Direct Mail: Dead or Dead On?

While few direct marketers now rely only on direct mail, it remains alive, well and a key player for targeting prospects and building customer relationships. See if any of this applies to you.

How much of your buyer base are you missing if you rely exclusively on email? For example, if your emails to customers have a 15 percent open rate, how are you reaching the other 85 percent? A client of mine who gets a 15 percent open rate tells me that when he makes the same email-proven offer using direct mail and does a match-back, he finds those responding to the mail did not open the email. And both efforts are very profitable.

With direct mail numbers down, now is the time to be in the mail. You’ve got less mailbox competition and a properly targeted mail piece will get more attention. Last week, for three days straight, I didn’t receive a single envelope or postcard addressed to me. First I was disappointed. Then I was angry. Had I become so unimportant that no one wanted to mail me? Seize this opportunity to stay connected!

Direct mail is difficult to ignore because it’s tactile and tangible. You can’t delete it with a click; you have to hold it in your hands before you can throw it away. Touch is a powerful tool. Use it to your advantage with textured papers, heavier paper stock, even tactile varnishes. How a direct mail piece feels contributes to how readers engage with it.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal told the story of a B-to-B entrepreneur who swapped snail mail for email to save $20,000. Instead, she saw a 25 percent drop in orders compared to the year before. After initially thinking the decrease was due to the economy, she began hearing from customers that they hadn’t gotten their usual “reminder” in the mail. Fortunately, a quick postcard mailing recouped the 25 percent loss.

Direct mail provides immediate gratification. Ever wonder why mailings include return address labels or product samples? They work! Direct mail that includes an instant free gift or usable product sample provides instant gratification and better direct mail open rates. They also plant the seed of a relationship with new customers and no download is required.

Direct mail is still officially and personally delivered … for less than a Starbuck’s cup of coffee. While there’s plenty of reason to be critical of the USPS, it’s still a person in uniform — not a computer — who hand-delivers your mail. He or she is a “regular” in the neighborhood or office. All this carries an unspoken aura of importance.

Direct mail is virus-free. It has never made a computer crash. Need I say more?

Have you noticed there’s been an increase in direct mail from restaurants? Why? They’ve discovered it’s the cost-effective way to saturate a geographic area or radius with an appropriately relevant message and put an offer into the hands of a new customer.

Direct mail is still perceived as being private and less risky when providing credit card and other personal information.

Direct mail is personal. In an informal focus group of attendees at a direct marketing (not direct mail) workshop, I asked how many preferred receiving birthday and holiday cards by mail versus email. 100 percent said traditional mail. Now true, this was not a statistically reliable sample. But what caught my attention was the average age of 20-something. Done right, it’s still hard to beat the personal appeal of traditional mail.

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of 'The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook,' published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.