Are you someone who's against the idea of using direct mail marketing?
If so, you probably have your reasons—and I'm sure they seem like good ones. After all, direct mail marketing isn't exactly a new, fresh and exciting way of reaching people.
Long before radio, television and internet marketing, direct mail marketing ruled. One of the earliest and most popular examples of direct mailing can be traced back to Sears in 1888. The company sent out a printed mailer to potential customers, advertising watches and jewelry. Not long after, the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog became extremely popular with the public.
But for some, it's not only that direct mail marketing is an old form of marketing. It's hard to argue that it's especially well-liked. After all, the term junk mail isn't exactly meant as a compliment.
Yet companies do use direct mail marketing. In fact, according to a 2015 study by the Data & Marketing Association in partnership with the United States Postal Service, 57 percent of total mail volume was direct mail. And despite a dip in the recession year of 2008, that percentage has been climbing steadily for years.
Somebody is paying for that. Considering that the internet has been part of the mainstream for over 20 years, if direct mail marketing was a useless form of advertising, one would think that businesses would have figured that out by now.
If you're wondering why some business owners still swear by direct mail, there are a number of arguments they tend to make.
1. Your business may stand out more with direct mail marketing.
Paul Entin thinks that is the case. Entin owns New York City-based EPR Marketing. He uses direct mail marketing, among other tactics, to reach potential customers for his clients.
With direct mail marketing, homeowners may notice your mail more than they would have in another era, Entin says.
“Except for the many catalogs that clog our mailboxes between Halloween and Christmas, most of us receive very little snail mail, certainly far less than in years past," he says. “This means your direct mailer has a far greater chance to stand out from the rest of the mail and get noticed.
—Kris Lippi, owner, Get LISTED Realty
"Getting noticed for a second or two is all a direct mailer can ask," he continues. "Then it's up to the copy and visual appeal to spark a response."
Kris Lippi, who owns real estate brokerage Get LISTED Realty in Hartford, Connecticut, agrees.
“I love it when I hear people say direct mail is dead because I know it makes my direct mail campaigns have less competition," he says.
Jeff Moriarty is head of marketing at his family's jewelry store, Moriarty's Gem Art, in Crown Point, Indiana. The jeweler did direct mail marketing for years, before switching to much cheaper forms of advertising like email and social media.
But it isn't as if customers necessarily love social media or email advertising either. Spam was never meant to be considered a term of endearment for email.
“Because it is getting more and more competitive online, customers' email boxes are constantly hit with emails and many times ours are not opened at all," Moriarty says.
So two years ago, right before the holiday season, Moriarty's began paying for direct mail marketing again. The direct mail marketing went so well, Moriarity's has made it a part of their holiday advertising plans ever since.
2. You could receive more one-on-one time with your customer through direct mail marketing.
Plenty of people toss direct mail marketing materials out before they even reach their home. And of course plenty of people delete spam without reading it.
But if you can get people to read your letters or postcards or whatever you send, they may give you more of their brain cells than when prospective customers glance at an email headline.
At least, that's the hope. Lippi says that his direct mail marketing campaigns have been successful enough that some people do end up calling her.
“The trick is to get them to open your mail piece instead of throwing it away," he says.
Lippi's letters are sent in plain regular envelopes, which look more like personal letters than business mail. The addresses are also in a handwritten font and use a normal postage stamp.
“You can find vendors online that will do this for you for about $1.25 per piece, which can get expensive. But depending on your average sale, [it] can yield great results. Especially if you have a highly targeted list," he says.
If your customer does look at your mail, Lippi adds that you need to make sure whatever you're sending attracts him or her in some way.
“You need to make sure your sales letter conveys value and offers them something of value to get them to pick up the phone, visit your website or come into your business," he says.
Joe Horan, an Indianapolis-based licensed broker and real estate investor who owns Wrightwood Homes, recently started using direct mail marketing. He says he spends $1,000 to reach 1,000 potential clients.
“I can say with honesty that it does get the phone ringing," he says.
Not all of the calls have been positive, he concedes. Some have apparently called simply to yell expletives.
"But I do get calls!" he says enthusiastically.
3. You can target specific customers who are interested in your product.
When it comes to marketing, business owners know that success isn't guaranteed. You could be reaching disinterested consumers whether you go with direct mail marketing, television and radio ads or even social media.
Still, Entin says that you're more likely to reach customers who are receptive to your message these days than you were in years past.
“Years ago, direct mail had a far less expensive cost structure, so it wasn't a big deal to send mass mailings and include recipients who probably weren't going to be interested in the product," he says. “Today, direct mail pros have access to technology that makes it easy to send mailers only to people who are likely to be interested."
Regardless if the technology works, not all interested buyers actually take the next step and, well, buy. The conversion rate is often small, Moriarty says.
“So if you are selling low-margin, low-price items, direct mail may not be for you," he says. “It costs an estimated $5,000 to send to our entire customer list, but because we sell high-end jewelry, a few sales more than covers our costs."
But Moriarty says he also sees direct mail marketing as a safeguard.
“With our business, since not all customers see our emails, we hope that they at least see our mailers," he explains. "We want to hit our customers from any possible angle we can these days, so this is something we will continue to do each holiday season."
Direct mail may be able to help you in the long run, Horan says.
“It's all about consistency and repetition in real estate," he explains. Horan says using direct mail marketing has been “more about keeping your name in the forefront of their mind when they are ready to sell."
So maybe you don't get a quick short-term sale every time a potential consumer sees your direct mail marketing materials. But when people see your direct mail, even if it's just a brief glance, that helps get your name out there. For all you know, it may help you get more sales down the road.
Direct mail marketing is a form of advertising that has stuck around for a reason. If you use it effectively, it may show your customers that your business isn't going anywhere, either.
Read more articles on getting customers.