Tech Line

Consider Physical Marketing as Another Channel

Back in the days before the internet, “physical,” or “analog,” marketing was the name of the game. It was a booming, heady industry. Direct mail provided a way for marketers to use data to understand how well their efforts were converting to sales. But it was an expensive proposition—all that printing, assembly, and postage cost a bundle.  

That was a huge factor in the internet’s acceptance so early, so quickly, and by so many. It was cheap to produce and cheap to deliver. And while physical marketing (particularly direct mail) had good trackability, it was scant compared with the data digital marketing could deliver.

But the ensuing years have shown that many of the cost-savings of digital have been offset by increased expenses elsewhere. Many modern marketers are beginning to realize that it’s about time to revisit physical marketing as a channel. Not as a replacement for digital efforts, but rather as a supplement.

Little Differentiation in Digital Mail

Building a relationship of trust with prospects is a big part of what marketing is all about. It can be tough in the digital world, where emails fly through an inbox with little to differentiate one from another and churn rates range from 8 percent to 30 percent. This is a heady expense.  

During a recent Content Marketing Institute webcast, guests Ahava Leibtag (President, Aha Media Group) and Mark Borenstein (VP Content Marketing, On24) extolled the virtues of re-engagement campaigns for their email lists. Why? It probably has something to do with these email benchmarks from Marketing Charts. Their data shows that between 47 percent and 53 percent (let’s call it half) of email addresses on marketers’ lists are considered active.

Messaging your email list can be a game of Chutes and Ladders—with not many ladders and lots of chutes.

Messaging your email list can be a game of Chutes and Ladders—with not many ladders and lots of chutes. Beyond the possibility that maybe half your list isn’t even engaged, there are many reasons why an email might suddenly stop working:

  • Maybe your prospect has left the company and the email suddenly gets a hard bounce.
  • Shifting technology such as Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), released by Apple in September 2021, might render your statistics useless. MPP pre-fetches an email—including the tracking pixel—which results in artificially high open rates, so click-through-rates artificially plunge, as well.
  • No matter how smart the subject line, your email is not going to get opened if the prospect doesn’t see it. But this puts emails at the mercy of the volume of email your prospect receives. Once your message has scrolled out of view, it stands very little chance of being opened.
  • Worse, a simple configuration change at the prospect’s company could suddenly end up with your messaging flagged as spam. Talk to any digital marketer and they’ll admit what they do is a numbers game.

Meanwhile, in the physical marketing world, a promotion that you send to someone isn’t going to bounce if the recipient has left the company. It’s not ideal, but it might even end up on the desk of your prospect’s replacement, which is at least a partial win. And physical promotions have a way of sticking around.

Different Tools for Different Purposes

So, the point is not that it’s time abandon digital and shift back to physical marketing. Rather, the time is right for different marketing tools to be deployed for different purposes, and that physical marketing can be viewed as simply another valuable channel for the modern marketer. Marketers want prospects to be more receptive to their brand, to be less skeptical when a touch is made, and to be more willing to engage.

Be advised, then, that sending more emails might not be the right thing. Instead, take a page from the world of direct mail and consider adding in physical as a channel.

Here are five ways physical marketing materials can bring more attention to your product or brand:

  1. Stand out from the spam
    The very thing that make digital marketing so pervasive—lower cost and higher efficiency—is exactly why we ignore it when it fills our inboxes with spam. No successful spammer would ever go to the expense of creating physical materials.  
  1. Added authority
    The market knows that digital marketing is cheap to produce. A well-produced piece of physical mail will go a long way toward giving your brand the gravitas it deserves.
  1. No technology traps  
    Shifting technology can cut your digital marketing off at its knees. Physical marketing does an end run around the entire realm of technological reasons why your message might not be getting through. Even when a prospect has left their job, instead of giving you a cold, hard bounce, the physical piece may well end up on the desk of the new guy or gal.
  1. Stays top-of-mind
    When was the last time someone printed out a piece of email marketing and tacked it to their bulletin board? It’s rare, at best. But physical things have a way of hanging around that their digital equivalents just don’t. An email has all sorts of ways of never even making it into a target’s email box. That first hurdle surmounted, it’s critical that emails get opened before they drift off the main screen. Once your recipient has received twenty or so emails, a piece of digital marketing is out of sight. Meanwhile, marketing materials delivered by mail have a way of hanging around and can have a much longer life.
  1. Differentiate yourself
    Using physical as a channel will help you reach prospects in a way that pulls away from the pack.