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Should Direct Mail be in Your Marketing Strategy?

Updated on September 24, 2012

For nearly a decade, most business marketing strategies have focused on an amazing new frontier: the Internet.

And although progress at first was made in fits and starts -- not every customer was on the Net, nor was every marketer -- online marketing strategies now seem to have reached critical mass.

If you're not sure about this, just turn on your TV and you'll see that the standard block of commercials include new 'mainstream' products: GotoMeeting, eTrade, Kindle, and -- all based on the Internet.

So with all this marketing effort migrating to the Internet, my suggestion to marketers is this: Start looking elsewhere.

"What? We just got here!" you say. "We just converted all our subscriptions over to the online versions," you say.

I'm not saying to drop your web-based storefront, to drop your email confirmation system, to drop the data feed on your Blackberry, or even to logoff your Twitter.

I am saying that, while we were all mesmerized with gaining share on the World Wide Web, we missed something big that has been happening close-by.

We missed a revolution taking place with Direct Mail marketing.

I know, I know. You thought Direct Mail had retired, or maybe had just another year left.

Maybe you heard Direct Mail was dead and gone.

Time to adjust your business marketing strategies?
Time to adjust your business marketing strategies? | Source

Direct Mail Lives

As Mark Twain once said, "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".

Not only is Direct Mail marketing not finished, it's been re-done -- the old warehouses have been turned into trendy loft apartments, so to speak.

Here's what I mean:

  • Direct mail lists have gotten better
    Because of, yes, the Internet, a top quality direct marketing mailing list is easy to come by. The databases of the world have collected everything worth knowing and then some. Because of technology, direct mail lists are now both good and cheap.
  • The Post Office has improved
    Many post offices now can pre-screen mailing lists to speed up delivery and minimize undeliverable items. So there's far less wasted mail sent to 'Addressee Unknown.'
  • Producing direct mail advertising is much better
    There's a lot involved in making direct mail happen: designing, printing, mailing list addressing, mail prep, etc. Ten years ago, this was a big orchestration. Now, with an Adobe and an Excel file, a single high-tech machine can do the whole thing in a few minutes.

Because of technology, new digital color printing, ink-jet addressing, inline-mailing services, direct mail marketing has become a bargain.

For instance, a few hundred jumbo postcards, printed in full color on front and back, addressed to its recipient, with a custom refrigerator magnet attached, is between US$.30 and $.80 each. A few years ago, it would have cost 3 times as much.

You have mail.
You have mail. | Source

Old Fashioned Mail: It's a Good Thing

The average household mailbox has much less mail than it did ten years ago. People are no longer mad about 'junk mail'. In fact, many look forward to what pleasant surprise they might find.

Compare that to email, where receiving 300 daily messages in an inbox is not unusual. An email that suggests an act of commerce is immediately blacklisted and exorcized. It's disconcerting when a marketer finds himself banned by the Email Police of the WWW.

Further, to protect themselves from the onslaught of internet marketeers, people have developed layers of defense mechanisms. They've installed filters for their mail, add-ons for their browsers, and they avoid looking at top or right of their Google search pages. And they've hooked up Tivo or Netflix streaming hardware to ensure their TV stays in line, too. What is a marketer to do?

I say, "Send a card."

When was the last time you received a card? Even a postcard?

You probably remember when that was, who sent it, and why.

I received a hand-written note from an old friend -- a salesman who used to call on us periodically, who now just wanted to say 'hello.' I called him.

I don't usually make such calls. But I opened the mail, read his note, and called.

For many, opening a letter, reading a card, or browsing a pamphlet has become a reprieve from the caffeine-frenzied Internet lifestyle.

Marketers should take advantage of this.

- Clarke Stevens

Suggestions for Your Direct Mail Marketing

Looking for where to start? Here are some resources that might be useful to you:

The US Post Office offers a reasonably thorough How-to on direct mail marketing campaigns

There are lots of sources for a quality, direct marketing mail list. I like Melissa Data.

And if you like the idea of postcard magnet mailers, try my company: .


Submit a Comment
  • Clarke Stevens profile imageAUTHOR

    Will Mays 

    9 years ago from North Kingstown, RI, United States

    Chuck, thank you for your visit and your thoughts. It's wonderful have an imminent Hubber provide the first comment! As far as the the stamps you mention: I wonder if they'll be around a decade from now. And yes, the Post Office seems to be following the same playbook as GM - go where the money is, and drop the duds. All the streamlining makes a good environment for marketers who need to reach prospects.

  • Chuck profile image

    Chuck Nugent 

    9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

    You made some very good points here and have given marketers reason to re-think direct mail. As for the Post Office, it is no secret that their new business model is to focus on business and view the general public as a small sideline which is what that group is for them. For myself I buy a half dozen or so stamps per year to mail some Christmas cards to the few family and friends who don't use the Internet. This is down from a few years ago when I used to purchase a hundred roll set of stamps a couple of times per year just for personal use - to pay bills and correspond with friends most of which is now done via the Internet.


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