Why Direct Mail Marketing Still Works - and How to Take Advantage

Posted by Timothy Wier On December 04, 2018

Why Direct Mail Marketing Still Works - and How to Take Advantage

Direct mail marketing still works - but only if you do it right. And only if it's part of a well-planned marketing strategy. 

Even in the age of digital connection, direct mail is here to stay (for a while, anyway). Sending a mailer that lands directly in your farmers’ mailboxes is a great way to capture their attention. And among farmers in particular, it’s one of the most reliable ways to stay in touch with them.

When it comes to marketing in the agriculture industry, direct mail continues to have a huge role to play. Here are some ways to get the most out of it:

  • Understand direct mail’s unique advantages
  • Test your mailers
  • Be creative in how you market
  • Offer multiple opportunities to respond

Follow these tips for a direct mail campaign that’ll blow farmers’ socks off.

(Note: This article is part of the "Marketing to Farmers" series. Click here to  read the free guide.)

Understand Direct Mail’s Unique Advantages

According to a Harvard Business Review study, the response rate for direct mail statistically equal to email: 24 percent compared to 23 percent, respectively. However, direct mail has a lower ROI compared to email, probably due to the higher upfront costs that accompany mailers.

So does this mean you should say goodbye to direct mail? Actually, no.

Although email is going to generate a higher ROI, it still is worthwhile to invest in direct mail marketing. Here are some specific advantages to consider:

  • More reliable delivery. Direct mail can have up to 95 percent delivery rate, thanks to the tried-and-true USPS. Emails, on the other hand, can be less reliable and delivery rates can go down. If it’s absolutely crucial that your message land in farmers’ hands, then direct mail may be a better route.
  • Less competition. Everyone is giving up on direct mail, which means that you have a better opportunity to cut through the noise – something that’s becoming more and more difficult with email and even social media. Less competition means you can more easily put your brand and message in front of farmers and, although your direct mail may not necessarily contribute to your ROI, it impacts the efforts you’re making through your more profitable channels.
  • Drive the rest of your integrated marketing efforts. Direct mail, like any other marketing channel, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Farmers are active online just like any other consumer, so they’ll be interacting with your brand through Google searches, social media, emails, and more. Direct mail serves to complement that, not replace it. So instead of thinking of direct mail as its own channel, think of it as a driver of your other marketing efforts. When they work in tandem, you’ll see better results.
  • Improve your ROI. Don’t take our word for it – look at the numbers. The same HBR study we quoted earlier shows that in both response rate and ROI, the numbers went up (25 percent total for both categories) when direct mail and email were used together.

Direct mail works best when combined with other marketing channels. It boosts the effectiveness of your email, social media, messenger, display ads, and other efforts by reinforcing the messaging in those campaigns.

Test Your Mailers

How can you expect to succeed in direct mail if you don’t begin with a goal and then measure the results of your campaign by keeping track of the numbers? You’ll need to test your direct mail on an ongoing basis.

Start by segmenting your data. One way to do this is through an A/B test. Randomly select two small segments of your list – “A” and “B” – and send similar content to them with only one variable changed. Whichever one performs the best, send that version to the remainder of the list.

A/B testing is a basic marketing practice that saves countless dollars and helps better connect your brand and message with the farmers you’re trying to reach.

There are other ways to test as well. You can segment your data by state, county, crop type, or more and test different messages among the different segments. For example, if you’re in the seeding business, you can market corn to corn farmers, but not to wheat farmers. Allowing for this personalized message will build a better connection and, in turn, generate a positive impression among your customers.

All of this is only possible if you have solid, reliable data. Bad data means that your segments could have errors, your messaging won’t match up with the farmers, and you’ll have disappointed or angry customers instead of delighted ones.

Be Creative in How You Market

Your direct mail campaigns that target farmers may see better results if you try an eye-catching, creative approach. No one wants to read a boring, 4-page text-only letter in 16-point Courier typeface. They want something eye-catching, engaging and, yes, entertaining.

For example, when the John Deere Marketing Center wanted to present its new utility tractor to farmers, it began with a three-part mailing, with one piece sent each week, according to a report at AgriMarketing. It began with a four-page postcard that was sent out at the start of planting season, specifying that the tractor would be available at dealerships.

This classic example is one way to use humor and a creative approach to capture attention. When it comes to direct mail, offering creative that speaks to farmers’ problems and your solutions can help you gain attention.

Use Multiple Channels to Get the Most Out of Your Direct Mail

You want to make it as easy as possible for your recipients to respond to your direct mail pieces. A busy farmer won’t be happy about having to reply to you by visiting your website when he’d rather multitask and call you while he’s out inspecting crops, for example.

A recent article at Business 2 Community suggests that you augment your call to action by giving recipients the URL to your company’s website, the phone number of your sales department and a form they can fill out and send back via surface mail or fax. Offering multiple ways to contact your company can help boost results for direct mail pieces.

This multifaceted approach will also give you insight into an individual’s preference without you having to ask the question. Having your database enabled for integrated marketing increases your knowledge and understanding of your customer and prospect universe.

Direct mail is hard to ignore, and you can assume that farmers will often keep pieces of direct mail in their offices for future reference when they’re not quite ready to buy when they first get it. Farmers work according to the rhythms of the seasons and must take a long view of their operations in order to be profitable.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that you may need to nurture them through your direct mail campaigns instead of hoping you can turn recipients into customers with a single mailer.

But if you stick with it, invest in multiple channels, and use direct mail as another way to build your brand awareness among farmers, you’ll be pleased with the long-term results.

To learn more about how to access farmers data through an easy-to-use portal, watch this video featuring FarmFocus, our leading farm data solution.

Click here to schedule a FarmFocus demo
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