Is Direct Mail Marketing Still Relevant?

We’ve talked a big game about digital marketing before, and extolled the virtues of search engine optimization and social media marketing. It’s a digital age, and it follows that both consumer behavior and the marketers trying to get their attention and spending dollars should be online.

In this kind of environment, does something as traditional as direct mail marketing still have a place in an increasingly online marketplace?

What is direct email marketing?

First, a clarification. Direct email marketing is when you get marketing collaterals over the mail– a postcard, a coupon, a brochure, for example. It’s a time-honored traditihrefon that stretches back as far as 1000 B.C. Egypt, when a landowner sent out a papyrus ad offering gold payment for the return of a missing slave.

Enter the printing press in 1440, which made mass print media possible, and you’ve had advertisers selling products by couriered documents to potential buyers, with historical figures like Ben Franklin (known for his best-selling Poor Richard’s Almanac) cashing in on the mass appeal of cheap, easily accessible marketing.

Does Direct Mail Marketing Still Work?

Today, though, does direct mail marketing still have a chance at success? It’s more than you think if you look at numbers.

One of the ways that marketers measure the success of a campaign is response rate or the number of people who responded to a message by mailing back or filling out a survey. Take a look at the figures from a 2016 study by the Data & Marketing Association:

  • Direct mail: 5.3%
  • Online Display Ads: 0.9%
  • Email: 0.6%
  • Social Media: 0.6%

Direct mail leads the way in getting a response from recipients. The main reason for the disparity is the volumes that digital forms have. Digital campaigns cast much wider nets, because of the speed in which a digital campaign reaches people. But this means that, especially with a well-targeted local audience, direct mail marketing can get good results.

Sending out a creative, attention-grabbing postcard that promotes your product or service can still get you promising leads. For more fragile collaterals or collaterals where you want to avoid bending or folding, there are solutions like stay flat mailers that will protect it from damage from handling and shipping.

Does Direct Mail Marketing Get a Good Return of Investment?

Is digital marketing a more cost-effective solution, though? Once again, let’s turn to numbers. We have 2017 figures from that measure the return of investment on the different marketing media:

  • Email: 124%
  • Social media: 30%
  • Direct mail: 29%
  • Paid search: 23%
  • Online display ads: 16%

While not at the front of the pack, direct mail still has a strong showing, outperforming paid search (!) in terms of ROI.

sending emails

How Do I Use Direct Mail in My Marketing Campaigns?

The best way to leverage the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns is to combine it with your digital marketing. A study by Go Inspire Group with 240,000 customers in the UK showed the average spend of customers who were part of three different campaigns.

  • Those who only received email marketing ended up with revenue for a customer of less than £1
  • Those who got direct mail only generated £5 in revenue
  • Those who got both generated £6

Merging digital and mail marketing

Going digital/mail isn’t a mutually exclusive choice. Instead, savvy marketers should treat them like tactics that both work towards a strategic marketing goal.

Make the call-to-action in your mailers to a website visit, or a landing page, or an online survey. That was, you can funnel both online and realspace lead types into a (hopefully) conversion-optimized online experience, which will get you your sale.



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