Problem Solver: Is it smart for an online business to use direct mail?

The answer is yes. It is indeed smart for an online business to use direct mail.

There was a time not that many years ago when the “World Wide Web” was a mysterious and magical place. Gurus proclaimed that everything would soon change.

Other media, including direct mail and nearly anything in print, would die a rapid death. We were destined to live in a paperless world. Brick and mortar stores would transform into “virtual” businesses.

Well, like most idealistic visions, this scenario hasn’t played out as expected. The Web has not killed real-world stores. We shuffle more paper than ever before, and direct mail, while certainly affected by the rise of online media, isn’t even close to death. In many ways, it’s stronger and more effective than ever.

People are so annoyed and suspicious of unsolicited e-mail, they now consider direct mail to be a relatively trustworthy medium. And while SEO, social marketing, keywords and other online strategies are powerful tools, they tend to reach only those actively searching for a product like yours.

This is why smart online entrepreneurs understand that the medium is not the business. The bigger you want your business to be, the more media you must use to expand your reach. And there is no other medium that gives you more reach than good old fashioned direct mail. If a prospect has money to spend, they have an address. And if they have an address, you can reach them with direct mail.

So how can you use direct mail to build your online business?

Advertise specials and sales. GoDaddy is a good example. They use all the available online marketing media to draw more business for their hosting and domain services, but also use direct mail to push a constant stream of time-limited offers.

Build your relationship with customers. Online relationships are fragile, often fickle. But direct mail exists in the real world. You can hold it in your hand and bring it into your home. It can make your business more tangible and personal.

Reach a wider circle of prospects. Not everyone is glued to their computer. Direct mail helps you speak to people who want your products and services but live outside your core online audience.

Send samples. It’s hard to judge the quality of coffee online. But you can mail a sample for people to smell and taste. If they like it, and assuming it’s not available at the grocery store, they’re happy to buy it online.

Use e-mail to support direct mail and vice versa. If you’re sending a direct mail piece, use your e-mail list to give people a timely heads up. Or you can use direct mail to encourage people to opt in to quickly build your online list. Media integration builds synergy and helps media do more together than if used separately.

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