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Is Direct Mail Marketing Useful in 2017?

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Lexie Lu
A UX/UI designer with expertise in marketing, web design, and graphic design.
Direct mail marketing is the act of mailing materials straight to prospective customers. This wide form of marketing is one of the oldest methods of communicating with a geographic based demographic. So is it useful in 2017 and beyond?

Yes. That’s the short answer when questioning if direct mail marketing is still useful. The slightly longer answer is: empirically, observably, historically yes it is.


That’s not much better, but to be frank, the question is only considered if digital marketing is thought as the only viable/most important marketing strategy of the time. And anyone who has seen the flaws in digital marketing can tell you, direct mail marketing has some huge perks that are foolish to ignore.


What is Direct Mail Marketing? 

If you haven’t figured it out from the name, direct mail marketing is the act of mailing materials straight to prospective customers. This wide form of marketing is one of the oldest methods of communicating with a geographic based demographic.

Direct mail marketing can take the form of printed brochures, pamphlets, catalogs, newsletters and postcards appearing with the daily mail.


Why is Direct Mail Marketing Useful?

A great feature of direct mail marketing is the amount of control one has when using it. Unlike email or online advertising, direct mail marketing can’t be blocked by an automated service. Marketing material comes directly in the mail side by side to bills and other pertinent information all people need to receive. This means every person you mail to will see your message upfront.


With a clever design and a dedication to branding, even the smallest interval of time used to see marketing material will yield results. This is probably why a majority of consumers  prefer direct mail to help make purchasing decisions


If you continue to compare direct mail to digital marketing, you’ll find direct mail doesn’t come with an age gap that online/digital marketing runs into. Even though we live in the 21st century a staggering amount of  Americans don’t have or use the internet . With direct mail you don’t run the risk of losing over 10 million Americans.


Additionally, direct mail doesn’t come with any risk to the receiver. Unlike online ads that appear via email, printed mailers don’t come with the fear of malware or viruses that can hurt your computer. 


What should always be included? 

If you’re interested in using direct mail marketing there are three things you need to use in your copy.

  1. Always have an offer - Information from direct mailers should include an offer that you open or close with. Remember you’re not sending a postcard, you’re sending a new or necessary piece of information that you want an audience to be aware of.
  2. Highlight features - Be descriptive with what your offering. Direct mail marketing costs more than most digital marketing so don’t waste your time with pleasantries or filler. Tell people what you're sharing and then highlight why it’s important.
  3. Use engaging action verbs - This is a generally important marketing rule, but it is especially important for mailers. Passive voice will bore people away from what little time they have from looking at your copy.



How Do You Measure the Conversions in Direct Mail? 

Conversions, the number of browsing customers who have changed to paying customers, due to direct mail can be measured in a variety of different ways.

  1. Geolocation - Because direct mail marketing is tied to the use of addresses and physical locations it is possible to see which community or area is more or less responsive to your marketing tactic. By paying attention to the parallel between a paying customer and customers you’ve mailed to you can easily measure and create demographic data to use later.
  2. Coupons/Offers - Often direct mailers come with a coupon or a special offer that can be tracked. Coupons can come with bar codes so tracking them is simply a matter of counting how often the code is used.
  3. Foot Traffic/Visits - If your mailer asked people to come visit your business or requires the entry to your business you can measure the conversion rate by comparing the average amount of people that entered your shop before and after you sent a mailer. This will help you see how much interest your mailer generated as well as how many new customers you’ve created.


Are there any things to consider before, during and after the campaign?

Like in any good marketing campaign, you need to weigh the possible cost. In the case of direct mail marketing, because the method of communicating is done via the mail, the cost is coming from both printing and mailing your materials. However, be aware that there are several different factors that can greatly change the cost.

  • Type of content - you can mail a single postcard or a whole catalog. The exact medium of print you use to can convey more or less that what you desire and it will change the cost of printing dramatically.
  • Amount of material - the cost difference between printing 500 pages vs 50,0000 pages might surprise you.
  • Style - you have your mailer come with a beautiful gloss or simple black and white, the choice is yours. Just realize, the more design you put in the more likely the cost will rise.


After you’ve finished making your considerations, you are free to send out your mailers. Once you do, give yourself some time to measure the effects. Remember that people are operating with content they receive via direct mail. It might take them some time to react to it.  


In the time after you send out your content, be sure to survey and collect data. Knowing how your direct mailing strategy fared will help inform you on how to drive success for your next campaign.

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Author:Lexie Lu
1 Comment

Expert Comment

by:Daniella Barion
As you mentioned, the highest concern is the cost. The challenge is to prepare something creative, that will call consumer's attention with a reasonable price. For this reason, a lot of marketers when compare cost per conversion might choose digital channels, even if digital may leave a lot of target people out.
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