According to results from a recent Target Marketing study, 12% of direct marketers surveyed say they intend to decrease direct mail spend in 2013, the largest percentage decrease of any direct marketing method. With fewer direct marketers devoting spending to this category, how can companies that rely heavily on executing direct mail campaigns compete against other firms and advertising channels that are not as direct mail focused? The following is our recommendation of how to establish—and keep—a direct marketing competitive edge.

Sending the Right Offer to the Right Customer at the Right Time

Establishing direct marketing success does not need to revolve around sending a huge amount of messages across a large number of channels. Rather, gaining the competitive edge involves sending the right offer to the right customer at the right time. Instead of distributing “batch and blast” messages, it’s about being smarter and not focusing solely on volume.

Marketers can increase results by sending fewer, more targeted messages. Survey results from MyBuys and the e-Tailing Group highlight the effects of personalized messages on online shoppers’ purchasing decisions. The survey shows 40% of consumers agree they buy more from retailers who personalize messages across all channels. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers say the retailers they favor offer promotions and merchandise tailored to their past purchasing and browsing behaviors. More than half of these consumers (54%) are willing to share information about themselves for a more personalized shopping experience.

To achieve the greatest results, marketers need to gather and analyze as much data as possible to paint a clear picture of their customers, enabling them to deliver relevant personalized messages that appeal to recipients.

market The Direct Marketing Competitive Edge: How to Establish & Keep It

Incorporating Big Data and Marketing Analytics

This is where big data and marketing analytics come into play for direct marketers. Gathering information from social media interactions, ad-clicks, email opt-ins, and newsletter subscriptions, etc. present marketers with an opportunity to paint a portrait of their customers and their interests, needs, and behaviors. The use of data and analytics can enable marketers to determine what people are looking for or what they’re likely to be most receptive to, as a means to deliver the right message at the right time, across all channels or simply the channels the customer prefers.

While direct mail budgets and volumes may be declining, many brands are simply using is more selectively—and intelligently—within cross-channel marketing strategies. For instance, direct mail can be used to reach customers or prospects who marketers cannot reach through cheaper, more immediate channels like email. Some consumers may not have or don’t open email on a regular basis, and that’s when direct mail strategies should be deployed, as these prospects could still be interested customers.

While recent survey results indicate direct mail spending may be on the decline, this doesn’t mean direct marketing as a whole is following suit. To keep a competitive advantage within direct marketing, marketers need to focus on creating and delivering relevant, targeted messages, which, in turn, can lead to increased sales and brand loyalty.