Balancing Print & Digital Lead Generation Strategies

May 21, 2021

This article originally appeared in WQP May 2020 issue as "Balancing Act"

About the author:

Dale “DataDale” Filhaber is president of Dataman Group Direct. Filhaber can be reached at [email protected] or 800.771.3282. 


In 2020, lead generation success will be built on a balance of physical and digital. Back in the 1970s, the average consumer in the U.S. saw around 500 advertisements per day. With the explosion of new marketing channels, experts estimate that most Americans are now exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day.

Even though marketing has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, one of the pillars of advertising holds true. Repetition counts. The more times someone has seen your message, the more familiar they are with your brand. The more familiar they are with your brand, the more likely they are to buy from you. The marketing channel is equally important. Customers and prospects need to hear your message and see your name through a variety of marketing channels.

Integrating Marketing Channels

For 2020, the key to a strong response in lead generation marketing will be a thoughtful combination of marketing channels. Brands cannot focus on a single channel. They need to be visible in multiple marketing channels all at the same time. That is the only way to enforce the message. That is the paramount way to promote your brand.

The only comprehensive way to reach everyone in your target group is through direct mail. It is still the only marketing channel that can touch every household on your targeted list. Why is that? Let us start with the mail moment. Everyone checks their mail. Most U.S. consumers do it every day. 

What is the mail moment? The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) defines the mail moment as a highly interactive daily ritual that consumers devote to bringing in their mail and discovering what it offers. The mail moment provides marketers with the unique opportunity to get their messages noticed and their offers considered.

People throughout the country look forward to receiving their mail. In fact, the study revealed that most people cannot wait to see what is in their mailbox. Some of the findings include: 

  • 98% of consumers bring in their mail the day it is delivered. 
  • Of these, 72% bring it in as soon as possible. 
  • 77% sort through their mail immediately.
  • Consumers spend an average of 30 minutes reading their mail on any given occasion.
  • Consumers spend 45 minutes with magazines, 30 minutes with catalogs and 25 minutes with direct mail.

List Targeting

First of all, we can use scientific studies and customer analysis to help select our top marketing groups. Technology lets us analyze your own customer list to find look-alikes. We can use outside information to help us with our targeting. For example, dealers can use the 2019 Water Quality Association (WQA) Consumer Opinion Study. It pinpoints several strong groups of water filtration buyers, including new homeowners, family with children and health-conscious homeowners.

Nowadays, there is great technology that lets us reach these prospects efficiently and cost-effectively. Agencies offer robust databases that allow dealers to target the specific families they want to reach in their specific geographic area. There is no need to spend money marketing to undesirables. In addition to selecting best prospect groups, dealers can even overlay modeled credit data on top of their lists to insure that they mail to people who can afford their systems.

Not only are we smarter than ever before in our list targeting, we also know that direct mail is not a one-size-fits-all medium. We need to use creative that resonates with the group we are reaching out to. 

Using the Right Creative

Going back to the WQA Consumer Opinion Study, we know that families with children are more inclined than any other group to buy a water filtration system. We also know that they are most interested in three things: cost, eliminating contaminants and performance (better taste and appearance). We know that they want value. They want a 100% guarantee and a strong warranty. They also have a moderate interest in connectivity. All of these factors need to be incorporated into the marketing communication that goes to the families with children cohort. Their message needs to be specifically for and directed solely to them. 

Personalization is important. According to Adobe, one-third of U.S. consumers said they are more likely to make an unplanned purchase if the content they receive from a brand is personalized. 

Physical mail has really undergone a transformation in the last few years that has made it more responsive. Dealerships can take advantage of advances in paper stock, unique folds and postcards that can be created online or at the local printer. 

Response mechanisms have also improved, giving consumers lots of ways to respond to an offer. In addition to driving people to a website manually, new QR codes can take a person right to a website. They can even produce a click to call. All of this, right from something received in the mail. Nowadays, variable print technology makes this affordable and easy-to-do.

Adding Digital to the Mix

The key to success is being visible through multiple marketing channels. The goal is to coordinate marketing efforts to reach the same people with the same message through multiple marketing channels at the same time. This includes mail, email and digital advertising on both social media and mobile channels.

First, consider USPS Informed Delivery. With this service, the USPS turns direct mail into a digital experience. Consumers can see what is coming in their mailbox right from their inbox. They can also tap into interactive digital elements all from their smartphone or desktop.

By the end of 2020, expect to see 40 million households signed up for Informed Delivery. Each morning, the Informed Delivery households receive an email from the USPS with pictures of the mail they will receive that day. Studies show that 65% of consumers actively look at the morning USPS Informed Delivery email every day.

Every dealer who does direct mail should incorporate this into their program. It is a no brainer. It is free and provides a valuable digital impression from a respected source. 

Emailing Using a CRM System

There are many CRM (customer relationship management) platforms in the marketplace. Salesforce, Zoho and Hubspot are some of the more popular ones. With these, dealers can e-broadcast directly to their customers. 

In terms of prospect emails, that is not something the industry encourages. Sure, you can buy a list of email addresses, but most of the CRM and e-broadcast software seriously discourage users from uploading purchased email lists. Not only that, but the truth is that most people are experiencing inbox overload. Bulk emails typically get trashed, either by someone’s ISP (internet service provider) or the recipient themselves. People are hesitant to open emails from unknown senders. There are too many scams and phishing going around.

If you want to use email as a medium, you need to work with your own customer list. Make sure you follow best practices in terms of subject line and sending times. People will open emails from someone they know. This means you need to make sure they are familiar with your brand if you want to succeed with email marketing. So, what else can a marketer do to get their message to the consumer?

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to connect with your audience to build your brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic. This involves publishing relevant content on your social media profiles, listening to and engaging your followers, analyzing your results and running social media advertisements. The major social media platforms at the moment are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and TikTok.

Many businesses in the water quality industry use social media to post great photos and content to engage their audience. They often post videos with links back to their site, which is great for branding and name recognition. However, there is a big difference between posting on social media and advertising on social media.

Social media advertising platforms are so powerful nowadays that you can specify exactly who to display your advertisements to. You can create target audiences based on their demographics, interests and behaviors. You can also upload your own list of email addresses to one of the platforms and market directly to them. 

If you have ever bought something on Facebook, you know that you will be stalked forever by similar companies looking to get your business. This is called remarketing. Remarketing is a clever way to connect with visitors to your website who may not have made an immediate purchase or enquiry. It allows you to position targeted ads in front of a defined audience that had previously visited your website as they browse elsewhere around the internet.

If you have started a shopping cart and then abandoned it, you will also get additional advertisements or emails from that company to try to get you to complete that transaction. In digital marketing, we call this retargeting. Retargeting campaigns allow you to target specific visitors with specific advertisements with the goal of convincing them to convert for your offer. These campaigns work because they enable you to show your ads to those visitors who have already expressed an interest in your product. At Dataman Group, we retarget our website visitors with display ads. It is just another way to keep our brand in front of people who already know who we are. 

But how can you broaden your outreach and find brand new prospects to show your ads to? For example, in the water treatment industry we know that new homeowners are top prospects. The WQA Consumer Opinion Study showed that 63% of new homeowners will buy some sort of water treatment when they move into their new home. Of course, we want to mail to them, but we also know that adding the digital component will increase the direct mail response rate.  Since there are typically no email addresses associated with those lists, how can you reach them digitally?

Addressable Geo-Fencing

This new technology focuses on digital marketing to addresses rather than to individual people. This allows a marketer to display digital advertising to the same addresses they are mailing to, not only to those households they have email addresses for.

With addressable geo-fencing, the list is matched by GPS to plat lines. Geo-fencing software builds a geo-fence around each address to target users associated with this household. Advertisers are then able to reach consumers with video advertisements, audio advertisements and display advertisements via mobile devices, laptops and desktops. This can become a great opportunity for water quality dealers to reach new targets in their markets, especially for those groups they were not able to reach digitally before.

We need to go back to our original premise—customers and prospects need to hear your message and see your name through a variety of marketing channels. Addressable geo-fencing offers members of the water treatment industry a brand new marketing channel to incorporate into their marketing toolbox. 

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