Digital Marketing

Direct mail: an old marketing tool with new power

Looking for a better way to connect with customers and prospects in this technology-rich multichannel environment? Would you think I’m crazy if I suggested using a channel that was developed in the early 20th century?

That channel is direct mail. And while many of today’s marketers may dismiss it as a quaint relic of days gone by, it’s actually more powerful than ever. Surprised? If you understand the factors behind direct mail effectiveness, you won’t be.

There are two reasons why direct mail is a good choice in today’s market. First, there are fewer companies using it, so the few that know how to use it effectively have a much greater chance of getting noticed. Three decades ago, your mailbox might have been full of letters on any given day, but how many do you get now? Finding a letter (especially one with a royal stamp on it) is a novelty these days, so rather than just tossing it aside, people are more likely to read it.

“Well, I don’t read junk mail,” you insist. Me neither. But cash direct mail and spam are two completely different animals, and that’s where reason number two comes into play. The key to effective direct mail is making sure you put the right message in the right hands, and today’s combination of powerful technology and big data makes this easier than ever.

Spam is what you don’t want. You are not interested in doing business with the sender, or it is a product you would never buy, so you throw it in the recycle bin. If you send the wrong messages to people who have no need or interest, you are wasting your money on junk mail.

But if you’re sending relevant messages and offers to a strictly targeted group of recipients who meet specific criteria, you’re engaging in effective direct mail. You have the opportunity to “speak” directly to someone who is likely interested in what you have to say or offer. Even better, you are doing it in a place where they feel comfortable at a time when they feel comfortable. Many forms of marketing communications are interrupted. For example, phone calls always come when you are doing something else. But most people have some kind of routine when it comes to reading their mail.

Now about that very specific group that I mentioned. I’ve written many effective direct mail packages over the years, but I’ll be the first to admit that my brilliant words aren’t the main reason those efforts were successful. Direct mail experts will tell you that writing and designing a direct mail package or piece represents less than 10 percent of its effectiveness. How do they know that? They have tested millions of emails over the years, making slight modifications to determine what works best.

Those experts will also tell you that your offer represents about 20 percent of the success of a direct mail effort. So what is the factor behind the remaining 70 percent? It is the quality of the list.

In other words, you can develop the most beautiful direct mail package with the most poetic wording by promoting a truly irresistible offer, and if you mail it to a shoddy list, you will fail. The list is the most important element.

A good list focuses entirely on one type of recipient. The more clearly you can define your target audience and get a list of those goals, the more effective you will be. The list must also be accurate and it is important to ensure that your supplier or whoever is producing the letter matches the correct fields. Otherwise, you might be embarrassed.

The other important element in effective direct mail is making sure your message is personal. Even if you are sending your marketing message to 100,000 people, they will read it one at a time. You want each recipient to feel that they are having a conversation with someone in your company, that they are not subject to advertising. Copy that is friendly and conversational will go a long way toward achieving this.

Direct mail may actually be an old technique, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated or ineffective. Use today’s tools to hone and improve it, and that old standby may be the source of your new success!

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