Direct Mail Is Back, more impactful than ever.

People have been predicting the demise of paper for almost four decades now, claiming paper is no longer relevant or needed in a digital world.Yet, despite the meteoricrise of digital communications and the countless organizations that have gone paperless in recent years, human nature continues to prove the paper-adverse pundits didn’t get it exactly right. And the latest proof that paper is still relevant is the resurgence of direct mail.

Creative Freedom and Direct Mail

According to a 2014 Forbes article entitled, “The Paperless Society is Far From Paperless.”, digital communications has actually helped create a whole lot of paper.” Sure, we now have all sorts of new print technologies, workflow automation and personalization at our disposal, but according to Forbes, “paper is the transitional stopgap that gives our society time to figure out complex issues.”Forbes further states “a shift to paperless communication limits creative freedom.” These two statements have direct bearing on the reason for direct mail’s resurgence.

Why Direct Mail is relevant again.

Following the great recession of 2008/2009, marketing budgets were slashed to the bone across the business spectrum. What followed was a scrambling for ways to market within seriously constrained budgets. The solution was to turn to digital media. It was low cost and could be shared with millions in an instant. There has been, however,a downsideto low-cost,immediate digital messaging and it is in response rates that lead to both brand awareness and real sales.

To understand why, consider this:

  • The average consumer is assaulted by as many as 5000 advertisements daily
  • The average consumer receives over 100 emails a day

At these rates of information overload, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter may be mighty communications tools, but are they effective response-cultivating, sales toolsthat can cultivate meaningful relationships with customers? Marketers are finding many digital formatsare not nearly as effective in those areas as good direct mail. Here’s why:

Graphic Arts Magazine states:

  • 60% of consumers say really good advertising mail helps keep sender’s brand top-of-mind
  • Direct mail is more memorable than digital media and brand recall is 70% higher

Furthermore, North American Communications, a company that does extensive direct mail research states:

  • 70% of direct mail is opened and 79% of those who open spend at least a minute reading
  • Of directed mail not discarded, DM enjoys 3.7% response rate which is extremely high when compared to other media response rates (e.g. Email: 0.2%; Paid Search 0.1% and all others includingMobile, Social Media and Display Advertising combined at 0.32%)
  • ¼ of those 25-34 say they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality, and 25% of millennials consider reading direct mail a leisure activity.
  • 63% of millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within a three month period actually made a purchase.

Why Direct Mail is Effective

To be clear, no one is suggesting marketers abandon their digital campaigns. But re-introducing direct mail to the mix does strengthen the bonds between companies and their consumers. Here are some reasons why and please keep the earlier Forbes insights in mind while reading these:

  • Linked to the right data and with the right variable printing techniques direct mail can be a valuable one-to-one link with your target audience that’s both personal and relevant
  • It breaks through the noise and clutter of the internet which has become clogged with ads, tweets and other distractions which stand between you and getting a message to a customer
  • Because it’s tangible, it can be creative and sexy. Graphics can work like eye-candy to draw readers in and relevant hard-hitting copy can help close the sale
  • It lasts. You can hold it in your hand. It doesn’t go away with the click of a mouse. Someone can respond to it immediately, or if they choose not to, come back to it again when time permits
  • It adds response time to your messaging. Confronted with a piece of direct mail, a consumer is forced to make adecision. He or she can discard it or keep it. In either case, they need to spend at least a moment with it to see what it is all about. If it is relevant to the reader, they will respond and that response has a very high chance of leading to an actual sale
  • Because of the increased reliance on digital messaging, there is less physical mail in most mailboxes making direct mail more noticeable than ever

What it takes to make DM work for you

Effective Modern Direct Mail is a compilation of several factors. First, you need good data to get it in the hands of the right people. Second, it should be produced using the latest technologies. Today’s variable data and digital printing methods can give you small targeted runs in less time and at lower costs than yesterday’s web-press technologies. This gives you unimaginable speed and flexibilityas well as tracking modernizations such as QR coding. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, DM has to be creative, smart, and informative andit should engage the reader with an attention-getting idea. Exclusive offers, coupons and sales announcements all work in print extremely well. Keep in mind, your direct mail has to connect with your audience, their wants and desires.

Take advantage of the “space” and “the time” direct mail gives you to speak to your customers in a language they truly understand. When you do, it’ll be more than a sales message; it’ll be the beginning of a meaningful dialogue – a dialogue your customer will respond to.


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