Please Mr. Postman: Five reasons to still use direct mail

On: December 2, 2011
In: Uncategorized
Views: 769

Every one is using email marketing today. Its not just for Nigerian princes any more! Marketers from multinationals to local retailers are hopping on the opt-in bandwagon and filling your in-box with offers, invitations and news updates. There is no question that email is fast, affordable and quite often effective in spurring reaction from consumers.

But what about your actual mail box? Outside of credit card companies (who show no signs of lightening your mail carrier’s load) the supply of direct response mail seems to be dwindling. Are we looking at the end of junk mail as we know it? Or is there still gold to be mined from the mail?

We took a look at the $45 billion direct mail industry (compared to $14 billion in email spending) and found a few good reasons to keep sending those cards and letters. Here are our lab-tested results on direct mail opportunities that outweigh email:

1. When it is part of a multi-pronged sales effort

Advertising is built on repetition, and the more ways you reach out to customers the better. Email is fast, but direct has staying power. Physical mail sticks around from the front porch to the recycle bin, and constantly reinforces your message. According to the Direct Marketing Association (which supports both email and direct mail), over 81% of households read or scan their direct mail. The DMA also reports that promotions that have both direct mail and email components have up to 25% more conversions than any single approach.

2. When you can’t get a good list

There is no such thing as a ‘mass mailing’ in email. Without a valid address, your email goes nowhere, and a good list is hard to find. Studies show that 60% of users employ two or more personal email addresses, giving a different address to entities they do not trust while maintaining separate accounts for trustworthy sources. This makes starting an email outreach even harder. Direct mail lists can be purchased for very localized areas, and a well-written direct mail piece can even direct prospects to your website or opt-in to an email list.

3. When you need to say something lengthy

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but sometimes it takes a few more words to make a point. Email Lab’s reports that viewers spend only 15-20 seconds on the average email. That’s not enough time for a discussion of global warming (or even to discuss comparative strengths of email). Direct mail gives you the space to make a rational appeal. The ability to send multiple pieces together allows readers to get as much information as they want, choosing to read supplementary support material or jumping directly to the response piece.

4. When you make emotional appeals

In the email browser, images are small and copy is usually reduced to a list of bullets. The focus is on click-through. This is not the best environment for an emotional message. Photography can take center stage in a mail piece, and there is room for a copy writer to inspire, frighten or tug the heart strings of the reader. The physical nature of direct mail gives a piece a longer life, giving an emotional message more time to resonate.

5. When your goal is long-term brand-building

Email is all about the offer. Nothing can deliver offers faster or more cost-effectively than it can. But a lot of marketing can’t be summed up in a simple ‘click here’ kind of offer. Often brand-building is a combination of emotional and rational appeals, brought together in a consistent creative manner. None of this is email’s strength. Even the speed and timeliness of email is not overly helpful when trying to build relationships with customers. Nearly 80% of the responses to an email campaign will be received within the first 24 hours, and resending the same email is rarely effective.

That is not to say that brand building can’t be done on-line. Web sites, social media, blogs and forums can create closer ties between companies and their customers than brochures and ads ever could. But the constraints of email make it a difficult place to really forge a brand.

Unlike direct mail, which offers the room and creative freedom to allow your audience to connect with your brand– and sign up for your email list.


Luckily there are many tools in a marketers toolbox. Our technicians test these tools individually to identify their strengths and weaknesses; and we look forward to sharing our findings with you. If you have observed interesting results in your emai/snailmail experiments or would like us to look into something particular, please let us know. We are relentless in our pursuit of science.


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