Admit it. You thought direct mail was dead as a marketing tool.

You’ve spent the past three years thinking about how you should design a Facebook page so more people will “like” you, or whether or not you should start tweeting tips about how to select a move (i.e., you). Well, not so fast. Did you know:

  1. Direct mail is rated by consumers as one of the most influential forms of marketing communication (along with television and recommendations from family and friends)?
  2. Direct mail is seeing 5 percent-plus response rates and 1000 percent-plus return on investment (ROI) among targeted consumers in the moving and storage industry?
  3. Direct mail programs are driving cost per booked move well below $200?

It’s not because the direct mail creative has gotten so much better (I have yet to see a successful direct mail piece that delivers 3D video along with those ultra-hip horn-rimmed glasses), but rather because the data has gotten so much better. As the adage goes, “Direct mail success is 40 percent targeting.”

Targeting the Right Consumers

Movers have access to more data today than at any time in the past. These data, along with sophisticated analytic techniques, allow movers to identify:

  • Which consumers have listed their homes for sale
  • Which consumers are most likely to use a full-service mover
  • Which consumers are most likely to need long-term storage
  • Which consumer profile is most profitable

Having this level of insight available for consumers in your service area is the key to successful direct mail (or any direct marketing, for that matter). The reason is that this kind of targeting insight “works both sides of the street” (i.e., positively impacting both revenue and cost).

It increases response rates and revenue per booked move by ensuring that direct mail is delivered to the consumers who are most likely to be interested in your specific value proposition (be it self-service or full-service) and who are likely to be most profitable. It also decreases waste and cost per booked move by eliminating consumers and/or addresses that would never be interested in what you have to offer, or possibly aren’t even in the market for a mover.

Applying the data to develop highly predictive approaches to direct marketing is not rocket science. In essence, it involves going back into your past customer files and finding those customers who were the most profitable to your business (i.e., your “best” customers). Next, get an external data provider to identify these past customers on their database history of home listings, address changes and demographics. Once you have identified enough of them, a competent analyst (yours or theirs) can build a “look-alike” profile, or model, of the characteristics of a property or individual that represents your best prospects for a profitable move.

Timing is Everything

Even your best prospects, however, don’t want to hear from you all the time. They want to hear from you at the right time. Selling a house, relocating to a new city or finding a new apartment across town has always been stressful, and it’s not getting any less so. The number of decisions to be made and the seemingly endless number of options can be mind-numbing to a consumer. Getting your direct mail message into a prospect’s mailbox at just the right time can be crucial to your program’s success.

Once again, data (and the analysis of it) is available to help. While consumers (and even many realtors, it seems) don’t have a clue as to how long a home will stay on the market, direct marketers can use indicators such as the location, size, and price of a home to dramatically increase their success in predicting whether the home will sell in 60, 90, or more than 120 days. Thus, moving and storage marketers can deliver different kinds of messages to consumers at different stages of the “move window”. Depending on the stage, those messages could offer solutions for “de-cluttering,” highlight the benefits of securing a mover early or present time-sensitive offers for moving in the next couple of months.

Predicting the move window isn’t the only application of today’s data explosion. Website registration, search optimization and even social media are providing opportunities for triggering relevant direct mail communication at just the time when consumers would most benefit from them. Remembers, just because consumers use digital media to research, explore, and compare moving options doesn’t mean they are only (or even most) influenced by digital communications. Using digital behavior to trigger direct mail timing can be one of your most successful marketing approaches.

Holding Your Marketing Accountable

When it comes to accountability, direct mail programs are imminently measurable. When you implement a direct mail program, just make sure you select two different groups of prospects: one you are going to mail and one you are not going to mail (i.e., the “control groups”). Next, record how many consumers out of each group you move over the next three to six months and how much revenue you generate from each. The difference between the two is the incremental revenue you generated from each. The difference between the two is the incremental revenue you generated with the direct mail. Divide it by the cost of the program, and you have the return on your marketing investment, or ROI.

Once you begin to evaluate your ROI, you are ready to optimize your programs, wringing the most out of every marketing dollar you spend. Determining the incremental revenue from mailing to a moving prospect is the first step. Once you have that value, you can begin to budget the return on mailing various geographies. You can also evaluate the value of mailing during the identifiable prospects and the mailing schedule that produces the best results.