PFL's Daniel Gaugler On Why Direct Mail Makes You A Better Marketer

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PFL's Daniel Gaugler On Why Direct Mail Makes You A Better Marketer

Open Mic is a monthly Q&A series by Invoca that offers a fresh perspective from today’s smartest marketers working at start-ups, brands, agencies and everything in between.

Daniel PFL Headshot

For this month’s Open Mic, I was really excited to speak to Daniel Gaugler, VP of Marketing for Printing for Less (PFL), because he totally gets it when it comes to creating a seamless experience for customers online AND offline. Incorporating print into your omnichannel marketing campaign can be incredibly impactful when it comes to both delighting your customers and the bottom line. In fact, at Invoca, we realized a 1500% increase in ROI by using PFL and Marketo to automate and integrate direct mail in our marketing mix. I talked to Daniel about how the customer journey has evolved, why millennials love print, and why his first cell phone was (literally) in a bag.

Q: When people say that direct mail is old school or irrelevant, how do you typically respond?

A: I remind people that we don’t live in a single channel world. Email, phone calls, direct mail, social media, and texts are all factors in how we make our buying decisions. At the end of the day, it’s about how we communicate effectively on the channels that our customers are actively using.

In our own marketing we’re agnostic on the channel, but religious about the results. Ultimately it’s about finding the channels that work for you.

Q: How have you seen the customer journey change over the past several years. What can marketers do to keep up?

A: I started doing marketing at PFL 11 years ago, believe it or not. When I started, I was primarily focused on email, paid search and display advertising. At the time -- in the early 2000s -- digital marketing worked really well for us. We were early to adopt digital, and the market wasn’t crowded yet. People were still excited to get emails (yes, even from brands), and they actually clicked on banner ads. However, as you know, as more and more brands started using these tactics, the competition increased, and consumers became fatigued. All of this contributed to digital marketing becoming a more expensive way to acquire customers.

So, we took a step back and talked about how to realign our strategy. We had to become better marketers -- better at targeting, better at knowing our customers, and better at getting the right people into the funnel. A big part of this was analyzing our data and better understanding what our customers wanted. We used this intel to refine our digital model and coordinate the various channels (email, social, display etc.) in order to create a better overall customer experience. This was also a great time for us to re-focus on direct mail. It’s a more expensive touch given the printing and postage costs, so to be effective, we really had to be at a point where our messaging was refined, and we knew exactly who were our best targets.

Now our marketing campaigns are totally integrated and our return on investment is better than ever. And if we look at the trend of ABM coming into this -- it’s all about coordinating the interactions across the organization and integrating sales as part of the customer journey. When you get all those things right, and it makes sense to the customer, it makes our marketing more effective.

In terms of how marketers can keep up with how the customer journey is changing…I would encourage doing lots of experimentation. When you find something that works, refine it, test it, and improve upon it. PFL’s marketing transformation didn’t happen overnight. We took small steps to find what worked for our business...and we continue to iterate on our model to this day.

Q: How has the growth of mobile impacted PFL’s marketing strategy?

A: Most of our marketing emails are read on a mobile device, so designing responsive emails is, of course, a priority. We’ve also discovered that some customers want to communicate with us via text, so getting people to a point where they trust us enough to give us their mobile number has been good for the business. Also, as a company, we always look for any way to incorporate a human touch into an otherwise online transaction. In fact, we have a rule here at PFL where if you get an email from a customer or prospect that’s more than a yes or no question, you need to pick up the phone and have a real conversation. Employees take it seriously!

Q: Demonstrating ROI is a key priority for CMOs. What's the biggest mistakes marketers make when measuring the success of their campaigns?

A: One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is attributing ROI to a single channel. People don’t experience your brand through a single channel -- it’s the overall experience. In the B2C space, you might have people that click on an ad and make an impulse buy right away. In this case, marketing attribution is simple. However, with B2B or any considered purchase in B2C, people do a lot of research and experience your brand in a lot of different ways, and it all plays into their buying decision.

Q: What is the value of print for B2C marketers? Do you have any examples of great campaigns?

A: Both baby boomers and millennials -- two different ends of the spectrum -- like receiving print materials. Print has a unique advantage in terms of getting that initial engagement from someone you don’t have a relationship with. An email from someone you don’t know, on the other hand, is most likely going to get deleted right away. Direct mail is a less crowded space, it’s typically welcomed, and people spend more time with their mail. Here are a couple examples of innovative direct mail campaigns that we’ve done with financial services companies:

Barclays example
citi example

For more examples, click here.

Also, I firmly believe that doing print makes you a better marketer. If you can do well with direct mail, performance across your other channels is also going to improve. Since there’s a significant cost involved, it forces you to refine your message and choose your audience carefully. If you’re disciplined enough to take these same principles and apply them back to your email marketing and ad buys, you will see better results across the board.

Q: What advice do you have for young people who are just starting out in marketing?

A: Initially I went to school for computer science, but then decided I didn’t want to write code. I switched and got a degree in marketing instead. At the time, I didn’t recognize the impact that would have on my career. My advice would be: if you’re a technology person, learn the business side. If you’re a business person, learn the technology side. Strive to understand how both sides work. And if you can combine those skills you’ll be incredibly valuable to any organization.

I think the other piece is of advice is: “you’re never done.” If you just started a job in marketing, you’ve just started your education. College doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the rate at which things change. The first couple years on the job will be a steep learning curve, and it’s also a great time to differentiate yourself. From then on, continue to be open to new ideas, different tools, and new ways of doing things. You’re never done.

Q: What model was your first cell phone? When did you get it? What was your ring tone?

cell phone

A: I got my first phone in high school -- a Motorola bag phone. Due to the rural nature of where we lived (nearest neighbor was 5 miles away), I had to take it with me whenever leaving home, in case of emergency. I think we only had 200 minutes a month and it only had one ringtone.

Daniel Gaugler, VP of Marketing at PFL, is a business-driven, entrepreneurial-minded marketer with an extensive background in: marketing automation, integrated marketing programs, direct mail, search engine marketing, eCommerce, email, and direct sales. He has a proven track record of implementing multi-channel marketing systems that leverage technology to drive awareness, acquire customers, grow sales, and improve the customer experience.

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