In today’s hyper-connected, small business, digital world, the idea of sending direct mail surveys may seem about as innovative and forward-looking as sending up a smoke signal, launching a carrier pigeon, or taking a nice buggy trip to the train station to send a Morse code telegraph (and of course, stopping by at the General Store for some penny candy and saying hello to the Waltons and the Ingalls).
Apparently however, rumors of the demise of direct mail surveys have been greatly exaggerated. According to Communications For Research, a leading market research firm that leads more than 700 projects a year for clients nationwide, here are the 10 most pervasive myths associated with good ‘ol direct mail surveys:
Myth: Companies don’t use direct mail surveys anymore.
Fact: Many companies rely on direct mail surveys — including behemoth Google, which is one of the world’s biggest users of this market research tool.
Myth: Not enough people respond to direct mail surveys to make it a viable data collection method.
Fact: Surprisingly, direct mail surveys often have higher response rates than email and web-based surveys. A study from 2012 found that direct mail campaigns enjoyed a 3.4 percent response rate, while email campaigns had a .12 percent response rate.
Myth: People aren’t excited about direct mail surveys.
Fact: When a suitable incentive is part of the mix, the excitement level surges. For example, a direct mail survey campaign that offered participants the chance to win $100 generated a whopping 91.88 percent response rate.
Myth: People do not complete direct mail surveys because they take too much time.
Fact: Ironically, studies show that non-completion or abandonment of email surveys is higher than direct mail surveys. This is because there are fewer distractions (e.g. chat requests, websites to surf to, Grumpy Cat YouTube videos to watch, etc.). What’s more, if the direct mail survey is properly designed, filling it out can be done in an agreeable and non-invasive manner (i.e. it feels like a fun exercise vs. doing homework).
Myth: Direct mail surveys are too costly.
Fact: The ROI of market research data capturing must take into consideration response rates, and not just input costs. When these are factored into the equation, direct mail surveys are often significantly more cost-effective than other forms of outreach.
Myth: To make direct mail stand out from the pile of junk mail, oversized envelopes are necessary — which drives up costs.
Fact: Oversized envelopes are not necessary, since they do not generate better response rates. Standard-size envelopes get the job done.
Myth: People get confused filling out direct mail surveys.
Fact: Provided that the instructions are simple, clear, concise and logical, participants do not need a researcher to guide them through the process. What’s more, email and web surveys are typically unassisted as well, and nobody is accusing those methods of being baffling.
Myth: Direct mail surveys do not allow for variable testing.
Fact: Direct mail surveys can indeed simulate variable testing to assess how phrasing and order influences responses. Of course, there may be fewer versions compared to longer online surveys, but a well-designed direct mail survey can certainly serve as controls, and add variable tests that improves data quality.
Myth: People simply do not like direct mail surveys. This is the 21st century, after all!
Fact: Believe it or not, but people actually enjoy getting (non-junk) mail – which is why many companies these days are mailing personal hand-written letters to customers vs. sending emails.
What’s more, some people trust direct mail surveys more than they do email and web surveys, as they perceive the former as more legitimate and professional.
Myth: Direct mail surveys are redundant if a business is already using other methods.
Fact: Direct mail surveys can and should be used to test for additional variables, and get more responses. This approach complements rather than competes with or crowds out other data gathering methods (e.g. web, email, phone, in-person interviews, focus groups, etc).
The Bottom Line
If your business is looking to better understand who your customers are, what your competitors are doing, and where your marketplace is headed, then keep in mind that direct mail surveys have certainly not entered the dustbin of history (next to MySpace and Blockbuster Video). Direct mail surveys are alive and well, and can help your business thrive.
**Author: C. Weber
I am an entrepreneur with 10 plus years of experience in a variety of industries including finance, marketing and online technology. As an expert in advanced SEO, paid advertising, and inbound marketing I am passionate about sharing my knowledge with others and helping small businesses reach their full potential.