I sat down with Eric Hellberg, Quattro’s VP Production, to discuss the complex and ever-changing world of direct mail. From best practices and analytics to misconceptions and forthcoming evolutions, this channel is as direct as advertising gets.
Overseeing all of our direct mail efforts, Eric works with our supplier network to deliver quality execution and on-time delivery for our clients. His 15 years of print and advertising experience is evident, as is his execution of keeping both a keen eye on creative design and an active finger on the pulse of statistical data. It starts and ends, though, with knowing the consumer.
Can you tell us some best practices that haven’t changed in direct mail since you started your career?
As direct marketing has become more multi-channel, fewer marketers have as specific of a direct mail skill set as in the past. So, our clients rely heavily on us to provide this on their behalf. Demonstrate to your clients that you can provide the subject matter expertise that they require, and uncover efficiencies that save them time and cost – that’s the best value add you can deliver to your clients in direct mail.
In addition, superior vendor management is still so important. Direct mail manufacturing has become more niche specific than ever before in my opinion, both at the print and lettershop level. It’s critical to understand exactly what your vendors do best, so that each program is being sourced as efficiently as possible. Also, ensuring that your vendors have industry leading quality control and data security protocols in place is more important than ever. Compliance is a front and center topic within our industry today.
Has the increase of digital marketing capabilities changed the way brands use direct mail? And if so, how?
Absolutely. Digital marketing is exploding, and growing at an incredible rate. It’s causing marketers to mail in a smarter, more targeted approach. Gone are the days of blindly blasting out 20MM pieces of direct mail as the standard. The new standard is to use data and analytics. The digital age provides limitless amounts of data to hone in on leads that are actively looking to receive your message and respond. Be it through predictive database modeling, or even by using digital marketing to track online behaviors and build customized programmatic trigger programs. The technology is there to execute a customized and targeted approach.
In addition, finding ways to link offline and online marketing together is the best strategy. Direct mail is a great channel to promote online engagement by using CTA’s to drive prospects and customers to digital conversions.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of direct mail?
That direct mail is dead, not worth it, or ineffective. Direct mail continues to deliver the highest rate of response of all direct marketing channels. Without the new customers that direct mail delivers as well as the existing customers it retains, the result could be a pretty scary marketing landscape.
What’s the future of direct mail as you see it?
Mail and print are not going to disappear; they are simply evolving. The future of direct mail is largely dependent on how print integrates with digital technology, how the USPS successfully stabilizes its costs and infrastructure, and how data analytics continue to refine the way marketers target their approach.
What's the most fulfilling aspect of working in the advertising industry?
I initially got interested in the graphic arts from a creative and design aspect, but my career took more of a print and project management turn when I joined the work force after college. This remains one of the things I enjoy most about advertising and marketing—there is a visual creative side to it, and the result is something tangible. Simply, advertising provides a comfortable balance of art and business. The people you encounter range from the artistic creative types, to the entrepreneurial types. So there’s a great variety of exposure to a lot of really intelligent people within our industry.
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