Direct Mail Tips that Still Work

I had a meeting the other day where I witnessed an intense debate over the effectiveness of direct mail as a marketing tool. It was an intense scene, pitting a direct mail advocate against a skeptic. Both held firmly to their beliefs, so what started as a casual discussion turned quickly into an argument.

Here’s the truth that neither person wanted to admit: like almost all other marketing vehicles, direct mail works in some situations and not in others.

The advocate would argue that if it’s not working, it’s because something is wrong with the mailing. The skeptic would argue that if it works, the money spent on it would have worked better somewhere else.

But the truth is, as much progress as we’ve made in the digital world, physical mail still has a place in marketing, and likely will for some time.

So let’s talk about what still works.

  1. List building – direct mail can be highly targeted. Unlike most “traditional” marketing tools, direct mail was built on segmentation and the ability to target individuals across a wide variety of geographic or demographic information. And the ability to select targeted names for your direct mail lists has only improved over time, as more data has become available for purchase. You could argue that direct mail is one of the most targeted marketing channels when done well.
  2. Follow up – direct mail as an advertising or lead generation vehicle may not work as well as it used to for most companies. But it is still a valuable form of follow up. When people explicitly request information from your company, if you have something to mail them you will have a better chance of converting them into a paying customer.
  3. Personalization – direct mail gives you the ability to speak to prospects as individuals. Customize the message to someone’s interests, age, where they live, or past behavior. Use their names and address them directly. The more personalized the message, the more likely they’ll be to read it and take action.
  4. Offers – people still clip coupons. It may seem like a thing of the past to some of you, but sending special offers in the mail will still get people to purchase. There will always be price conscious consumers looking for a deal, and mail is a great way to get that deal in front of them.
  5. Simplicity – understand that people have limited time and attention, and a large number of marketers just like you trying to capture that attention. So be direct and keep it simple. Limit the amount of reading your audience has to do and give a clear call to action for those interested, and you’ll likely increase the rate of response.