In marketing, as with anything else in life, you want to make sure you frame “success” using the appropriate criteria. This is especially true when judging the performance of Programmatic Direct Mail (PDM) as a channel.
If you use baseline metrics from existing marketing channels to judge new ones, you risk giving too much or too little credit — either of which can come back to bite you. It’s like trying to figure out which chicken in your coup is the fastest by racing them against a fox. Not only do the results not tell you much, but you risk losing your chicken altogether.
Since PDM is neither a purely digital nor a purely direct mail channel, it requires different criteria to define success. Following are three key criteria to keep in mind for understanding the performance of Programmatic Direct Mail campaigns.
Apply the Appropriate Attribution Window
For marketers that have experience running campaigns in channels like Social Media or Search, an impression (the moment when a digital ad is displayed) is very brief. Marketers only have a fraction of a second to capture a consumer’s attention and compel them to take action. So, typically, you’re going to have a shorter attribution window (anywhere from a few days to a few weeks) when evaluating the impact of a channel on overall performance.
This is not the case with Programmatic Direct Mail. While it offers many of the same features and functionality you might find in other digital adverting channels, a PDM “impression” comes in the form a physical piece of media, like a postcard or a multi-fold.
If the recipient finds it relevant, it can live on that person’s counter or refrigerator for days, weeks, or even months, serving as a constant reminder of their intent to purchase and helping influence longer sales cycles. For that reason, you’re going to want to give your PDM program a longer attribution window (on average 60-90 days) than you might other digital channels.
A knowledgeable Programmatic Direct Mail partner will be able to help you ascertain how long that impression window will last for your particular campaign.
Focus on Outcomes Over Output
The second consideration when it comes to understanding performance for the Programmatic Direct Mail channel is that, while it may share its final format (a piece of physical marketing mail) with Traditional Direct Mail, everything prior is completely different.
Marketers that rely on Traditional Direct Mail are used to sending a large volume of marketing mail at the lowest possible cost-per-piece (CPP) in order to meet performance goals. And while these campaigns can be informed by very complex data models, these models are built around offline data. This is a manual process that requires multiple vendors. As a result, lead time for these campaigns tends to be very long. That doesn’t allow for marketers to be as flexible or nimble as they might be when using digital channels.
Programmatic Direct Mail, on the other hand, uses machine learning algorithms informed by online intent signals to ensure only the consumers with the highest conversion potential will receive a piece of marketing mail. So instead of sending your offer to a wide range of consumers in the hopes that a certain percentage will convert, you only send to that percentage. The average CPP might be higher, sure, but the performance should greatly outpace the initial investment and will only increase in efficiency as it continues to learn and scale. In this way, PDM behaves more like your Search or Social performance campaigns than Traditional Direct Mail – only without the wild swings in pricing. This laser-focused approach helps brands to optimize their marketing costs, resulting in higher performance and ROAS.
So when thinking about upfront investment costs—and the volume that’s sent out— you should focus on when you will be getting ROI. As always, if your campaign is bringing in more money than you’re spending, you’re on the right path.
Trust the Experts
It’s important to keep in mind that your best source of information for understanding performance, is the people who are running Programmatic Direct Mail programs. There aren’t many established industry benchmarks and standards for the PDM channel at this time, so the teams managing these platforms are your best source for understanding benchmarks, performance, and pacing.
Even better, they can help you understand the performance of your campaigns in the context of your entire omnichannel marketing campaigns. Another thing you might want to do is get your marketing tech team together in a room with your Programmatic Direct Mail platform partner and get them talking. These two teams, working symbiotically, can learn from each other on how they can provide you with actionable data that helps you understand how everything is working to drive results that are really going to grow your business.