With the prevalence of email campaign advice and list building tips, it’d be easy to believe that direct mail marketing is dead. According to the research this isn’t the case. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) releases research each year that points to the fact that it isn’t dying, it’s just slowed down and changed format. Here are some reasons why direct mail still works.
According to DMA research, over 40 percent of individuals scan or read direct mail pieces. And that’s on top of the fact that everyone checks their mail regularly. There is no such requirement for email inboxes, unfortunately, and emails pile up quickly. Add to this the fact that overall direct mail marketing has shifted to emails, giving your direct mail piece a better shot at being read compared to five or ten years ago.
There are only two factors that contribute to whether an email is opened or not: the sender’s email address and the subject line. Not so with direct mail marketing. Direct mail has so many more options. The first bit of variety is the format itself. Direct mail can be a postcard, a letter in a small envelope, a letter in a large envelope, a letter plus a postcard, a book, an envelope with extra products like a pen or magnet, etc. The envelope can be different colors, it can have different fonts, and it can have photos on the front. Printing envelopes instead of using window pane envelopes is an effective technique. And then there are personalization options, where the recipient’s name or other information is printed on the envelope or postcard. Marketers can even generate customized URL landing pages generated specifically for the sales lead. These options to incite opening of the content don’t exist in email marketing efforts.
Another reason direct mail marketing works is that there’s more data than ever before. Improved data collection technology means that marketers can create more customized mailing lists than ever before. Lists can be tailored more effectively than ever before which increases the conversion rate. The data behind direct mail marketing pays off now more than ever.
Another reason for its effectiveness is that mail is a tangible items. Recipients can feel the quality of the paper and actually use the “free gifts” that are sent alongside the sales copy. In a digital marketing campaign, the gifts of ebooks and white papers fall into the digital junk drawer that is the downloads folder. The tangibility makes the direct mail piece seem instantly more reliable due to it’s tactile tangibility.
Direct mail marketing works because it fosters trust. Anyone with an email address can create a website and generate emails. What most don’t do anymore is send out direct mail pieces. Those who send out direct mail are therefore seen as more legitimate, since legitimate companies tend to have a higher marketing budget than illegitimate ones. Prospects have a history with direct mail that they don’t with emails.
Online, the visitor decides where she will go on your site. Same thing for emails and other digital content. Users experience websites on their terms, not on the marketer’s. Direct mail is completely different. Direct mailers force the prospect to see only what you present to them. There’s nothing to compete with their ingestion of your information like there is online. Either they scan it, read it, or throw it away. Online, marketers may not even receive the luxury of a scanned email let alone a read one. The odds are in the favor of direct marketing when it comes to turning prospects into customers.
What works and what doesn’t is well documented with direct mail marketing. And what’s more, direct mail marketing works. Time and again the research shows that buyers are more likely to buy after receiving a direct mail piece than if they had received email alone. This is especially true for existing customers.
The verdict is out: direct mail marketing isn’t going anywhere because it works. It’s tangible, it fosters trust in prospects, it is versatile, and it obtains results. Of course that doesn’t mean that online marketing is useless. The effectiveness of direct mail marketing is increased when used alongside online marketing efforts.
Data-driven targeted mailing lists and personalized landing page URLs printed on the direct mail piece are two examples of items which increase conversions. The future of direct mail marketing is a marketing campaign that combines the best of print and the best of digital into a marketing campaign that is custom fit for the business.
Marjorie Garcia earns a living as a marketing consultant and enjoys the opportunity to share her insights with an online audience. She is a frequent contributor for several marketing-related websites.