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Death of a mailman?

Shirley Zhao

Shirley Zhao

December 29, 2015

Data cleansing

At this very moment, you have 52 unread emails idling in your inbox. 36 of these mails you deem to be actually relevant to your job, due to the subject line. As for the rest, you delete, mark them as spam or just outright block the sender. What does the way we handle email tell us? It might be time to take a look at a different mailbox...the one in your front yard.

Here’s what we know

We send and receive so many emails a day—according to the Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report, 2014-2018, an average of 126 emails were sent and received per day in 2015. This overflow of emails means we immediately dismiss any messages that sound remotely spammy.

By contrast, direct mail (you know, the tangible mail that’s stuffed in our physical mailboxes), is seeing an increase in engagement. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 79 percent of consumers will act on direct mail immediately, as opposed to 45 percent who say they’d act on email right away.

In a study performed by Epsilon, 60 percent of consumers prefer direct mail over email, and according to a Ritter’s Communication study, 50 percent of people say they pay more attention to direct mail than any other media.

Say what?

People are now turning back to the mail that may be considered "old fashioned". Did you know you can now buy books teaching you the art of letter writing? (The Art of the Handwritten Note by Margaret Shepherd for anyone interested in learning more.) The practice of writing personalized content and having it arrive at your doorstep now happens so infrequently that people are happy just to receive something that isn’t a bill. 

It’s true—response rates and actions resulting from direct mail are known to be higher than their digital counterparts. Now there is a caveat here. I’m not saying you should drastically decrease your email marketing initiatives to go back to snail mail. However, it is worth rethinking your marketing campaigns to incorporate direct mail to augment your current initiatives. Businesses that create relevant and timely content, and do it well, reap all the benefits associated with its success.

Okay, so, how can I use direct mail effectively in my marketing campaigns?

This, of course, requires pinpointing exactly what would be most effective for your audience to find in their mailbox and hold in their hand. What would you want them handling? What age group makes sense for that particular campaign? What aesthetic attracts said age group? Questions like these are very important when you’re thinking of using direct mail, particularly because it costs more and takes longer to implement.

For example, physical mail, (e.g. magazines, catalogs, postcards), works very well in the apparel, home goods, and the financial services industries. However, the same kind of timely analysis and ability-to-test-and-improve factor that applies to emails does not apply to direct mail. If you were a business that sold cold-weather sporting gear with a target market of active consumers in their early- to mid-20s, holiday catalogs focused more on aesthetics (image-heavy, verbiage-lite, short in length with strong emphasis on deals) would be ideal. But! For the holidays, you not only have to think about your regular audience, but the gifters to that audience as well (think: parents, grandparents, significant others, etc.) Those people are just as likely to purchase something from you, but may not be attracted by the same catalog layout. Gifters might want to see details about customer service, return or exchange policies, or seek out keywords that they’ve heard their loved ones talk about.

The deal with direct mail

So should we be concerned about the death of the mailman? I think not. Direct mail, in my opinion, will not die out. It will, however, be forced to get more personal and less redundant. It will take more effort—and dollars—to think of ways to make physical mail less cluttered and more charming. But if you take the time to personalize and target the right people, direct mail will yield the results you’re looking for.

The grand caveat here is that considering all the time and effort you put into those mails, they should actually make it to the right place. Verifying your mailing addresses are accurate and complete is a fundamental precursor to any direct mail initiatives.

Find out more about how we can help your direct mail reach the right people and the right places.

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