You’ve Got Mail, Direct Mail, That Is

direct mail

Let’s talk about something that’s considered a bit old-fashioned and unsexy in today’s marketing world – direct mail. You know, the sales letter, the postcard, the flyer, that lands in your mailbox. Since the advent of the internet, direct mail usage has gone down, but it has never gone away. Many online companies have never considered it a viable part of their marketing plan. And to that, all I can ask is WHY?

Why aren’t you using it? It still works. It still reaches customers and prospects. And it works better than email or Facebook ads or a slew of other digital marketing stuff at certain things. So, why aren’t you hitting them in the mailbox instead of, or as well as, the inbox?

For those of you who are answering that you find direct mail efforts uncool or too expensive or too ineffective, let’s look at some cold, hard facts and figures surrounding direct mail, especially as to how it stacks up against every ecomm and B2B’s favorite darling, email marketing.

Response Rates – Direct Mail vs. Email

Response rate is one of the major KPIs all you digital dudes and dudettes watch like a hawk. How many folks opened my ad? How many folks responded to it in some way? YOU can’t make sales if THEY are turned off, right? and it’s only junk mail if it doesn’t interest them, correct?

Email has a dismal response rate of .12% according to the Direct Marketing Association. And that’s an average. Letter sized mail gets a response rate of 3.5%, according to the latest surveys. It’s probably because more than 3/4 of all direct mail recipients respond to an ad or offer almost immediately, while less than half of email readers do.

Usage Rates – Direct Mail vs. Email

Everybody and their brother (and possibly even the lazy brother-in-law) in the digital world is using email for marketing, prospecting, and customer relations. Think I’m exaggerating? Last year, 74 TRILLION (yes, with a T) emails were sent out. That’s a hellava lot of emails hitting inboxes, folks.

Let’s compare that with 13 Billion letters. Not quite nearly as many, now is it? What this tells me is that there’s a lot less noise coming into my mailbox than my inbox. A lot fewer businesses are communicating with me through good old fashioned mail with a stamp on it instead of a time stamp. Which leads me to my next point…

Customer Reception – Direct Mail vs. Email

There are so many emails being sent, one recent survey found 70% of the folks asked thought they received too many emails every day. And over half of email list unsubscribers cite too many emails as their reason for opting out of lists they’d once happily opted into.

This plays out in a number of ways for direct mail:

  • it generates 10% more leads than email
  • it makes the majority of the readers feel “special” or “personal”, while they find email impersonal and not as professional
  • direct mail makes the receiver think of the sender as reliable, believable, and more trustworthy than email senders
  • direct mail is 10 to 20% more likely to convert a prospect to a customer

Customer Retention – Direct Mail vs. Email

Ever see an ad or open an email and then quickly move on to the next one, or the next task on your to-do list? You’re not alone. The average lifespan of an email is about 2 seconds. We open, read, dump it in the trash file, and go on with our day. Less than half of email readers can recall the brand or even the offer within an hour of reading the message. Email just doesn’t stick with them.

Direct mail, however, has a different story. A piece of mail has a typical lifespan of 17 days. That’s nearly three weeks! Now, it may just be lying about on the sideboard or desk, but it’s there. They see it as they pass by, stumble across it when they are tidying up. They are being reminded of you and your message every so often. Also, perhaps because of the relative novelty of direct mail offers or the more personal, “special” emotions generated by it, nearly three-fourths of your letter receivers can recall the offer AND the brand an hour after reading about it. Direct mail makes an impression, and it’s a favorable one.

Don’t Be So Hasty to Dump Email, However

All this good news about direct mail may have you deciding to abandon your email marketing efforts. And as much as I like the numbers and all, I have to say that would be a bad idea. Why? Because consumers – both B2C AND B2B – prefer a COMBINATION of direct mail and email together.

They go together like coffee and donuts, apparently. There are some instances where direct  mail is preferred Рbrochures, catalogs, welcome packs, bills and statements, and loyalty rewards. And still others Рorder confirmation and followup, company news and updates, complaints and customer service issues, and reminders for both payments and special offers Рthat customers prefer to receive via their inbox.

Nearly half of those surveyed declared that they prefer a mix of both direct mail AND email. And over half admitted that they like to browse a REAL catalog, then go online to make their purchase. In fact, customers spend an average of 25% MORE when offered a printed, mailed catalog and an online buying experience combined. Want to increase sales? Send them something they can hold in their hands, while letting them order from your website.

So What’s it All About?

My point is two-fold, actually…

First, if you AREN’T using direct mail, you’re missing out. You’re leaving a valuable marketing asset untouched, unused, and leaving money on the table because of it. If all you do is send emails, it’s time to add some snail mail to the marketing mix.

Second, direct mail DOES have a valuable and viable place in today’s marketing world, even for digital companies. Just because you aren’t a brick and mortar store built in Grandpa’s day does not mean you can’t generate sales and business using direct mail. And just because you’re on the cutting edge of technology doesn’t automatically disqualify you from the stamp-and-envelope crowd. I mean, if it’s good enough for Google, who uses direct mail on a routine basis, shouldn’t you at least consider it?

I’m adding direct mail to my own marketing mix starting in January. I’ll keep you posted as to what happens. And who knows? Maybe you’ll see a letter from lil ol Bloomers Marketing in YOUR letter bpx some day.

If you plan to use¬† some direct mail, or would like to discuss this topic further, drop a comment on this post. Let me know what you’re up to, and how it works out.

Till next time!