Direct Mail Remains Impactful

From social and email to mobile and display, digital has changed the game for marketers—especially for those who include direct mail in their marketing mix. Those new options have reduced but not eliminated use of the effective, yet pricey channel. In fact, even with the continued rise of digital, marketers still rely on direct mail to cut through the noise and deliver unique, one-to-one communications to potential and current customers. 

What’s more, 70% of Americans believes that postal mail is more personal than digital communications, according to mail services provider Compu-Mail. So, despite months of postal regulation battles in Washington, recent postage price hikes, and the often lower costs of digital marketing, direct mail zealots continue to rely on the channel. 

“Direct mail as a marketing media continues to deliver strong results for marketers. In fact, in many categories of business, it is the primary lead generation tool,” says Wes Sparling, VP of marketing strategy at IWCO Direct. “Contrary to what many people may think, direct mail is experiencing minor growth with a projected 2014 domestic gross spend of $44.5 billion according to Winterberry Group.” Indeed, U.S. Postal Service financial results for the nine months ending June 30 show that the volume standard mail—the preferred class of bulk mailers—increased by 3%.

“Direct mail has a long, proven history as a successful advertising medium. Just because there is a new advertising option available, it doesn’t mean that it will work better [than direct mail],” says Craig Simpson, mail consultant and author of The Direct Mail Solution: A Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Lead-Generating, Sales-Driving, Money-Making Direct-Mail Campaign

“Direct mail has a long, proven history as a successful advertising medium. Just because there is a new advertising options available, it doesn’t mean it will work better,” says Craig Simpson, mail consultant and author of The Direct Mail Solution: A Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Lead-Generating, Sales-Driving, Money-Making Direct-Mail Campaign.

IWCO Direct’s Sparling insists that digital is not a direct mailer’s foe, but gives traditional marketers access to one of the industry’s most powerful tools: data. “[When] using segmentation, data, analytics, and appropriate format and messaging, direct mail is unquestionably one of the best media available for customer acquisition,” Sparling says. He notes that “by looking at the whole mix of marketing media and assessing each of them for their relative strengths and weaknesses…a marketer develops an optimal acquisition strategy.”

Sparling says that while a person’s age should be considered, the assumption that direct mail campaigns work better on older audiences isn’t always true. “A smart marketer is able to identify which tactics best reach his or her target audience and then through testing and measurement will allocate their scarce marketing dollars toward a mix of tactics that best benefits [the campaign’s] objectives.”

Some experts say it’s not that direct mail is out of date, but is simply too pricey for many marketing budgets. “Direct mail continues to be an effective channel for direct marketers, but rising postal costs are a concern for direct mailers,” says Clif McDougall, CEO at marketing services company Com-Pak Services. “Demand for commingling has really grown, especially since the recent increases. [Markets who use it] are seeing the benefits of cost avoidance and improved speed to market.”

Author Simpson says marketers need to take a closer look at direct mail as it continues to be a strong performer in customer acquisition. “I see results from direct mail campaigns every week, and I can tell you it is alive and well,” Simpson says. “Direct Mail continues to provide consistent response for generating new customers and getting existing customers to buy more often. There is less competition in the mailbox, so you have a better chance of getting noticed by your prospects and customers.”

Updated on September 15 

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