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Nailing the Email-DM Combo

Which Timing Strategy is Best?

Generate big response with this dynamic duo
Savvy marketers know that email is a great way to add extra muscle to a direct mail campaign. The key to flexing that muscle: The right timing. So which works best — sending email before, after or on both sides of a direct mail piece? It depends on your audience and what you're trying to accomplish.

3 real-life examples
Check out these real-life examples of how companies are using email and direct mail together to drive double-digit increases in sales and leads.

Generate advance interest
With email such a cheap way to turbocharge a direct mail campaign, it's no surprise that companies are using it to soften up prospects before the offer goes in the mail.

For the biggest impact, companies time delivery of the e-mail and direct mail so they arrive within a day or two of each other. This strategy has worked for Tower Records, which improved sales 76% when it used email to announce the imminent arrival of a special catalog. Customers could purchase by phone through the print catalog or by clicking through the e-mail to a special site developed for the campaign.

Provide an extra lift
Other marketers swear by email's ability to lift results after a direct mail piece has gone out.

These marketers send email to:
  • remind customers who've already gotten a mailing to look at it again, or
  • give customers a second chance to respond.
Depending on the customer segment being targeted, the email might highlight a specific product, service or offer. Does the strategy work? You bet. Lillian Vernon uses it regularly to produce a 40% lift in sales. A campaign using the same tactic has also worked for the Milwaukee Ballet. Its integrated campaign beat earlier single-channel efforts by 20%. But that's not all. By slipping a "forward to a friend" link into the follow-up email, the company:
  • generated sales from customers not originally on its list, and
  • added confirmed buyers to its database.
Create a 'sandwich' effect
s For an even bigger impact, you can use email to announce and follow up a direct mail piece, creating a "sandwich" effect.

After one such campaign, a buyer survey showed that 62% of customers who opened the direct mail piece recalled getting the heads-up email.

In addition, 33% of customers who opened the envelope responded to one of the enclosed offers. The company, Cool Savings, achieved this success by:
  • telling prospects when to expect the direct mail piece in the email
  • teasing prospects with hints about the offers in the mailing, and
  • following up with a second chance to respond, in case the mailing slipped past prospects.
Adapted from "Email or Direct Mail? It's No Contest," by Shannon Coulter, DM News, 11/1/04.

Lessons Learned
Companies that combine email and direct mail often:
  • improve response and sales
  • grow their databases by using viral links, and
  • reach more prospects in their preferred channel.
Reprinted with permission from
The Marketing Report
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