Direct Mail Marketing Strategies to Target Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z
Here are some industry-tested tips on how to target each generation with direct mail to help you maximize results.
Ask yourself a quick question: How much of your current marketing spend is on direct mail? The common misconception is that direct mail is outdated, yet direct mail advertising is valued at $72.67 billion dollars, says the Direct Mail Advertising Global Market Report 2022, and it's expected to grow at a compound annual rate of .3% by 2026.
That said, our annual earnings at PostcardMania jumped over 30% in 2021, when industry projections showed growth would remain modest. It's not a surprise, though, as digital ad prices continue to increase, and online shoppers report feeling overwhelmed with the number of ads on their screens. Consumers can avoid third-party cookies, use ad blockers and opt out of emails, so companies are looking for more ways to establish a direct line with prospects and customers — and direct mail is the perfect avenue for it.
I can tell you, from 24 years of experience with direct mail, that mailers are the best kept secret in marketing — and will be your ally at generating leads, sales and growth for your business. In fact, new technological developments are enhancing direct mail, making it even more powerful.
While any mailer is better than no mailer, optimizing your direct mail strategy will always yield better results. Below, you'll find industry-tested tips on how to target each generation with direct mail to help you maximize results.
Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) require clarity and value locality
Tip 1: Ensure the text is clear and easy to read on the card, so your message doesn't get lost.
According to the Vision Council, 1 in 28 Americans age 40 and above have low vision. This trend will continue over the next 20 years, as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. So, make your direct mail piece as easy to read as possible. For instance, don't put white words on a black or colored background — this is harder to read. And for paragraphs (as opposed to headlines), use a font like Times New Roman, which is much easier to read on printed materials.
Tip 2: Include a map of where your business is located and clear contact information.
The USPS reports that 68% of baby boomers said the most effective element in direct mail was if it was a locally-owned business. By providing a map of your business and address, boomers are more likely to take an interest, because they know you are close by, and they can trust you are a legitimate business.
Tip 3: Keep your marketing campaign simple, but consistent.
According to the USPS, 71% of boomers say that mail feels more personal than digital communications and prefer receiving it over email.
One of our loyal customers at PostcardMania, KA RV Repair, is a perfect example of how to target boomers with mail. Owner Andre Medeiros realized most of his customers were 55 or older and mailed out around 2,000 postcards a month, every month, for over five years. He went from averaging 4-5 jobs a week to over 25 and calculates that every time he mails 5,000 cards, he generates over $150,000 in revenue.
Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980) prefers a mix of digital and print communications and loves a good deal
Tip 1: Incorporate digital elements in your direct mail campaign, like QR codes.
Gen X successfully transitioned from analog to digital technology, so they're the most likely to respond well to a blend of print and digital communications. MarketReach said 88% of Gen X consumers want experiences that blend physical and digital channels. Additionally, the USPS showed QR codes on direct mail pieces performed the best with Gen X, leading the numbers at 67%.
Tip 2: Include at least one deal or free item — but the more offers you give, the better.
Gen Xers are especially attentive to a good deal, because a majority of them are caring for both their baby boomer parents and children while anticipating retirement. The USPS reported that 76% of Gen X consumers said discounts were the most effective aspects of direct mail.
Tip 3: Use automated direct mail retargeting to close more interested prospects.
The USPS reports Gen X is more likely to shop online to save time. Given that about 70% of shopping carts are abandoned, direct mail retargeting (marketing again to someone that already went to your website) will do very well for Gen X. Direct mail retargeting is a relatively new innovation that lets you automate offline follow-up based on online behavior. For example, targeting those 70% of shopping cart abandoners with a postcard that arrives 24-48 hours after they've left your site — all on autopilot thanks to automation! Add an enticing deal to your retargeted mailer that will remind them to complete their purchase.
Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are impressed by unique, tech-savvy marketing and are the most likely to visit your website right after receiving a postcard.
Tip 1: Personalize your direct mail.
Millennials entered the world with access to more information (via the internet) than their predecessors. This makes them extremely tech-savvy. According to the USPS, millennials have the highest interest in direct mail innovations.
A spa postcard with the big, bold headline, "Jackie, take some time for yourself," is more likely to catch Jackie's eye than, "Take some time for yourself." A study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology found that when direct mail was personalized with the recipient's name, the response rate improved by 135%.
Tip 2: Invest in a creative mail piece that breaks the mold.
Millennials tend to think outside of the box and are open to abandoning convention for new and improved processes. So, choose a mail piece that literally stands out among the stack, which usually includes 4.125" x 9.5" envelopes and 4.25" x 6" postcards.
Choose a larger-size postcard, like a 6" x 8.5" or a 6" x 11," to grab their attention. You could even include a scratch-off on the card to keep them engaged with the mail piece. Unique shapes, sizes, materials and styles will perform well over the standard options.
Tip 3: Coordinate direct mail campaigns with digital ads.
The USPS found more millennials visited a website after receiving a direct mail piece than any other generation (USPS). Take advantage of this with a direct mail campaign aimed at driving them to your site, where you can establish permission to serve them follow-up ads on social media like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. These digital ads will keep your business top-of-mind.
Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) pays attention to reviews and will appreciate retargeted direct mail after they surf the web.
Tip 1: Include positive reviews on your mail piece to show they can trust you.
Gen Z pays particular attention to reviews and likes to contribute their opinions, too. It's typical to find a zoomer perusing YouTube or Reddit for reviews and solutions. Sprout Social's Digital Natives Report found that 82% of Gen Z shoppers will buy from a brand after reading reviews from other customers. A review on your postcard with a five-star graphic will help increase their confidence and trust in your business.
Tip 2: Automate triggered mailings targeting Gen Zers who visit your website.
According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Gen Z is on their phone five hours or more a day. You can take advantage of their online proclivity using the direct mail retargeting technology I mentioned above to capture a website visitor's identity, match it to a home address, and then mail them a postcard within 24 hours. You can even create pre-qualifiers, like if the website visitor abandoned a shopping cart or if they were on your website longer than a minute.
Tip 3: Use consumer mailing lists to find them.
A consumer mailing list will be able to locate residences with kids and teens within a certain age range. One of our pediatric dental clients, Villalon Callis Pediatric Dentistry, purchased a consumer mailing list to target families in their local area and mailed out 24,000 kid-friendly postcards. They gained 90 new patients and made about $36,000!
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