Understanding Direct Mail
Direct Mail is a way to reach both potential new and existing customers by sending out literature through the post. This enables businesses to single out their target audience and communicate with them directly, deliberately creating a marketing campaign that will appeal directly to them.
There’s a variety of different types of commercial literature that could be included in a Direct Mail campaign including sales letters, newsletters, catalogues and brochures.
How successful is a Direct Mail campaign?
After receiving Direct Mail a substantial number of customers either made a purchase, used coupons or vouchers or made enquiries. One study suggested that 92% of Direct Mail is opened by the customer with almost half, 48%, taking action as a result of the literature.
According to the figures, 14.2 million people made a purchase following a Direct Mail campaign, 10.5 million made use of a coupon or voucher that was sent to them, 2.8 million sampled a new product or service while 3 million made a telephone enquiry.
Data Protection and Direct Mail
Any company that uses personal data from individuals must adhere to the Data Protection Act and the laws that govern the use of information.
There are a number of different principles which are contained in the Data Protection Act and it’s absolutely imperative that any company complies with them all. Very broadly, the Act stipulates businesses must do the following:
• Process all personal data lawfully and fairly
• Ensure that all personal data is only used for the same purpose for which is was collected and not processed in any other way, even if this is also lawful
• Appropriate for the purpose for which it is collected, not excessive and relevant
• Not held or used for any longer that absolutely necessary to complete the purpose for which it is intended to be used
• Always processed without breaching the rights of the individual
• Kept securely using appropriate and sufficient measures, including technology, to ensure that the personal data cannot be accessed by unauthorised persons
• Ensure the data is not transferred in any way outside the European Economic Area
In addition, the Act carries a further requirement for businesses using Direct Mail as a marketing activity. Customers must be given the choice about opting out of Section 11 of the Act; this enables them to have options about the manner in which they may be contacted again by the company in the future.
Complaints can be a problem for businesses with grievances against unsolicited mail being the main issues raised by customers. In the charity sector alone, the number of complaints about direct mail has climbed by 36%, up by 16,996, year on year.
What do consumers think?
Despite the number of complaints, many individuals feel very positive about the possible benefits of Direct Mail.
More than four out of ten adults aged over 55, 41%, said they would be happy to release their details for use in direct marketing. The percentage was even higher amongst those aged 35-54, with 56% agreeing they would be willing to do this. In the 18-34 age bracket the proportion was only slightly less at 55%.
How is the Direct Mail industry regulated?
Any mailing house in the UK which is responsible for producing Direct Mail should be registered with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). This body has a Code of Conduct which all members are obliged to adhere to, including these five principles:
• The needs of the customer must always be put first
• Privacy must be respected
• Every transaction, discussion and exchange must be honest and fair
• Data must be dealt with diligently
• The mailing house must be willing to step up and take responsibility
Getting accredited within the Direct Mail industry
The top mailing houses in the UK should have both ISO 9001 and 14001 accreditations, as do Baker Goodchild.
ISO 9001 refers to the quality management whiles ISO 14001 applies to environmental issues and conduct.
The number of global businesses holding ISO 9001 has fallen by 1%, reaching 1,111,698 whilst there was a 6% increase in the number holding the environmental accreditation ISO 14001, 267,457.
It’s also possible to receive an additional accreditation from the Royal Mail Partners in Quality scheme. This requires a commitment to the quality of presentation with the company subject to ongoing checks.
The Data Protection Act
In addition to ensuring that they always act in compliance with the principles of the DPA, all UK mailing houses are obliged to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The ICO was set up specifically to uphold the principles of the DPA and to protect the rights of individuals relating to their privacy.
The ICO takes an active role in monitoring compliance, regulation, developing policies and dealing with any complaints relating to direct marketing.
Top tips for best practice in the Direct Mail industry
Having out of date information or inaccurate data can have a very large impact on the success of campaigns carried out by mailing houses in the UK. In particular, data which isn’t up to scratch may cause the following problems:
• Poor return on investment
• Negative impact on the reputation of the business whose marketing is being carried out
• Poor response rate
• Higher costs than necessary
In order to avoid these issues, the following best practice tips should be followed:
Ensure your data is always up to date and clean.
This means regularly updating the accuracy of the information on your database. You can do this by ensuring that any mail returned to the company is tracked and recorded in order for your information to be kept up to date.
Remain lawful at all times
Make sure that you always consider the Data Protection Act and never breach the eight principles. Avoid any campaigns which involve unsolicited direct mail and ensure that any individuals who do take part are given the right to opt out, as required by law.
Know your customer
Having your customer’s address is only half the story; in order to make sure the mail you send out is appropriate, relevant and can be accurately targeted you should also store other data such as their age, gender and marital status. Much of the information you require can be gathered from the Electoral Roll.
The Data Protection Act (DPA) is based on eight different principles which govern the way in which personal information is used, and for what purpose. These eight principles specify the following:
• all data must be processed lawfully and fairly
• data must be only processed for the purpose for which it was collected, and this purpose must comply with the above principle
• the data must be relevant to the stated purpose and not be excessive
• all data must be accurate, and kept up to date where relevant
• is only kept as long as required in order to fulfil the stated purpose
• is always processed keeping in mind the rights of the individual
• all data is held securely with suitable technical measures in place in order to provide protection
• the data must not be sent or transferred outside the EEA (European Economic Area)