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An acquisition marketing strategy that excludes mobile is a failure

Acquisition marketing channels such as direct mail are making a comeback after a slight dip in spend that was caused by economically-driven caution on the part of marketers.

In 2010 direct mail spend increased about 3 percent to $45.2 billion, and research firm Winterberry Group forecasts that this number will grow 5.8 percent in 2011 to $47.8 billion. However, with the proliferation of smartphones the game has changed, and marketers need to be incorporating mobile into their direct mail strategies to fuel acquisition.

?A direct mail piece without a mobile call to action is an opportunity missed,? said Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA. ?First off, if you have the chance to turn a passive activity into an interactivity for minimal cost and effort, you have to go for it.

?And, pardon what sounds like a cliché, a mobile component makes your direct marketing dollars work harder,? he said.

Shifting dollars
According to Winterberry, acquisition-driven marketing strategies usually account for about 75 percent of budget, with 25 percent used for retention efforts. With the economic downturn that the United States has been experiencing, there has been a 50/50 split in budget.

With marketer confidence on the rise, acquisition-focused marketing methods accounted for 60 percent of spend in 2010 and will likely grow in 2011.

Mobile marketing companies benefit from this increase in acquisition budget and should be working hard to get brands and retailers to incorporate mobile into their prospecting strategy.

One way to do so is incorporating mobile into the direct mail strategy. This makes a once static media more measurable. Something as one-dimensional as a direct mail piece can now be dynamic.

"Mobile bar codes can enhance any direct mail piece by incorporating an easy to use consumer call to action, and encouraging the customer to learn more about the product or service by scanning the QR code at that moment of desire," said said Laura Marriott, Seattle-based acting CEO of NeoMedia Technologies.

"It's a simple addition that can provide a brand with enhanced interaction and establish loyalty with their base," she said. 

Mobile touch points
For example, a Bloomingdale?s direct mail piece successfully embedded mobile touch points to alert consumers of its eleven days of new trends and fashion happenings and ultimately drive them to purchase (see story).

Some of the benefits, from a direct mail standpoint, of adding a mobile call to action are the ability to better measure and of course the cost-savings in terms of printing. Direct mail is a very expensive channel both from a paper and postage standpoint.

Using less paper, by adding a QR code or an SMS call to action, means a marketer can provide more information for consumers for a fraction of the cost.

Additionally, when including too much information on a direct mail piece, a brand risks losing the consumer. The message in a direct mail piece needs to be tight to evoke emotion and then the additional information comes from the electronic aspect.

"Compared to overall spend for direct mail, the cost of adding the mobile call to action, like SMS or QR code, is small compared to the total cost of the direct mail campaign," Ms. Marriott said.

And, by adding the mobile call to action, marketers ensure they will get higher response rates and better interaction than traditional direct mail response rates of around 1-3 percent. 

The costs of SMS or QR codes will depend on the vendor selected, scope of use case, anticipated volume and geography, so it is tough to provide ball park figures of what it would cost.

However, Ms. Marriott said it is a fraction of what the marketer is already spending.

?The benefits are many,? Mr. Hasen said. ?If you use SMS, you can designate a keyword for your direct mail efforts. That way, you know exactly how people reacted ? or didn?t react ? to your call to action.

?Further, once someone interacts with you, you have the chance to ask for an opt-in that yields valuable remarketing opportunities,? he said. ?With both SMS and QR codes, the recipient can immediately interact with you rather than have to put off the activity until he or she is in front of a computer.

?In many cases, the intent to do something gets forgotten or supplanted by something else that one deems at that moment to be of higher priority.?

Lack of education
Every year has been ?the year of mobile? since 2007. There is a lot of buzz around the mobile industry, mostly because of technological advances such as the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

With all of this hype, one would think that marketers would be the first to understand the benefits of something as simple as adding a QR code or SMS call to action to a direct mail piece.

But, unfortunately, there is a lack of education. Some brands get it and others don?t. Agencies and mobile marketing companies need to educate brands and retailers. They need to make them understand the importance mobile plays in acquisition marketing.

?Even now, despite mobile?s growth, the inhibitors to wider adoption are mostly around education,? Mr. Hasen said. ?How do we get past these hurdles?

?The most important things are to develop and implement ROI-driven programs that prove value,? he said. ?Then the sharing of detailed case studies, complete with lessons learned, brings more on board."

Mobile Marketer's Giselle Tsirulnik interviewed Mike Wehrs, CEO of Scanbuy, New York, regarding integrating mobile into a direct mail strategy.

Here is what he had to say:

Are marketers that are not incorporating mobile into their direct mail pieces failing?
Mobile can act as a fantastic direct marketing vehicle, because it allows the user to act immediately in so many ways. 

They can dial a phone number to purchase a product, opt in by SMS or email for a special offer, look at video for a new property listing, and much more. 

Marketers that are using traditional direct mail, should always be thinking about how they can make the relevancy of that media more efficient, engaging, and trackable.

What are the benefits of using mobile on a direct mail piece?
Mobile can turn something as small as a postcard into a completely digital experience. 

With a 2D code, the consumer can watch a video, buy a product and more. 

Any catalog for example can really be a mobile shopping portal, which will more easily drive purchases.

Are the costs associated with incorporating an SMS or QR code in a direct mail strategy high? Can you give me an idea of what something like this may cost?
ScanLife has a number of customers that use QR codes on direct mail from Comcast to Home Depot. 

The value of the system is the ability to really understand what creative is most effective with more than just scan rates, but also location and demographics.

A direct mail campaign with 2D bar codes can be done for as little as a few hundred dollars, but it really depends on the size of that campaign. Larger drops can get thousands and thousands of scans.

Why do you think that even now, after all this time and talk about "this being the year of mobile"  (every year) marketers still don't get how beneficial it is to incorporate mobile into all that they do?
Marketers have so many options in front of them, and mobile can be the glue in so many cases. 

The entire industry needs to do a better job in sharing results and best practices with the broader community because some really effective programs are being deployed every day.