Direct Mail is Still an Effective Marketing Tool

There are new tools and strategies that have redefined the world of direct mail, enabling it to emerge, once again, as an effective marketing channel. 70% of Americans say that direct mail feels more personal than the Internet so it is not surprising that brand recall was found to be 70% higher for direct mail marketing versus digital ads. In 2017, direct mail response rate was 5.1% versus an email response rate of 0.6%, and social media response rate of 0.4%. Prospective customers’ response rates to direct mail increased even more than established customer rates did, and 70% of consumers indicated a preference of direct mail for unsolicited offers. To many it feels less invasive for a company to send traditional mail than an unsolicited email.

Example of integrating direct mail and email. Topic is introduced with a postcard or other traditional mailing then followed up with a similarly branded email. Pictures and messaging are similar, if not the same; unique QRs are utilized on the direct mail pieces, PURLs on the emails to allow tracking of response rates. 1/3 of US consumers reported that they read direct mail more than email marketing and an additional 34% said they read both equally. It is best practice to engage customers in multiple formats as this approach improves response rates and effectiveness of all campaigns. Build out unified campaigns that integrate multiple channels across different media. Create a series of messages that build on each other or provide follow-up and establish a timing calendar that maintains contact without overwhelming consumers.


Combined campaigns, those with both direct mail and digital touches, increased response rates by 118%. Multi-channel messaging and tracking of response rates will allow you to focus in on a customer’’ stage in the funnel more precisely than ever.

Pair direct mail with your digital understanding of the consumer by utilizing CRM data to create targeted lists. Use analytics regarding browsing behaviors and other online consumer activity to personalize marketing either to individuals or small groups. If your organization invests in collecting enhanced data such as geo-tracking, even information regarding daily schedules, drive routes, etc. can be used to target your messaging. Millennials, especially, expect mined data to be used to their benefit. Use variable covers and messages to test and optimize your campaigns. Be sure to establish success measurements – include vanity URLs or unique email addresses to track responses. You can also include different phone numbers, codes or coupons specific to targeted groups to enable better understanding of your ROI. The top tracking method for response rate was personalized URLs at 61% followed by phone at 53%, and codes/coupons at a 42% response rate.

Relevance and personalization are important factors with direct mail so companies need to aim to meet customers where they are in the buyers’ journey. This greater call for personalization can be answered with variable photos and headlines, as well as personalized messages based on profile and behavioral data collected through site analytics. Fortunately, variable printing is more affordable and accessible than ever before. 84% of consumers reported that personalization of a piece of direct mail increased the likelihood they would open it and it was found that adding a person’s name plus the use of full color increased response rate by 135%. These personalized messages can also offer unique QR codes or personalized URLs to reach a specific landing page with targeted information. The content on those landing pages can then be changed or updated as the campaign progresses.

To stand apart from the competition, businesses need to be clever and deliver the unexpected. New trends in marketing are dimensional and manipulatable pieces. Companies are including samples and coupons in tubes and boxes that differ greatly from common flat mail. There are also foldables, with different components of the message within each fold, posters, and tabbed marketing pieces that provide an interactive experience for the consumer. It is recommended that direct mail varies in format and size - oversized envelopes had a 6.6% response rate and 37% ROI compared to postcards with a 5.7% response rate and 29% ROI versus regular letter sized pieces that had a 4.3% response rate and 29% ROI.

While innovation is important, keep the design simple and straightforward. Maximize white space and use vivid images. The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it decodes text so use pictures and graphics to communicate information. Choose colors purposefully whether for branding purposes or to invoke an emotional response. Tell a simple story simply - one message and one strong call to action.

Handling physical objects is a part of the human experience. The process generates an emotional response which, in turn, creates a better product or service recall and a feeling of value that helps to build business/customer relationships. Direct mail is also effective at driving traffic to other channels so include social media handles, your website, and a phone number on all pieces. Just remember that it can take up to 18-20 touchpoints to reach a customer for the first time. Whether you are interested in direct mail, email, or a combination of the two, the experts at SDM are willing and able to assist. If you are ready to discuss and plan communication tracks for your customers or are simply looking for more information, contact us today.