Is direct mail dead?

Are the calls of direct mail facing extinction accurate or premature? Obviously email marketing programs, social media and mobile marketing strategies are having an impact. As a result, standard mail delivery has dropped by 20 percent since 2007.

We’re told that direct mail letters have been on a constant decline over the last 5 years. Email is cheaper, faster and generally gets a better response. Just look in your inbox, a number of company holiday cards have been replaced by Holiday eCards. Production and mailing costs has also kept contests or “junk mail” promotions to a minimum. Now you receive them as “spam” emails instead. And the desire to produce and mail beautiful full color catalogs is also declining. Online catalogs provide more information, color options and 360 degree views of products. Monster and other job sites have all but eliminated paper resumes. Mailing cover letters and resumes has been replaced by posting or submitting electronic ones. Yet, newsprint circulars and flyers are still one of the most effective forms of direct marketing and the one that supermarkets and big box retailers still use effectively.

While we find these claims to be plausible, our findings show they are greatly exaggerated. We continue to use and test direct mail with great success. As effective financial marketing solutions, we helped to grow the Sallie Mae Consolidation Division from $1.2 billion to $19.5 billion over a five year period. We tested variables from the verbiage to variable data to formats to the call-to-action/response path. Every quarter we set up test cells and evaluated letters, envelopes, snap-paks, etc. In another service industry, healthcare marketing services, we segmented audiences, crafted targeted messaging and pushed for a strong incentive offer with two recent direct mail campaigns for Franciscan St. Francis Health. We also tested letters verses die-cut mailers and different creative via over-sized postcards. The reported results are exceeding the client’s objectives.

What makes us bristle is when clients or prospects say that “direct mail doesn’t work.” Our immediate questions range from: Was it really the direct mail piece or the mailing list, offer or creative? When testing is not part of the performance metrics, who is to say for sure?

In today’s competitive environment, the decline in standard mail delivery is offering new opportunities to get your direct mail piece opened. From demographics to mailing lists, audience segmentation to relevant messaging, call-to-actions and offers to creative formats, we work with our clients to develop each element as well as the test cells and performance metrics to apply to the direct marketing solutions and future direct marketing strategies. It’s how we prove that direct mail works and how to use it to generate a lift in response rates and revenue.

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