Direct Mail – Dead or Alive?

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In today’s world of technology, it’s rare to see as much printed/ physical direct mail (DM) used by most organisations in their marketing campaigns these days. It used to be the case that much of the advertising you received arrived via the post box in the form of a glossy postcard or an envelope stuffed with literature that would end up the in the bin 9 times out 10. There are still a number of organisations and industries, such as estate agents, takeaway restaurants and credit card firms that actively use direct mail to approach customers. In the modern and connected world that is increasingly dominated by email, mobile and social media, they’re becoming less and less though.

So does that mean that direct mail shouldn’t be something that you should include as part of your organisations marketing strategy? Not necessarily. Below we will consider some of the pros and cons of utilising direct mail as part of your marketing plans and add a few points on how to get it right if you are considering a direct mail campaign.

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Cons of Direct Mail Marketing

  • Direct mail campaigns are much more expensive to create versus something like email or social media. Even if you’re just creating a one page letter for example, you have the costs of creation, printing and postage.
  • An effective direct mail requires knowing the postal address as part of your database – this is often not captured these days as we rely more and more on just obtaining personal details + email or phone number.
  • It can be harder to convert the CTA (call to action) in a direct mail piece from the printed activity to an electronic medium such as a website or social media. Doing this relies on the person to actively type in a web address for example, whereas an email would just involve a simple click. As such it can be harder to drive that type of conversion.
  • If you’re direct mail doesn’t stand out – and sometimes even if it does – it can often be just discarded as rubbish without consideration. Many people are used to just treating a large portion of the mail that arrives as “junk” as destroy it with little thought given to reading.

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Pros of Direct Mail Marketing

  • A great direct mail campaign can have much more impact up front. Unlike email where you rely on your subject line to hopefully spark interest, a direct mail campaign can potentially have a more immediate impact on the recipient.
  • Make the recipient feel like you’re speaking to them more personally. A strong direct mail campaign can ensure that you communicate to your target recipient in a way that feels more specific to them than just being on an email list.
  • Opportunity for creativity. Whilst direct mail can of course consist of more traditional details such as sending catalogues/ brochures, letters and such, direct mail also brings the opportunity for the marketer to think beyond these confines as well. Whilst it will ultimately cost more per mailing, there are a range of ways you can create more attention grabbing or personalised concepts.
  • Be more targeted. Similar to point 2, direct mail can allow you to more effectively target key customers or messages with a more specific or engaging mechanic than a seemingly mass marketing tactic. If you’ve got 100 key target customers what would get their attention more effectively – a mass email or a personal direct mailing?

Direct Mail Example.jpg

If you’re going to run a direct mail campaign as part of your marketing strategy, here’s a few points you should definitely remember:

  1. Identity and target your customer. Direct mail works best – as with most marketing – when it’s more specific to the audience receiving it. Ensure you’ve thoroughly defined who the audience you’re communicating to is – the more defined you can make the targeting and the tighter you can focus, the more effective you will be.
  2. Get their attention. Direct mail is a great way to get through the noise of things like email and social media but clearly positioning your message in front of your target customer. Make sure you capitalise on this with a clear, engaging and prominent message that gets attention quickly and easily.
  3. Ensure you’ve got a clear call to action (CTA). It goes without saying for any marketing activity but always remember to define the call to action or next step you want the recipient to take and make sure it’s clear. With an email you can just say “click here” but it can be harder with a direct mail piece so always think this through as part of your strategy.
  4. Make it personal. Personalisation is a real strength of direct mail so be certain to capitalise on this. Aside from just addressing the person by name, think of other ways to make it feel specific to the recipient – even if it’s not just made for that person, make it feel like it is.
  5. Try and link to other assets. If you’re promoting a specific web page make it clear and simple to access. Remember unlike an email a direct mail requires the person to type so don’t try and direct them to or the equivalent for you own site, it just don’t happen and you’ll lose the contact!

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