, a Northern Irish direct mail company, says that personalisation is the key

“We focus on addressed personalised direct mail delivering attention-grabbing and effective direct mail formats. Personalised direct mail not only grabs the attention of the specific individual targeted but will also typically engage a customer’s full attention for a lot longer than digital.”

Personalised direct mail grabs the attention of the specific individual targeted. Relevant personalisation is key. Rodgers continues: “We work with a number of retailers processing their highly personalised preference driven loyalty schemes. Using a series of data analysis and processing tools we produce individual mailers tailored to key parameters such as customer’s nearest store, preferred brands or instore facilities. Specific vouchers and coupons are printed and mailed to each customer.”

As a company that focuses solely on the delivery of direct mail, has GDPR had an effect? Rodgers adds: “GDPR has obviously heightened everybody’s minds and consciences about the need for consent for digital marketing, with the fear of data breaches and fines much more of a risk in digital communications. We feel as well that digital is very transient. More businesses are talking to us partly because of GDPR and also because of the significant benefits of using direct mail, either on its own or in conjunction with other media formats. With cluttered inboxes and the increasing volume of digital communications, people often scan through emails quickly before moving onto the next one. Direct Mail offers greater trust in your brand, longevity and reach, more often being passed around and read by more people.”

The idea of flicking through a well-made personalised booklet or letter is something that Bamford similarly believes is the way for print companies to take advantage of the direct mail boom. He adds: “Printers can take capitalise by introducing some really special embellishment options as well as providing highly creative mail solutions. Direct mail has never needed to be simply a folding product with some smart catchphrases. The material and complicated folding is where printers and direct mail providers can really take advantage of the finishing techniques and the high levels of automation available from Friedheim.

Tricord has worked with a number of companies to create personalised mailing campaigns

“Not to mention the flexibility of the machines making short runs much more profitable than before. Some of the example pieces we’ve seen printers do in collaboration with the manufacturers and sometimes even the marketeers themselves have people wondering – you got all that from one flat sheet of paper?”

Actions speak volumes

Rhiannon Phelan, marketing manager at Xeretec, says that high volumes and a demand for a fast turnaround is also something that marketers will require. She explains: “To maximise ROI (return on investment) marketers are looking for highly personalised direct mail with tailored imagery, messaging and offers specific to individuals. They typically have high volumes and demand quick turnaround times and want all of this at the best price possible.

To maximise ROI (return on investment) marketers are looking for highly personalised direct mail with tailored imagery, messaging and offers specific to individuals

“Cut sheet Xerographic devices can’t meet the cost or time to market demands, whilst offset cannot provide the personalisation or time to markets requirements, inkjet technology fills this gap, offering high volumes of personalised content, cost effectively with quick turnaround times making it perfect for direct mail.”

 Phelan continues: “Not only does inkjet provide a lower cost per page compared to Xerography but it can be make your direct mail operation far more cost-effective by eliminating the need for pre-printed forms. Typically, when producing high volumes of direct mail, print companies will print a colour shell on an offset device then run it through a Xerographic device to add the variable content. Inkjet technology allows you to cut this two-step process into one by printing variable data and colour content together, saving time, money and giving you more scope for adding personalised content.”

The Xerox Brenva HD Production Inkjet Press offer fast turnaround times for firms

Xerox offer a number of inkjet printers that are suited to the fast-paced direct mail market. Phelan adds: “Xerox Brenva is a cut-sheet inkjet with media versatility and print speeds up to 300 A4 duplex images per minute. It is ideal for those looking to capitalise on the economics of inkjet printing but require all the versatility of a cut-sheet device. The Xerox Rialto sa fully integrated narrow web roll feed with perforation, cut, trim and stack with print speeds up to 342 A4 images per minute. It is ideal for those seeking a smaller footprint and lower entry point into production technology.

The award-winning Xerox Rialto can print up to 48m a minute

“The Xerox Trivor 2400 inkjet press, wide web continuous feed device with support for traditional offset coated stocks printing up to 76m per minute. With High Density inks delivering outstanding quality across a range of media, the press is ideal for those looking to run higher-value applications while leveraging the attractive economics of inkjet.”

Investing in technology such as the Xerox Trivor can up a printer’s direct mail game

The machinery is not the only thing that printers need to think about when wanting to make the most out of the direct mail market – there is also the software. David Baldaro, product marketing manager for XMPie, a partner of Xeretec’s, explains: “The success of a direct mail marketing campaign can be greatly enhanced with XMPie software for driving advanced print personalisation and can be used with any print press, including cut sheet and inkjet.

“As marketers learn more about their customers and prospects and are able to utilise that information effectively throughout each communication cycle and across a variety of media channels, they can transform their customer relationships into loyal, long-term relationships and brand ambassadors.”

With the direct mail market presenting opportunities to printers, it is clear that there are a number of elements that will help take advantage of this interest from marketeers. This is down to the need for a digital and print marketing mix in order to be successful, and a cleansing of inboxes from the public. For printers to take advantage, they need to look at factors such as inkjet technology, the correct software and perhaps value-added print to offer that little bit more.


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