You may have noticed that the past ten years have been pretty good to online marketing. The industry, which most of us can still remember living without not that long ago, grossed nearly $37 billion in the U.S. last year – and there’s always a steady stream of new ways to use targeted emails, landing pages, and social media to drive business.
While online marketing continues to evolve, many of the techniques and knowledge businesses have taken from their online endeavors have turned out to be incredibly useful for direct mail, too.
This past month we headed to Chicago to visit DMA13, which is the annual global conference for data-driven marketing of all varieties. DMA conferences are the perfect barometer for industry trends, hot ideas, and what to expect next – so we took note when we heard marketing industry gurus repeat over and over that their clients are more eager than ever to tackle direct mail again. This confirmed a feeling we’ve had from seeing a high volume of interest in our products for direct mail: businesses are looking for new, exciting ways to spice up their direct mail campaigns.
Why now? We’ve been hearing quite a few reasons:
1. Direct mail is still the king of meaningful responses. The disenchanted attitude many companies are showing toward email marketing in particular often stems from an illusion that efficiency always equals effectiveness. Caught up in the promise of easy-to-reach ROI figures, companies lost sight of the comparatively fantastic response direct mail is capable of. Any marketer worth their salt will tell you that one number can never tell the whole story; an astronomical ROI could mean, for example, that the target market just hasn’t been truly tested. Email certainly has its strengths, but even welcome results may suggest limitations with a one-dimensional approach.
2. Direct mail is a familiar medium. Americans are more conscious than ever of data mining, and the most harmless repurposing of information still seems to be met with some disapproval. Public opinion of online advertising that ‘follows your browsing’ is bound to fluctuate much more, but at least for now the time is ripe for businesses to jump back in to traditional methods that are comfortable for their customers.
3. Big data makes direct mail even better. Just because companies are getting back to basics doesn’t mean they’re putting aside all that valuable data they worked hard for – would you? Big data has only made direct mail an even stronger tool, because it allows for precise segmentation. The additional investment that comes with a mail campaign is easily justified when there’s that additional confidence in a robust list. Businesses and marketers alike can take what they’ve learned from their time entrenched in online marketing to develop a balanced, data-driven, and cutting-edge direct mail approach.
4. Real, substantial mail is practically guaranteed to get opened. There is something to be said for physical, tangible materials – especially now that people are inundated nonstop with junky promotional emails. A good mailer always goes to a real address; if packaged properly, it will also visually appeal to the recipient before even being opened. Simply put, there’s still no better way to elicit a response. Time and again we’ve seen that the additional investment results in a better final return.
5. Now is the time for brands to differentiate themselves with direct mail. In direct mail, companies with an eye for innovation now see an opportunity to leave their less resourceful peers in the dust. In a world where basic email marketing is available to anyone with an internet connection, the physical medium is the place for brands to noticeably differentiate themselves from the competition. Inventive designs such as EnvyPak™ clear poly envelopes and mailers set apart an important message from the duds in a way that a witty email subject line never will – and that’s from someone who tries to write witty email subject lines on a daily basis!
There’s simply no substitute for careful, complementary planning across multiple channels. As online marketing makes more measured strides, direct mail will take back its rightful place as the backbone of businesses’ marketing strategies.