Does direct mail marketing have a future in the digital world? (Yes, here’s why)

by Nathan Rothfield

If you get dozens of digital marketing emails a day, like most of us, you might wonder if direct mail marketing campaigns have a future in our increasingly digital world.
After all, most of us spend much of our day in the digital environment.
But surprisingly, the answer is – yes, absolutely, direct mail marketing does have a future in the digital world. And here’s why.

What is Direct Mail Marketing?

Mailchimp, who know a thing or two about email marketing campaigns, define direct mail marketing like this:
…any physical correspondence you send to customers in the hopes of getting them to patronise your business.
This physical correspondence can include a letterbox drop of printed collateral – catalogues, brochures or flyers. It also includes direct mail advertising which is not usually personalised and is also known as unaddressed mail.
Many classic direct mail packs contain four elements – envelope, letter, brochure and response mechanism, but the sky’s the limit with creativity. Direct mail can include shaped postcards, scented letters, innovative envelopes and cut-out logo shapes, to name just a few creative ideas.
More specifically, targeted direct mail marketing is often a postcard or letter addressed to a specific person and sent from a delivery service like Australia Post, a traditional mail house, bulk mail or courier.
The tangibility of direct mail – you can hold it and touch it – creates distinctive forms of marketing campaigns in an era of digital approaches.
Email advertising can be deleted in bulk with a keystroke, while dealing with a piece of direct mail is a manual process, and it may easily remain on a desk or table for days.

How do Direct Mail marketing campaigns work?

Typically, direct mail marketing is created as one part of a larger marketing mix. You will have clear objectives in mind, as well as a target audience for your marketing efforts.
Experts in direct mail advertising can help to refine your direct mail customisation so that it reaches the right audience geographically, demographically or even behaviourally. There are many ways to slice and dice customer databases or mailing lists to get the right message in front of the right audience.
There usually is a creative stage to design the most impactful direct mail, followed by the production of the physical assets and the all-important delivery to your existing customers.
Every good direct mail marketing campaign includes a final stage – measuring and analysing performance. You will want to know what kind of response rates you got and compare these to past campaigns.
Other KPIs you might want to look at could include an increase in:
— Store visits
— Website traffic
— Customer enquiries
— Sales revenue
— Gross profit.

Direct Mail marketing grabs attention (when done right)

If you hold the view that people throw away direct mail without reading it, think again.
An Accenture survey commissioned by Australia Post found that direct mail outperformed email in commanding people’s attention:

Creative approaches

There’s no doubt that direct mail marketing campaigns grab potential customers’ awareness when done right. It’s possible to do much more than an unaddressed mail approach from a bulk mail house, hoping you’ll hit a target. Creativity knows no limits when it comes to clever direct mail advertising.
Look at a dozen of these brilliant direct marketing examples, including:
— a postcard from Skoda that used magnets to self-park a Yeti paper car
— a pop-up 3D side table from IKEA
— a flat box that slips under doors and expands into a cube with the message, ‘Breaking into your apartment is easier than you think’ to sell ADT security systems
— a chopstick packet turns out to be pencils for writing protest letters about human rights violations for Amnesty International.

Direct Mail targeting isn’t as random as it seems

Not all of your customer base is at the same stage on their customer journey. Some have just heard about your brand, while others are regular buyers.
A successful direct mail strategy targets a specific segment of your audience rather than a general bulk mail approach, so you get the right customer.
Key questions to ask:
— Are you running an awareness-raising campaign?
— Are you trying to grow your market share?
— Is your goal to boost sales?
Only once you’ve identified the goal of your direct mail marketing campaign can you proceed to identify the personas and audience segments you want to reach.
The secret to a high ROI on direct mail is to surgically target prospective customers. You can achieve a response rate of 5.3%, compared with a measly 0.6% response rate for email.
Who said direct mail had no role in the digital future?

Combine Direct Mail marketing with other campaigns on different channels

Why not maximise the cost-effective reach and impact of your direct mail campaign with a complementary digital advertising campaign? If you target the right customers on search, socials and more, you’ll lift brand awareness.
Consider these channels:
— Email marketing
— Social media
— Paid search
— Signage
— Promotional products.
It’s vital to track responses when you combine direct mail advertising with other channels. You need a clear CTA that will engage your customers to take action.
There’s a range of methods you can employ to track their response:
— Coupon codes
— QR codes
— Trackable phone numbers
— URLs.
Avoid a manual process – having a robust platform for data solutions and metric analysis will help you to see the marketing forest for the trees.

Set a strong SEO and Paid Strategy to support it

It always pays to think holistically about your direct mail marketing. Just because you’re choosing to use physical mail doesn’t mean you should neglect the power of digital advertising.
The best direct mail campaigns look for strong support from SEO and paid search.
Paid search
Identify your chosen keywords and develop effective online ads to boost sales and your brand visibility and traffic. Think about the new customers you want to attract – not tyre kickers, but buyers with cash in their pockets.
That means targeting long-tail keywords for PPC campaigns so you’re only paying for clicks that are relevant and more likely to result in sales.
However, since research shows that 94% of searchers skip the top ads and go to the organic results below, you need to adopt an SEO strategy as well.
To land on the first page of search results requires a strong SEO foundation. You also need to continuously invest in new content to retain a key position. So, whether you are investing in PPC or SEO, there’s a cost.
Integrating paid search and organic SEO efforts provides better insights and outcomes that will enhance your direct mail campaigns.

Direct Mail marketing should be personalised

It’s a fact of human nature that we all like a personal touch. People appreciate it when you remember and use their name.
That’s just one reason why, with personalised direct mail, 81% of consumers open and read their mail immediately, which could never be claimed for email.
Accenture’s survey found that mail creates an emotional connection. Customers feel valued when a company sends them mail, compared to email.

Gone are the days of blanketing entire neighbourhoods with paper. Data experts can drill down into the data to find the optimum audience for your direct mail campaign.
Research shows that a personalised mail campaign achieves 15 times more response rates than non-personalised mass mailing methods.

Direct Mail marketing can double up as something useful

Not every piece of direct mail has to be a letter. Your creativity is limited only by your imagination.
The ad agency, Leo Burnett, sent Earth Hour candles to CEOs to encourage them to switch off their office lights for the Earth Hour campaign. Corporate support increased by 260%.
DDB mailed gender-targeted calendars to members of a gym that was experiencing high dropout rates. The clever silhouettes reduced in size over the months, demonstrating the long-term value of going to the gym. Dropouts decreased by 45%. 
Direct mail services can be a cost-effective way to meet your campaign goals when you employ creative approaches to direct marketing.

Not only digital assets are shareable

We all know how easy it is to share links, pics and videos online. But a good direct mail marketing campaign can also produce shareable assets that save money for existing customers.
The classic example is the ever-reliable coupon. The promise of $10 off your next meal is enough to make you stash the coupon away until you think of it later when a friend mentions the restaurant. 
When you go there together, the company has gained two new customers for $10.
Fridge magnets are another standby – why not send two and ask your customer to share with a friend, colleague or neighbour? 

Direct Mail marketing can appeal to any demographic

One of the world’s top influencers, Neil Patel, shares some reasons why direct mail is a great tool for reaching your target market, whatever their demographic.
It’s easy to assume – if you’re a digital native – that everyone is like you, online their whole lives. 
It turns out that’s a myth. At least among older Americans:

So, direct mail marketing is a very effective strategy for getting your message to people who wouldn’t see it online. We all read our mail, regardless of our age.

What are the advantages of Direct Mail advertising?

We began this article with a question – does direct mail marketing have a future in the digital world?
Yes, without a doubt, direct mail has a bright future. The advantages of direct mail advertising are many, and as we have seen, using direct mail cleverly you can achieve:
— higher opening and reading rates
— greater response rates
— cost-effective ROI
— successful integration with omnichannel marketing
You can also achieve
— a more personalised approach that creates an emotional connection
— objects that have multiple uses and can be shared in the real world
— reaching a broader audience who may not be online.

See success from your direct mail campaigns

We help customers create and execute direct mail campaigns with our Direct Mail Solutions services. We harness customer data to help brands connect with their audience in more meaningful, engaging and targeted ways.
Read on to explore a case study of how we helped a major health care brand take control of their direct marketing, POS, flyers and retail catalogues for a national network of more than 400 stores.