Thursday, May 10, 2012

Direct Mail Marketing: Dead or Alive?

What’s your opinion of direct mail marketing versus email and social media as a marketing tool?

Do you see email, Facebook and Twitter as today’s relevant marketing strategies, replacing direct mail marketing? Are you convinced that customers and prospects view marketing mail as junk mail? Did you try direct mail marketing once, with disappointing results?

If so, you may be surprised to learn that volumes of research support the fact that direct mail marketing remains an effective marketing tool and it is enhanced, not replaced, by email and social media. It’s not that direct mail is dead – it’s that single-channel communication is dead. 

Using marketing strategies cooperatively

Not everyone responds to communications in the same way. Today, any marketer using only one method to reach customers and prospects is risking effectiveness. Rather than use one method in isolation, several methods should be combined to multiply their effect:

Scenario 1: Use a direct mail post card with a printed QR code to direct the target audience to your website. At the website, provide an incentive to gather email addresses. Invite visitors to engage with your social sites.

Scenario 2: Use the opt-in email list to direct a customer to your website to request a direct mail pack. Send a follow-up email message to be sure that the pack was received.

Scenario 3: Use a direct mail piece to remind donors or members of the need to renew. Use email to remind non-responders of the approaching deadline to join or give. Send a written communication to responders (thank you) and non-responders (second follow-up mailing).

As Charles Gaudet, marketing expert and founder of,
reminds us, “One would think that if digital communication was so good then the online giants of the world, namely Google and Microsoft, would rely solely on email and other digital media, but they don’t. In fact, they spend millions of dollars each year reaching out to customers and prospects using direct mail. Why? Because it works.” 

Direct mail: the logical first step

John Jantsch, creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System, says “Marketing is getting people who have a specific need or problem to know, like, and trust you.” For most businesses and organizations, direct mail is the logical first step to accomplish these objectives.

Sending direct mail – particularly a series of mailings – allows prospects to become familiar with your company’s name, logo, location, product line and services. Even if there’s no immediate need for what you’re offering, you build name recognition and allow the prospect to get to know your business. Further, you increase the likelihood that the prospect will visit your website or click through to it in search results.

Is direct mail junk mail?

Although unsolicited advertising or promotional material is called junk mail by some, it is welcomed by others. According to the Direct Marketing Association 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, 79% of households either read or skim advertising mail sent to their home.

This finding is consistent with a study conducted by ICR for Pitney Bowes. That survey found that despite the widespread use and popularity of digital media overall, 73% of consumers prefer mail for receiving new product announcements, compared to 18% who prefer email. The survey also found that 31% of consumers are less likely to discard unopened mail (including new product announcements, coupons, brochures and catalogs) than they are to delete spam (53%). 

Unsolicited mail versus unsolicited email

To compare unsolicited mail to unsolicited email, the ICR study asked consumers what specific advantages they saw in unsolicited mail. The results are interesting:
  • 45% found mail less intrusive than email.
  • 40% found mail more convenient (save and consider at leisure).
  • 30% of respondents found mail to be less high pressure (let them consider their decision).
  • 23% of respondents found mail to be more descriptive (easier to picture the offer).
  • 12% of respondents found mail to be more persuasive.


Other differences include:

  • Email can be designated by the recipient as spam and blocked from the inbox. Direct mail, on the other hand, does get into the mail box. And because it is tangible, some part of the mail piece will be seen even if it is discarded.
  • Mail that arrives regularly may be more welcome than email. Prospects unsubscribe from email at a faster rate than they request to be removed from a mailing list.
  • If someone moves and turns in change-of-address orders to the USPS, that information is made available to mailers. There are no similar update services for email addresses.
According to the United States Postal Service, the average household receives about 16 pieces of advertising-related mail per week, while the average consumer received 15-16 marketing emails per day. In 2009, Forrester Research predicted that email marketing messages would reach an average of 25 per day by 2014. This means that there is significant competition for consumer attention with email and relatively little for direct mail. 

Direct mail is a campaign, not a single event

Effective direct mail marketing is a campaign rather than a one-time mailing – mail pieces are sent out on a regular, recurring cycle. If your budget allows for a 3,000-piece mailing, it is better to mail three times to a list of 1,000 rather than one time to a list of 3,000. The costs will be nearly the same, but the response rate will be greater. Each subsequent mailing reinforces your message and increases the likelihood that a recipient will have a current need for your product or service. 

Count on us for help

For 17 years, we have been helping our customers effectively communicate with their customers and prospects. We have the knowledge and experience to help you design a direct mail campaign with impact. We will design and print the mail piece, process your mailing list for data quality and hygiene, and provide mailing services that qualify for discounted postage rates. We can also help you take advantage of promotions being offered by the USPS. To learn more about our direct mail marketing services and how they help you increase sales, contact Brigid at (215) 923-2679 or

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