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In the past we here at the Mission Suite have talked fairly extensively about the constant comparisons between email and direct mail. I even went so far recently as to declare that email is the 21st century of direct mail, and sort of implied that there’s no need for direct mail to exist. Well, in the interest of fairness, I’ve decided to take another look at direct mail. I’ll do my best not to compare it to email, I won’t be inscribing its tombstone, I’m just going to take an honest, open look at a marketing staple that has existed for decades.
So let’s take a look at the value of direct mail.
It’s unlikely that anyone in this day and age could go a day, or even an hour, without receiving an email. Email is ubiquitous. It’s how we communicate with friends, coworkers, companies and family members. The church newsletter is right there next to an ad from your favorite web store. It can all be very overwhelming.
This is where direct mail can actually have a leg up on email (I almost made it through two whole paragraphs without a comparison). A thoughtful piece of direct mail might stand out from the crowd(ed inbox). Printing and shipping costs are down these days too but, as we’ve discussed here before, the ROI with direct mail just can’t compete with the affordability and effectiveness of email.
Many marketers who are still espousing the virtues of direct mail are willing to admit that to be effective it must be paired with the Internet. The Direct Marketing Association has claimed that direct mail is an excellent way to drive digital interaction. However, just as with email marketing, the focus must be on creativity. Craft your direct mail campaign around your online presence. Drive consumers to your site or to social media with special direct mail offers and incentives and watch the hits start to roll in.
Just as with email your targets are also extremely important. With email you can occasionally get away with sending blanket messages that cover everyone, but with direct mail that becomes prohibitively expensive. Know your audience and know what they want. Analyze your data and craft a campaign you know will be effective.
Another correlation between email and direct mail is the subject line, or headline. It is the first thing a consumer sees and is extremely important. Put some time and thought into your headline and make sure that it will grab the reader’s attention.
Direct mail still has a little fight left in it. It can be an interesting and effective way to set yourself apart from your peers. However, it simply cannot match the ROI of email, and it must be used with a great deal of caution as it can be very expensive. Direct mail should really only be considered by marketing departments with substantial budgets and the know-how to make direct mail effective. Email is simply a better, cheaper tool for spreading your brand’s message to consumers.