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Direct Mail: Is it Dead On Arrival?

Direct mail (DM) has been a highly regarded form of advertising for generations. It is inexpensive, comes in several forms, and is highly effective when deployed strategically. DM includes marketing materials like postcards, brochures, catalogs, sales letters, and newsletters. Since the rise of social media, many have mistakenly assumed that DM has fallen into antiquity. For some, this may be true. The benefits of advertising online have made DM seem like the exclusive preview of companies that target the elderly.

However, its apparent antiquation is just that- an appearance. The truth is DM advertising is more viable than ever. Why? Because fewer organizations are using it- that means less competition for you. Those who use it will have a greater impact on their target demographics. While the Internet has taken over almost everything people do- customers who still appreciate DM may feel left out.

The value of getting your materials into the houses in a physical form may seem old fashioned but it is still as valuable as ever. Getting your postcard, menu or product-image pinned to a prospective client’s refrigerator is still the Holy Grail of marketing- and only direct mail can do that.

The Pros & Cons of Direct Mail

DM is still a powerful way to reach valuable marketing demographics. But fierce competition from online marketers means you have to implement your DM campaigns more carefully. To help with this, here are the attributes of DM that still make it a great way to grow your brand, and some common direct mail pitfalls.


Personalized Targeting

DM marketing has the inherent benefit of being targetable. For organizations that understand their customers, this is a great benefit. You can use key demographic factors like household income, age, gender, specific buying groups, cultural markers, profession, and household size and types to pinpoint those who will be most interested in specific products and services.

Even if you don’t know specifics of these kinds, you can still target certain geographic areas for specific qualities that can be discovered with no previous contact. This is a bit like door to door sales without all the unpleasant pavement pounding.

Dimensional Mail

Dimensional mail means parcels that aren’t just flat, but have dimensionality. These could be tubes, boxes, or what have you. Packages like these are a great way to add a great deal of flair to your marketing campaign. This is a great way to bypass screeners and reach highly-qualified prospects. Using dimensional mail is a great way to make a big impression, with a personal feel that will really drive your branding message home.

Filling Digital Gaps

While many people are spending obscene amounts of time in front of computer screens, this does not mean that direct mail does not have a place in the advertising ecosystem. The refrigerator door is still prime real estate in the average household. People still keep pamphlets and catalogs for things they may buy next to recliners and couches. During digital gaps like time in the kitchen, eating at a dining room table, during Internet down times and the like- people who are accustomed to having some kind of information at their fingertips at all times will reach for DM materials that are lying around the house. This brings us to what we call an Online and Offline Integrated Campaign, which we will get to later.


Cost Barriers

Of course, nothing is perfect. Direct mail is no exception. Paying for postage, printing, and packaging are inevitable overhead costs of DM marketing. Companies that rely on DM sales bring in a lot of repeat sales from returning customers. Paying for your investment with return sales is a key to making your DM efforts worthwhile. Fortunately, the ease of tracking makes this possible. But, it also means it may take a little while for your DM campaign to get into its stride.

Snail Mail

It goes without saying that DM is slow. It has to be physically carried by a person in a small white truck to every house in every town in the country. There’s just no way to overcome the speed limitations of snail mail. This is a big part of why the costs take time to cover. However, since DM is a powerful way to engage with repeat customers, it has the benefit of engaging with your most loyal customers in a way that’s hard to beat.

Curse of the Recycling Bin

At the end of the journey for any piece of direct mail, there lives the dreaded monster known as the recycling bin. Almost every piece of DM is destined to become fodder for some big blue bin. The way to avoid this is to create DM materials that are attractive and offer desired information at a glance. Catalogs, menus, and the like are good examples. The destiny of a DM item is decided within about 1.5 seconds after the recipient lays eyes on it. The key to defeating the recycling dragon is to make your DM materials visually appealing and valuable at first glance.

Online and Offline Integrated Campaign

But don’t think that committing to a direct mail campaign means you have to abandon or cut back on your online marketing efforts. You can get the most out of your DM campaign and transform it into a truly multi-channel branding drive by inviting qualified prospects to an exclusive digital experience. Lead them to your landing page using a URL that offers a personalized experience designed especially for them based on the information you have collected.

Remember, high-quality DM begins with database marketing best practices, like those discussed above. Digital printing machines like the HP Indigos and Xerox Docutech’s can help you to personalize every piece of Direct Mail you send. These are the cutting edge printing devices and are certain to maximize your conversion rate.