How PFL Uses Tactile Marketing Automation in Email Nurture Streams

Filed in Multichannel Marketing on December 6, 2018 by

Tactile Marketing Automation™ (TMA), is a PFL invention through and through. Based on our experience with direct mail marketing and the evolving needs of our customers, we created a unique and powerful tool that quickly and easily integrates with existing sales and marketing platforms to bridge the gap between digital and physical – but achieving success wasn’t easy. Here’s how we did it:

Crawl Phase: Add Direct Mail to Existing Nurture Program

We started with a simple email drip/ nurture stream but wanted to add direct mail touches that were completely automated. We’d been using direct mail for years (our roots are in print marketing), but those sends were a manual process that was neither automatic nor scalable. We created Tactile Marketing Automation™, and it was time to test our thesis: that tactile marketing improves response rates for digital channels.


  • Create an evergreen campaign using tactile marketing.
  • A/B test email only nurture vs. multi-channel nurture.
  • See a boost in engagement/response across digital channels.
  • Increase opportunities as a result of tactile marketing.

Here’s what we did to make it work:

Campaign Strategy

We did an A/B test, where half of our contacts entered an email and web personalization stream (Stream A), and the other half entered an email, direct mail and web personalization stream (Stream B).

PFL nurture stream with tactile marketing automation

Direct Mail Design

Those in Stream B received our Better Together kit on touch three. We chose this kit because it was engaging and conveyed our message that email and tactile marketing are better together, just like a pen and a notepad are better together.

Each page of the notepad featured a famous duo and what our lives would be like without them.

An example of PFL tactile marketing automation

The piece also showed off some of the custom printing features that make PFL materials stand out:

  • High-quality offset printing
  • Custom die-cutting
  • A personalized notecard

The PFL Better Together Kit, an example of what you can do with PFL's Tactile Marketing Automation

The call to action on the notecard was to download our most popular case study, which highlights the success a customer was seeing with the combination of email and tactile marketing.


We placed the Better Together Kit as the third touch intentionally, our goal was to test how direct mail impacted the response rates of all the digital touches that followed. Our theory was sparked by a 2015 Canada Post study that proved direct mail is more memorable than digital content. That study proved that direct mail is easier on the mind, needing 21% less cognitive effort to process vs. digital content. The easier it is to process information, the more likely you’ll commit it to memory.

Customers recall a brand that sent them direct mail 75% of the time vs a 44% recall for digital channels.

Knowing this, we included an automated follow-up email that was timed to be sent soon after direct mail delivery. The follow-up email had similar messaging and the same call to action as the direct mail.

PFL email from a nurture stream

Marketo Setup

We use Marketo as our marketing automation platform. Here’s how we set this campaign up in Marketo.

First, we created the Better Together Kit (like building great direct mail creative is just so easy). We realize a marketing team can get bogged down in the creative stage for weeks, or months.

Then, we built a custom webhook that calls the kit. Since this first campaign, we’ve built our Command Center that makes it quick and easy to build custom webhooks that call your direct mail pieces within Marketo.

Segmenting the Audience in Marketo

Next, we figured out who in our database was going to make it into this hybrid offline/online program. We had two core segments:

  • People that were already subscribed and had a mailing address or the mailing address was blank
  • People that were not yet subscribed but had a physical address

We had a campaign with a Request Campaign flow step that assigned contacts into streams A and B.

If we did not have a mailing address, we did a random split where 50% went into Stream A and the other 50% went into Stream B.


marketo smart list screenshot


marketo engagement program stream screenshot


If we had a mailing address, we did a random sample where 50% went into Stream A and the other 50% went into Stream B.


marketo contact info screenshot


marketo engagement program stream B screenshot


We set a Campaign is Requested Trigger that put people into the designated engagement program.


marketo flow screenshot


Then, we created a direct mail program that was included in the nurture flow for Stream B. This program triggers the send of the Better Together kit, and then after a wait step of 4 business days, an email was triggered to be sent to correspond with the delivery of the kit. (This kit was a self mailer sent through USPS. USPS does not have delivery updates as part of their API, so a wait step is used to time the follow-up. If we were to send via FedEx, we could trigger the email follow-up within minutes of delivery because that data is fed back into Marketo through Tactile Marketing Automation).


marketo flow trigger screenshot



As hoped, response rates went up across every channel. In the first three months of the campaign PFL:

  • Saw a 27% increase in email open rates
  • Generated a 258% lift in engagement (contacts who downloaded content and became MQLs)
  • Delivered strong 20x ROI (based on investment vs revenue)
  • Significantly streamlined marketing

We were surprised with how much the direct mail boosted response rates for digital touches immediately following the physical send.

This test proved what we already suspected- direct mail combined with a traditional email drip campaign boosts the response rates of the digital touches following the direct mail pieces.

As an added bonus, we now had an evergreen program that executes multi-channel marketing automatically. We could watch the results continue to come in, and move onto other ways to optimize our nurture.

Our customers love us - PFL

Walk Phase

Self-Selecting Topic Streams

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we revisited our nurture strategy. We wanted to be more strategic with our direct mail sends and add more of them to the mix. But direct mail isn’t the star of this phase – rather, the way we shared content is what brought the next dramatic change to our nurture streams.


  • Further improve nurture stream engagement rates with more personalized & relevant content.


We built several email nurture streams dedicated to a single topic such as Account Based Marketing, Demand Generation and Sales Enablement. We called these topic-specific streams ‘binge streams’ as it helped prospects binge on a topic they were interested in.


Leads move out of our general Awareness nurture stream and into a binge stream by engaging with a certain amount of content related to the topic, such as blog posts & landing pages, or by selecting the track they want in one of several self-selecting emails that were added to the Awareness nurture stream.

  • Smartlist filters add leads to a stream as designated behaviors are logged.
  • Triggers execute the binge tracks on a twice-weekly cadence.
  • Once a binge stream is exhausted, the lead goes back into the Awareness stream until they qualify for a different stream

Once in a binge stream, the lead receives 5-8 educational emails, and then reaches the direct mail program. If we don’t have an address for a lead, we send an email asking for the address. If the contact completes the address form, the direct mail is then automatically triggered.

How do we get our mailing addresses?

We ask for missing addresses in forms (progressive profiling in Marketo) and at events. If we have large lists entering our database, we verify mailing address with PFL’s proprietary Address Verification Service prior to import. If we still don’t have a valid address when the lead reaches the tactile marketing step in the stream, we ask for it in an email with a form.

If we have a valid address, the direct mail component is triggered. Each stream has a unique direct mail component that is education-focused, including our best content printed as high-quality guidebooks. The call to action is to take a discovery call with our sales team.

Upon delivery of tactile marketing, a task is automatically made in Salesforce for BDR follow-up, as well as an email reminder to the BDR.


The binge streams have the highest email open and email click through rates of any PFL marketing campaign. After incorporating the binge streams, we saw:

  • 519% open rate increase (1.8 to 11.15%)
  • 77% Increase in Click Through Rate (18.6 to 33%)

Run Phase

Optimized Cadence & Emails

Now we had a multi-channel program running in Marketo that was being personalized based on behavioral data. We were proud, but it was time to iron out the kinks in our binge streams and push for even better results.

So what, exactly, was wrong? Years of neglect. We’d been so busy bolting new ideas onto our existing nurture stream that it got a bit …. unwieldy.

The core nurture stream ran for almost an entire year. We found engagement declined rapidly after the first few emails in the stream, so the further someone got into the stream, the more likely they were to unsubscribe. That’s the last thing any marketer wants so we did what anyone would do when faced with the reality that their hard work was falling apart.

We hired a consultant.

With a little help, we replicated the success of our binge streams (which had solid engagement throughout their entire run) within our core nurture stream. This wasn’t that painful and involved streamlining emails, cutting unsuccessful emails and changing cadence to make direct mail more prominent.

Here’s how the old and new core nurture streams compared.

Old Core Nurture Stream Streamlined Core Nurture Stream
20 emails, sent weekly, on a variety of Tactile Marketing Automation topics. Nurture starts with Welcome stream (3 emails).
After going through the first 20 emails, prospect goes through another 20 emails, biweekly. The 3rd email in the series asks which of 5 Binge streams (ABM, Demand Gen, Sales Enablement, Customer Loyalty, and Events) the person would like to receive.
Prospects are opted into one of 4 Binge streams (ABM, B2C, Demand Gen, and Sales Enablement) based on email click behavior. If a prospect doesn’t choose a Binge stream, they continue with Thought Leadership and Awareness streams (9 emails each).


The more structured approach worked, with leads staying engaged throughout with some phenomenal gains to baseline email KPIs.

  • 12% Increase in Email Open Rate
  • 48% Increase in Click Through Rate

What’s Next?

Next we want to fly. But how do we get there? Here is our plan for growing our nurture stream into a fully orchestrated email + automated direct mail masterpiece.

  • Build more specific testing plans.
  • Get prospects to binge tracks more quickly.
  • Test a direct mail send earlier in the streams.
  • Build additional binge streams.
  • Adjust order to move higher performing emails earlier in stream.

How are you going to add tactile marketing to a nurture stream?

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