16 Back-office Features for Effective Direct Mail Campaigns

In a previous post on direct mail best practices, I made the case that direct marketing is resurging in importance, and then I interviewed fan and expert, Adobe Campaign UK Sales Director Mathieu Lavedrine, to learn the key best practices. In this post, I list the campaign-management solution features that Mathieu considers critical to implementing those best practices.

MB: So, Mathieu, now that you’ve shared with my readers what you consider key best practices for direct marketing, let’s get a bit more into the technical nitty-gritty. What features do you look for in a campaign-management solution to make sure it can implement direct marketing effectively?

ML: It’s possible to run a direct marketing campaign with any of a long list of campaign-management solutions, but the task at hand will be a lot easier if the tool handles well several critically important aspects. Here’s a checklist of questions I’d ask a campaign-management solution vendor before signing on the dotted line:

  1. How does your solution handle households where more than one person is on the mailing list? Does it have a workflow that lets me target only a single member of the household, preferably picking the most relevant one by attributes like age, title, spending history, etc.?
  2. Can your solution work without all of the contact records having email addresses? This is a challenge that many ESPs face when repurposing an email tool to do Direct Mail.
  3. Can it automatically create and manage seed lists for direct marketing? This isn’t trivial, but I can’t stress enough how important it is. More specifically, how the seeds are inserted into the file is crucial to their effectiveness.
  4. Can it automatically manage exclusion rules such as postal opt-outs, gone-aways, passed-aways, etc.?
  5. Can the tool manage all the aside tasks such as service providers, asset stocks, budgeting, tasks, internal/external alerting, automated file transfer, and other post-processing tasks such as mail sorting, etc.?
  6. Can the tool manage channel capacity?
  7. Can it handle personalized URLs, individualized coupons, barcodes, etc. in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner? This is crucial for effective personalization and for tracking ROI.
  8. How does it optimize and personalize offline channels consistently with online ones?
  9. How are extraction templates managed? Specifically, is it complicated to change the file format, column ordering, string delimiters, calculated/derived fields, etc.? These will vary between fulfilment houses and will change over time, so they should be quick and easy to manage.
  10. Does it allow me to preview data before extraction?
  11. Can it manage approval processes for extraction, targeting, and transfers?
  12. Can it manage address normalization processes?
  13. Can it manage pressure rules across online and offline channels? This is very important if you want to manage the flow of marketing messages across channels to prevent marketing fatigue.
  14. How does it manage attribution between offline channels and online ones?
  15. Can the solution manage variable digital printing? This is usually not a day-1 requirement but is most likely where the industry is headed. Ideally, you should have the same creative flexibility with DM as you do with digital channels such as Web or email.
  16. Finally, as with any significant purchase, what references and testimonials can they provide?

MB: Wow! That’s an imposing list. I’m not sure how many solutions out there will handle all these well.

ML: Most solutions will handle some of the above well, and will allow workarounds for much of the rest. The thing is, setting up workarounds through hard-coded customization takes more effort to set up, and it makes later modifications and tailoring time-consuming and difficult. This lack of flexibility will force your campaigns to remain static instead of becoming more fine-tuned (something you would expect from emails for example). What I’d look for is a solution that can handle all of the above and all other day-to-day direct marketing management requirements in an easy, cost-effective, and sustainable way. Do remember that getting it wrong with direct mail is a costly exercise!

MB: That makes perfect sense, Mathieu. Thanks for taking the time to walk my readers, as well as me, through all this.