What Does Marketing Automation Have To Do With Paper?

Liv-ing in a material world.  Liv-ing in a material world…all of this buzz about Straight Outta Compton has me stuck in an 80s frame of mind.  Marketing Automation (MA) is often perceived as a magic bullet solution to marketing problems.  Marketers now almost universally associate MA with the software platforms used to trigger email or other digital communications based on certain online, shopping, or buying behaviors.  This relatively mature software category is incredibly useful to marketers wanting to engage buyers in a meaningful ongoing conversation about their products and services.  But what does Marketing Automation have to do with physical or paper-based communications?
The truth is that software technology and automation can play a vital role in executing a successful highly segmented marketing communications campaign, even if, or especially if there is paper involved.  Technology can plan a vital role in controlling costs, increasing effectiveness, and providing valuable information for marketers when segmented and personalized paper-based communications are included in a campaign.
An effective process for handling ongoing, highly segmented communications can indeed include physical mail and produce impressive results.  Like the MA platforms, however, a carefully designed marketing process is required to drive results.
An effective marketing automation process for physical mail and dimensional mail or parcels will automate file encryption and interchange, address improvement and enhanced delivery rates, handling segmented and targeted personalization of the piece, segmenting output by delivery channel and service, tracking delivery timing, improving address lists, and managing an inventory of components.  As a bonus, it can also automate the creation, formatting, and delivery of management information in the process to help marketers track activity and provide critical data to measure ROI.
Sounds complicated, right?  Certainly navigating a direct mail effort isn’t a simple proposition, but then again digital channels come with plenty of complexity “under the hood” as well.  Without an understanding of how the messages get prepared and delivered, you could be navigating dangerous waters.  Let’s just say an experienced service provider with a strong technology organization is just as critical to success in “material” channels as they are in a digital campaign.
As with digital execution, an effective direct mail campaign starts with well-developed buyer personas and sufficient relevant content.  Taking stale content and using MA software to push it at buyers you know little about will yield similar results whether delivered physically or electronically.  In order for software platforms to create value, you need to have something good to “automate” in the first place.  MA doesn’t represent a shortcut; it represents a change in the marketplace.  MA won’t assemble that plan for you, but it will make it better when best practices are applied.

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