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Targeted, Tailored and Timely Innovations in Direct Mail

On November 19, USPS Business Alliance Manager Mike Naples broached a subject many of us new-media-obsessed marketers don’t think about very much: direct mail. Direct mail, Naples asserted, is the work horse of direct marketing. It has measurable results, it’s affordable, and it’s easy to target your best customers.

Lest you think that snail mail has gone the way of the dinosaur and eight track player, consider the numbers: we spend 47 billion dollars annually on direct mail marketing—about 9% the of GDP. Compare that to the 6 billion dollars spent on internet marketing.

Closer to home, think about how direct mail affects you. I, for instance, am a Web developer. I haven’t had a printer hooked up to my computer in at least two years. I tweet. I also have one Harry and David’s catalog, two Coldwater Creek catalogs, and a brochure for the AMA Face to Face training series on my coffee table. A kitchen drawer is crammed with 20% off coupons from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. So even the techiest of the techies are touched by good old-fashioned hard copy, especially when it is targeted precisely to our needs and wants.

Direct mail also has a much longer shelf life than, say, a marketing email, which drops like a rock into the abyss of the overcrowded in-box in a matter of days. (How long have those catalogs been sitting on my coffee table? You don’t wanna know.)

Direct Mail versus General Advertising

The age of mass media advertising is over. Today’s marketing must be personalized and non-intrusive to break through the barriers of spam filters, TIVO, and our general self-trained indifference to advertising. Direct mail, though massive in scope, is not the same as general advertising, said Naples.

General advertising, such as a sign on the side of a bus, sells a product. Direct mail sells offers. General advertising creates sales. Direct mail creates customers—whom you can learn about and collect data from for better CRM and future marketing efforts. General advertising is short, appeals to the emotions, and maybe even tries to make you laugh. Direct mail can use lengthy copy that focuses on facts, and, Naples, says, it makes you money.

Tips for Direct Mail Marketing

  • Use compelling offers in your mail: free trials, free samples, free information.
  • Size does matter. A brochure tucked inside a standard size envelope outperforms a postcard.
  • Make it personal. Send offers related to the recipient’s background, experience, and interests.
  • According to the Direct Marketing Association, 42% of direct mail recipients like to respond online. Personalized URLs (purls) allow you to direct traffic to the Web in a highly targeted fashion.
  • Direct mail can be used at any point (or every point) in the sales cycle.
  • Add a magnet or a sticky so recipients can tack the mail piece to their refrigerator or wall.
Amy Gelfand (Gelfand Design) is an independent Web designer and communications professional. Amy specializes in designing standards-compliant Web sites and spoiling her clients rotten. Contact her at info@gelfanddesign.com.