Data and Direct Mail: The Post-Pandemic Shifts You Need to Know

Credit: Pexels by Lukas

Direct mail has long been a top performer within the B2C and B2B marketing mix, and the pandemic has heightened awareness of the channel’s unique strengths more than ever this past year. At the same time, the shifting dynamics of the workplace and business climate have brought new pressures to bear on the operation of a successful direct mail program in 2021 and beyond. 

The consequences of the Covid-19 crisis — from social distancing and lockdowns to remote working and increased competition in digital channels— have prompted a surge in investment within the direct mail space this year and into the foreseeable future. That said, these same forces have created new data management challenges that marketers must address to preserve and strengthen ROI within these programs. Let’s take a look at three recent shifts around which marketers must realign their direct mail efforts. 

Data Accuracy Amid Rapid Change

Data accuracy has always been a vital component of successful direct mail campaigns, but the pandemic has up-leveled its importance in two key ways: 

  • In squeezing marketing budgets, the pandemic has put greater pressure on every dollar spent, meaning mailings to dead or unreceptive addresses create even more of a pinch than in the past.
  • Turbulence within the business landscape — where temporary and permanent closings, not to mention new remote operations and home office policies, have kept the market in a constant state of flux — has made data freshness more vital than ever when it comes to ensuring mailings are reaching their intended recipients. 

Now more than ever, marketers must ensure their direct mail files are being actively rather than reactively managed. That means looking for databases that are not only regularly processed through NCOA, but also call-verified to confirm accuracy on an ongoing basis and updated in real time. Likewise, these databases should be built in a way that can accommodate the growing crossover between the work and home. 

The Blurring Work-Home Divide

The level to which the pandemic has blurred the lines between home and work is unprecedented. For B2C brands, this shift to the home office has been a boon to direct mail efforts, as people are closer to and more attentive to their home mailboxes than usual. For B2B marketers, though, the likelihood that mailings to office addresses are going unnoticed (if they can be delivered at all) has skyrocketed. 

That said, the migration of people’s professional lives to their home offices does represent an opportunity for B2B marketers that can pivot their direct mail data strategies. This starts by seeking our data sources that are focused on bridging the gap between people’s professional and personal worlds. Leveraging these sources, marketers can:

  • Find existing business customers at home by matching a current customer file against a B2B-B2C crossover data source, thereby finding home addresses that can be leveraged for retention mailings.
  • Overlay B2B-B2C crossover data onto prospect files to find these individuals at home and continue acquisition-centric mailings. 

The Growing Omnichannel Imperative

Even before the pandemic, B2B and B2C marketers alike understood the importance of cross-channel marketing. In light of the monumental shifts of the past 12 months, the importance of doubling-down on these efforts can’t be overstated. For direct mail marketers, it’s vital to be leveraging channels like email to fill in the gaps created when people’s home and work lives were upended in unexpected ways. 

Leveraging crossover data that can link people’s professional and personal lives is important, and such data goes beyond mailing addresses. These data sets should be used to enrich a 360-degree view of customers, from physical addresses and email to social and other media habits. 

Ultimately, the way to break through with customers in their disrupted worlds is to understand them as complete humans — not just one-dimensional beings that exist only as job titles or flat consumer personas. By reinventing their approach to data, direct mail marketers can turn the challenges of the past 12 months into opportunities for improved acquisition and retention efforts into the future.