Direct Mail: Is it as Dead as the Dodo?

If you think that direct mail is dead, then I’m afraid my friend, you are wrong. TV hasn’t killed our love of a good book, neither has the Kindle killed bookshops – yet, and just because we now use email for marketing doesn’t mean that direct mail has been left languishing like an odd sock.Direct Mail: is it as dead as the Dodo?

In a society that faces technological progress on what feels like a daily basis, it’s easy to think that more traditional methods of communication have been lost among the wealth of tools available. And when it comes to marketing, and the number of apps, tools, and gadgets at our fingertips, some people might think that direct mail has gone the way of the Dodo. But they’d be wrong.

According to Central Mailing Services 2013 infographic on direct mail statistics, a whopping 48% of the UK population has responded to direct mail over the past year. Add to that statistics that show 62% of people like to receive offers via mail and 56% of people welcome mail that provides useful information, direct mail sounds like a brighter option than you may have thought 2 minutes ago.

In fact, it’s better than that. The ROI of direct mail has increased year-on-year for the last decade.

Once you’re over that shocker, here’s how it was done:

You’ve Got Mail!

A phrase made famous by Tom Hanks back in the 1990s. But now, everyone is getting mail. In fact, if your computer announced ‘You’ve got mail’ every time you had actually gotten mail, it wouldn’t take too long for the computer to be thrown out of a window somewhere. Landing in a heap of other computers that had been swiftly ejected from homes and businesses everywhere.

We live in a time where professionals everywhere are suffering from inbox overload, and with 300 billion messages sent each day, that is hardly surprising. So in a time where every business everywhere is sending email after email, it makes a nice change for a direct mail to land upon a CEO’s desk on a Monday morning.

In fact, some may call it a novelty to receive an interesting piece of direct mail – you instantly stand out from the plethora of emails. And given the fact that printing costs have fallen drastically, you can send out something a little different from your competitors without having to contend with an ever dwindling marketing budget.

A study conducted by the The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in April 2012 found that the response rate for direct mail to an existing customer averages 3.4%, compared to 0.12% for email.

Direct mail + online interaction = the ultimate formula for everlasting love

Using direct mail doesn’t mean that you should scrap that social media plan. In fact, research shows that printed direct mail is a great way to drive digital interaction.

The DMA also says that print DM is a good way to drive digital interaction and that the move to digital marketing has actually driven more innovation in print DM, rather than killing it off. Being creative in your DM design helps to drive better results too and using ‘dimensional mail’ rather than traditional flat paper in envelopes has been shown to get significantly higher response rates in the B2B world.

Research has shown that dimensional mail:

  • has 20 times the penetrating power of flat direct mail

  • boosts response rates by as much as 75%

  • scores 80% or better in generating positive opinions among recipients

Interesting right?

Making the most of direct mail

So if I’ve managed to show you that direct mail is worth a chance, how does a business go about creating mailers that will give you the response you’re looking for?

Here are a few great tips:

  • Focused targeting – don’t mass send to everyone in your database. Be selective, develop the right messages and send only to the right people. Remember – this will only be successful if you’ve got good, up-to-date data lists.

  • Get personal – use of first name just doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to speak to the business pain your prospects are feeling or your mailer just won’t resonate, no matter how pretty it is.

  • Don’t go it alone – like all marketing channels, integration is the key and your amazing DM campaign needs to be surrounded by other marketing activities for maximum impact.

  • Get your headline right! Most people are not paying attention to every advertisement so you really have to shake them to their core with something that is relevant and attention grabbing.

How to nail direct mail

  • Make an integrated plan that surrounds your DM with digital activities, so the mailer also creates a buzz online

  • Go for small, targeted groups rather than blanket mails for better results

  • Remember that, although the costs of a DM campaign may seem high compared to digital, if you get it right the potential ROI is a lot higher too.

  • Create a dimensional DM that has impact

Now I’m not saying that you should give up your social media strategy and delete the blog, they are extremely successful forms of marketing and part of every successful digital marketers repertoire. Instead, remember, marketing is not a one size fits all approach and direct mail is still a powerful way to reach out to potential new customers.

P.S. If you want to find out more about how to improve your marketing, read this: The 7 habits of highly successful digital marketers.

About Suzanne Stock

Suzanne Stock is a founding Director of Marketscan and is responsible for online digital marketing, human resources, training and facilities management. Marketscan provides email marketing data, direct mail addresses, and data for telemarketing.