Emily Groch
Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

While many brands have been tempted to slash their marketing spend on programs such as direct mail, during these financially challenging times, Charter Communications wasn’t. Instead, the telecoms giant, while reducing its marketing spend across several channels in Q2, defended its share of voice in the mailbox – remaining far more active than its competitors, according to the latest Comperemedia research.

This strategy was handsomely rewarded. Charter was the only US pay-TV provider that was able to add, rather than lose, video subscriptions during the quarter. Charter’s addition of 100k new video subscribers was a remarkable feat given that cable providers have experienced many consecutive quarters of video losses, as consumers drop cable TV packages for cheaper, more flexible streaming options.

You’ve got direct mail

Charter’s phenomenal success in attracting so many new video (as well as wireless) subscribers was probably the result of its direct mail strategy.

It consistently sends more acquisition mail than any other US telecommunications provider and has remained the direct mail leader in 2020 to-date. Beyond this, it also ran an internet promotion during Q2 for households with educators or students, which offered the first 60 days of service free.

As Charter grew its internet subscribers, it focused on selling additional services to them. In Q2 2020, it increased cross-sell mail by 14% year on year to promote video and wireless services to internet subscribers. While other providers were also benefiting from the rapidly growing internet subscriber base, they failed to increase cross-sell mail to build on this massive opportunity. In fact, telecom cross-sell mail overall was down 15% year on year.

Why has mail been so effective?

Although direct mail requires a longer lead time and is often more expensive than many digital marketing channels, it has several advantages right now for those brands that continue to use it and can afford the higher cost per thousand impressions (CPM)s:

  • As many marketers are decreasing direct mail spend, there’s less competition for attention in people’s mailboxes
  • Mail enables brands to reach consumers at home, without the distractions of screen time that so many of us have been glued to for months
  • Mail offers space for marketers to illustrate the value and provide multiple options to help the consumer tailor products or services based on their individual needs

Key lessons for marketers when using direct mail

Simply ramping up direct mail isn’t a silver bullet for every brand’s marketing strategy. However, unilaterally cutting a marketing channel because it’s more expensive or less agile could prove a big tactical miss.

Marketers will have to plan carefully for the months ahead since mail requires a longer lead time than digital channels which can be turned off and on easily. They can consider new trends in how consumers are purchasing or interacting with their products, and where the opportunities may be as a result. With the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, mail should highlight various ways to purchase products or services, prioritizing virtual paths to purchase over brick-and-mortar. Being able to direct consumers from the mailer to a website or app with the most up-to-date information will be crucial.

Finally, if it doesn’t make economic sense to target new prospects through direct mail at this time, it may very well be worth the investment to target existing customers to drive additional sales. Charter successfully used this approach, and other brands could use this winning formula too.