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Does Direct Mail Have a Future in a Digital World?

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Direct Mail

For years, direct mail collateral was one of the best ways to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time in terms of your target audience.

You would spend countless hours designing and distributing that perfect holiday promotional flyer, or that new catalogue of goods and services, before sending them out into the wild and the mailboxes of your target audience.

Then, the Internet came along and changed everything but not necessarily as much as you may have thought.

Yes, digital techniques like white papers, Infographics, presentations and SEO are hugely influential in the modern era. But anyone who tells you that direct mail is officially over is probably trying to sell you something.

Direct Mail: Still More Popular Than You Probably Realize

First things first: not only is direct mail marketing not “dead and buried,” but it’s a lot more popular than you probably realize. Consider just a few of the following statistics that help underline that point:

  • Catalogues are perhaps the most famous form of direct mail marketing that there is, and over 100.7 million adults in the United States purchased a catalogue in 2016 alone.
  • The total volume of direct mail marketing materials declined to 149.4 billion pieces in 2016, yes – but that’s only because mail volumes themselves are down across the board. The percentage of direct mail out of all mail went up during the same period.
  • The average direct mail response rates are still healthy, especially when compared to other techniques. Response rates from your house file likely average about 5.3%, while response rates from your prospect lists come in at about 2.9%.
  • According to one recent study, an impressive 54% of all consumers say they want to receive more direct mail from brands and companies interested in it.
  • But the most important direct mail marketing statistic is the following: advertisers in the United States spend an average of about $167 per person on direct mail. In return, they generate about $2,095 worth of goods and services sold – a return on investment of an incredible 1,300%!

So not only is direct mail NOT “over,” but it’s quite popular and quite practical at the same time. Who knew? (Hint: we did).

But as is true with most marketing tactics, so much of your success in this regard will depend on your ability not to put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Yes, direct mail is as healthy as ever – but this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly shift 100% of your focus onto direct mail collateral. As always, you need to allow it to become just one part of a larger and more meaningful whole.

That, of course, will require you to keep a few key things in mind.

Direct Mail and Your Digital Campaigns

Again, the best marketing campaigns rely on a wide variety of different tactics that are all working in tandem to create something bigger than anyone could pull off on its own. Direct mail can take the same position in the types of campaigns you’re currently running with the right perspective.

Perhaps the most obvious way to do this is to see what types of digital materials you’re creating would also work as viable direct mail collateral. When you sit down with a tool like Visme (which is in transparency, I’m the founder) to create a new infographic, there is no reason that this Infographic must exist solely on the Internet.

With just a few key design considerations, it could easily be re-purposed as an impressive piece of direct mail collateral, too. Direct mail is so inherently visual that an “offline Infographic” actually already makes a great deal of sense.

You could also think of direct mail as something like an “offline landing page” to funnel people in the direction of your other digital resources. At the end of a piece of direct mail collateral, you might consider pointing out that you’ve just created a stunning new presentation about the very topic your audience members were reading about. Use a shortened URL (or even something like a QR code) to give them easy access to that material, and suddenly your print and digital campaigns is the same.

“Re-purposing” is a term that has a bit of a negative connotation to it, but in reality, it isn’t. This type of re-purposing is all about one thing: stretching the return on investment of the materials that you’re creating as far as it can go.

In a lot of ways, it’s no different than what you’re probably already doing with the videos that you’re creating as a part of your campaigns. When you create one long video and then break it down into smaller pieces and use a service like UScreen to monetize them across different channels, nobody thinks that you’re trying to “pull one over” on your target audience.

Why should the fact that you’re reusing digital materials in the print realm (and vice versa) be looked at any differently? The answer is simple: it shouldn’t.

In the End

Even though smartphones rule the day, and digital collateral has become the new norm, direct mail and other print marketing techniques certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But acknowledgement of this fact is only half the battle.

The other half – the part that your success depends on – involves your ability to see print not as an alternative to digital marketing and distribution, but as another arm of a singular marketing enterprise. By finding new and innovative ways to allow these techniques to work together, you expand your reach and your chances of success in one fell swoop.

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