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The Sky Isn’t Falling for Direct Mailers

While legislators continue to debate over the looming postage increases, direct marketing consultant and mailer Craig Simpson remains bullish on direct mail. Simpson, with author Dan S. Kennedy, recently released The Direct Mail Solution: A Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Lead-Generating, Sales-Driving, Money-Making Direct-Mail Campaign to help other mailers remain positive, as well—by improving their results.

The book comes during a period of uncertainty for direct mail marketers, but Simpson believes that things may not be quite as bad as they seem.

Here, Simpson discusses why direct mail is coming back in vogue, how mail and online support each other, and how mailers can make lemonade out of exigency-flavored lemons.

You say this is the first comprehensive direct mail book in 10 years. Discuss what’s been going on with direct mail over the past decade and why it’s time to rethink direct mail.

I think there have been a lot of other shiny objects out there than direct mail over the last few years. People have been focusing more on online marketing, email marketing, SMS, things like that. People haven’t necessarily forgotten about direct mail, but it hasn’t been that shiny object that marketers are attracted to.

The timing for this book is good because now a lot of these companies are coming back to direct mail. They tried online media, they’ve tried SMS, and many of them found [that] ROI wasn’t that great. Many of them are turning back to the more traditional practice of direct mail.

What I find interesting is that just last year Google was the eighth largest technology direct mail company in the U.S. Why are they sending out millions of pieces of mail? Because it works. They’re using this traditional, old, offline media to drive customers to their online advertising service Ad Words.

As a mailer yourself, what trends are you seeing in the direct mail business?

I send out almost 300 mailings a year for a variety of niches. About 100 of them are using direct mail to drive customers online. It seems we’re combining the two methods. We’re taking direct mail, an offline source, and using it to drive customer online to take the next step whether it’s to watch a video, make a purchase, or whatever it may be. This method of marketing is working extremely well right now.

According to a USPS study you cite in your book, 60% of people who received a catalog in the mail were driven to that brand’s website. Can you speak more on the interplay between direct mail and online marketing channels?

With any kind of marketing, the more channels you can involve the better. Even though I’m a direct mail guy I encourage my clients to use more than one form of media. Online is great. Direct mail and online used together is even better.

Given the current state of technology, direct mail can still get you very targeted prospects and you can move them to an online sales funnel. A lot of times businesses will have an online store or other sales funnel that’s proven to work well for them. A way to tap into a group that may not be online is to pull them in using a different source, which can be offline mail.

From what I’m seeing, most customers’ lifetime values are higher when pushed from direct mail to online than those that originate and close online.

What would you say to direct mailers who are concerned about the postal reform bill?

Anyone that’s doing direct mail wants to see reform happen and it is discouraging to see the postage increase. But this is what we have to work with. I don’t see the increase as something that will make me cut my budgets or the size of my campaigns. It’s actually something that will work to our advantage in many ways.

Mail isn’t as saturated as email in the first place, but there are going to be a lot of companies pulling out of mailing due to the costs increases. That reduces the saturation of the mailbox.  I’m not happy about the postage increase, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. It gives you a better chance to stand out in the mailbox each day.

If you look at response rates and compare them to mail volume you’ll find response rates are higher when volume is lower.

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