Direct mail crawls out from under its rock

It’s alive…

Dubbed a dead and ineffective method of reaching potential customers only a few years ago, direct mail is rising again.

As part of an overall brand strategy and marketing strategy, direct mail may be just the tactic to boost your marketing efforts.

Social media and promotional emails are beginning to lose their effectiveness thanks to spam filters and algorithms that prevent organic reach. Meanwhile, direct mail just keeps chugging along. In fact, depending on how you use it, it might be a more effective way to reach new customers and communicate with clients.

Brand Strategy Consultants

The snail mail stats

In November 2016, Inc. Magazine reported:

Response rates can reach 5.3 percent when you use a “house list” of existing customers and opt-in recipients, and overall they are up almost 2 percent compared with last year. That dwarfs the 0.3 to 0.9 percent scored by all of the tracked digital methods, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2016 Response Rate Report.

An August 2014 study reported on by showed that 22% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product based on a direct mail piece than they are after receiving an email.

And according to a report cited by IWCO from Direct Marketing Association, snail mail response rate outperformed that of all digital channels—combined:

Direct mail achieves a 3.7% response rate with a house list, and a 1.0% response rate with a prospect list. All digital channels combined only achieve a 0.62% response rate (Mobile 0.2%; Email 0.1% for a Prospect list and 0.1% for House/Total list; Social Media 0.1%; Paid Search 0.1%; Display Advertising 0.02%). Telephone had the highest response rate at 9-10%.

But isn’t snail mail less cost-effective?

More marketers are moving their budgets toward digital marketing, which opens up competitive space for direct mail. But cost is always a factor. According to IWCO:

Cost-per-acquisition for direct mail is very competitive. Direct mail stands at $19, which fares favorably with Mobile and Social Media (both at $16-18), Paid Search ($21-30), Internet Display ($41-50) and even email ($11-15).

As always when organizing a marketing campaign of any kind, the strategy you employ is as important as the design and outreach.

Adam Haupricht is marketing manager of Fox’s Pizza Den, which hits 25 states across 250 franchises. They mail 500,000 promotional postcards at a time. Including postage, the campaigns cost 25¢ per piece. Some stores have increased sales as much as 30 to 40 percent over 30 weeks. “A generic postcard with the same old coupons on the back is the least effective,” he says.

How to create direct mail that sings

Effective direct mail is no longer just a good-looking postcard or brochure. Evaluate what messages work, test different tactics across your lists, and be flexible.

Photography is key. Using photos of staff gives even the most corporate messaging a personal touch. But a clever or eye-catching graphic of any kind goes leaps and bounds above a stock photo.

And be sure to integrate your online presence with your printed pieces. “Your direct mail can’t sit off by itself,” says Liz Miller, senior vice president of the CMO Council, a network of marketing executives. “It’s all got to connect to online and offline strategies.”

To be a true selling vehicle, direct mail needs to match your overall brand message, while also integrating seamlessly with your efforts in the digital realm.

Want to take it even further?

According to direct mail industry experts, going a bit further in terms of content and the offer in your direct mail efforts will push you ahead. Think beyond the standard—read: unexciting—discounts and offers.

Instead of a 10 percent discount… offer a substantial freebie—a report, a product sample, or even a tote bag.

For brick and mortars, think of ways to get people in the door. Online businesses should tie the card to a specific promo code or webpage built specifically for those receiving the card.

Use landing pages, tie your direct mail piece in with social media, and make the offer specific to the piece you’re sending to make it more trackable.

Use a contact management system (CMS) together with a list builder like that offered by Experian to gather leads and track responses you receive. Then fine-tune your strategy over time to see if direct mail is working for your target customer base.

It’s not shiny and new, but depending on your target customer base, adding direct mail to your marketing strategy may help bring customers—new and old—through the door.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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