4 Reasons Direct Mail Is an Underutilized Marketing Asset

December 12, 2012 Brian Watson

4 reasons why direct mail is smartAs a marketer, you need eyeballs.  Viewing your landing pages.  Watching your ads.  Checking out your email blasts.  Those eyeballs are crucial drivers of contacts and conversions – that keep the pipeline stocked and your reputation around the office sterling.

As a marketer who has bosses, and a budget, and bosses that have budgets, you need ROI.  Investments need to pay off.  Conversion revenue needs to exceed outlays.  And you have to prove it all – day in, day out.

Which means that achieving the ideal marketing mix can sometimes seem like an abnormally high-stakes shell game. 

Say social media traffic is through the roof.  So you redirect time and resources from your email budget to capitalize.  But it’s hard to measure and quantify value, so you move instead into pay-per-click and start bidding on some impactful keywords.  Only now you're paying a lot for clicks but not seeing much conversion traction so you...okay, you probably get the point.  

It can be particularly difficult to know where to allocate when it seems like every quarter, there’s a new media that’s tapped to be the next big thing. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

That can easily to a situation where you’re throwing good money after bad results: investing in marketing that’s so over-saturated, it can be difficult to achieve the kind of ROI you’re after. 

Beating the Marketing Shell Game

Avoiding the shell game means practicing patience and sniffing out value – wherever it might be.  And that often involves thinking like a contrarian to spot undervalued, under-the-radar ways of getting your message out in front of prospects.

For example: because the lion’s share of marketing attention – and resources – is now firmly focused on the online arena, traditional direct response channels, like direct mail, are quickly becoming underutilized.  And that provides a great opportunity to increase reach, boost conversions, and up ROI.

Why are direct mail services suddenly a particularly attractive option for marketers hoping to improve ROI?

1). It’s Less Saturated.  Ever notice how you hear less and less from consumers about junk mail these days?  A lot of that has to do with a significant reduction in the amount of direct mail they receive. 

In the past, direct mail marketing was the only consistent, affordable way for marketers to reach customers.  If you had a physical address, you could be reached by a mail piece.  Great for marketers.  Not so much for consumers – who quickly became fed up with the sheer volume of junk mail they received and apathetic about the channel as a whole.

But print and mail delivery has decreased dramatically in recent years, with a lot of what consumers perceive to be junk marketing moving online.  For example: according to the Radicati Group, the average business email inbox receives a staggering 75 messages a day.  While Symantic reports that nearly two-thirds of all email sent is spam.  And then there’s mobile marketing, on-page ads, social media appeals, and SEM (among other channels).

The result is that consumers are softening their attitudes towards mail marketing.  Millenials (the 18-34 age range) are a good litmus test.  They’ve grown up with the Internet and the saturation of digital media.  And they’ve missed the hay-day of junk mail. 

All that shows in their preferences.  According to Delivery Magazine, although 85% of 18-34ers are locked-into text and mobile communication enough that they actually sleep alongside a cell phone, 75% still believe the mail they receive is valuable.  And 73% of them have used a coupon received in the mail.  What’s more, a study from research group ICOM reports that Millenials prefer offline communication – like mail – over online channels for receiving information and offers about stuff like personal care, food, and cleaning products and over-the-counter and prescription medicine.

2). It’s More Personalized.  The most effective marketing is personalized marketing.  That means relevant, targeted and data-driven.

But traditionally that hasn’t been direct mail’s strong suit.  Controlling costs meant that the same piece was typically mass produced for each recipient on a mailing list.  And that the only personalization was confined to low-impact elements like name and address.

But advances in print and database management have changed all that.  Like the very best marketing emails, mail pieces can now be created from the ground-up to provide consumers with a truly personalized marketing message. 

Variable data print and mail tools automatically pull transaction, behavioral, and attitudinal information from your internal databases, personalizing the copy, creative, offer, and response channel for each piece.  The result is mail that fits customers’ purchase habits and product expectations to a T.

3). It’s More Trackable.  You can’t manage what you don’t measure.  That old adage is especially true when it comes to determining marketing ROI.  

Having the ability to track, analyze, and quantify how successful your campaigns are in attracting leads and converting new business is beyond critical.  It’s the only way to independently evaluate channel success or failure.

And that’s one of the appeals of digital media: click-throughs enable fast, simple campaign tracking in a way that traditional direct mail simply cannot match.  Tools like business reply cards and campaign-specific phone numbers are still smart ways to affordably to gather leads and track campaign ROI.  But they lack the real-time feedback and process automation of online tracking.

Until now, that is.  Today’s best-class mail marketing is something like a print-plus-web hybrid, leveraging the trackability of the Internet to streamline the nuts-and-bolts of back-end campaign management. 

That includes relatively simple solutions, like campaign-specific landing pages.  And more all-encompassing options, like Personal URLs that customize each landing page to the specific consumer. Whatever option you go with, there’s no reason you have to be left in the dark about direct mail ROI any longer.

4). It’s More Effective.  The brass-tracks reason why direct mail marketing is an undervalued marketing asset?  It’s one of the more effective direct response techniques you can use. 

Consider that:

79% of B2B marketing executives surveyed in 2011 by Marketing Sherpa reported direct mail to be a somewhat or very effective channel.

65% of consumers who received a direct mail offer have responded by making a purchase or following up on a marketing channel suggested by the sender, according to a 2012 study by ExactTarget.

According to a 2012 study from the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail trails only telemarketing as the most successful way to market to current customers.  In fact, it’s 30 times more likely to achieve a response than email. 

And much of that has to do with the way emerging technology has improved marketers’ print and mail toolset.  Variable print enables personal, relevant messaging and cost-effective split testing.  While web-enabled tracking has greatly improved campaign management.

True, mail still lags behind email and PPC on most ROI measurements – because those channels tend to be more consistently affordably on a per-email or –click basis.  But that simply underscores the wisdom behind channel diversification.  Instead of chasing the next big marketing trend, smart marketers are increasingly leveraging data to choose the most effective, affordable channel to meet specific objectives.  And direct mail’s track record makes it a worthy candidate for inclusion on that checklist.

Want to learn more about beating the marketing shell game with personalized, relevant, trackable direct mail?  We’d like to help.  Simply click here to schedule a time to talk.

Is mail marketing a part of your marketing mix? Be sure to tell us why - or why not - in the comments section below.

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