Old fashioned, unopened, outdated: Who remembers direct mail (DM)? Massive amounts of letters and other nonsense that we mailed, hoping to get a response. By the late 1990s, one agency was sending more than a million pieces of DM/month. But all of that began to change as electronic delivery took over. There were some downsides: DM was always a numbers game. You had to distribute a lot to expect any results, so we spent a significant amount of money on lead generation. There was also collateral damage, as any printer will attest. But now direct mail is back: It’s fresh, new and highly targeted.
Direct mail on the comeback trail
Direct mail is back, but it’s a new version of those boring old letters. It’s the new way to reach high-value prospects with personalized messages. In 2018, a DM project beat the competition to win top prize at the B2B Marketing Awards. In all of our digital madness, it seems that people now want something tangible.
There is a variety of reasons why marketers are returning to DM
Fatigue with digital marketing and lack of customer engagement mean that there’s a unique opportunity for direct mail. It’s starting to look new and fresh. With inboxes stuffed, a piece of direct mail is now starting to look like a novelty. In our digital world, there’s a greater appreciation for a tactile, authentic, even artisanal experience. Agencies creating highly personalized campaigns always include a DM component.
It’s not the junk mail you remember
Today’s DM bears no relation to the endless junkmail that continues to land in our mailboxes. The concept behind the new DM has changed from that of a piece of mail to an opportunity to creatively engage with a customer. With the new DM, we’re looking for opportunities to be highly targeted and send something of value. The real value of the new DM: Opening the door for a dialog.
With the new approach, DM is rarely, if ever, used as a standalone campaign. It is just one part of the nurture journey. Its value is that it’s integrated into an overarching campaign, so there’s followup.
There are some caveats
For those who are used to email marketing, DM doesn’t provide the easy data on opens and clickthroughsthat we equate with success. But maybe we need to reevaluate that information as a measure of success.
The economics of direct mail: Think of this as an investment
Cleanse your data before you send this out. That means calling offices to make sure the prospects are still there. Never send high-value DM to a cold list—reserve this for those whom you have previously engaged and want to make an impression. You’re talking to high-value prospects who might become valued clients. This is worth the investment.
Once the DM has been delivered, follow-up is critical
Follow-up calls and emails are mandatory. The direct mail piece provides the talking points. Prospects will feel compelled to take a call if what you’ve sent them has value!