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Why Direct Mail is More Effective than Digital Channels

Direct mail open read rates show why print is still king.
This is a fantastic article from our friends at Xerox!

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker

It’s an age-old debate: direct mail versus email marketing.
Supporters of digital media will say why drain your marketing budget on direct mail campaigns that nobody reads when you can contact your customers using the channels they prefer — television, social media, and mobile?

However, the latest data makes a strong case for printed direct mail. Sure, social media and mobile marketing are on the rise. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t responding to direct mail or that this channel is losing its effectiveness. That’s just plain false.

The reality is, direct mail remains a critical part of the mix. So the next time someone tries to tell you direct mail is dead, remember:

1. Direct mail doesn’t require opt-in
Unlike email and text messaging, you don’t have to get a recipient’s permission to send them direct mail. This means, even if a customer doesn’t subscribe or unsubscribes from your email list, you can still get in touch with them. (Which is why it’s always a good idea to get physical addresses from those on your email lists!)

2. Direct Mail Doesn’t Get Caught in the Spam Filter
“Yes, it may be skimmed by a gatekeeper,” notes Roger Buck, former director of marketing and new product development for The Flesh Company. “However, the odds are still much better – and it doesn’t contain a virus.”

3. Direct mail remains effective long after it lands on the desk
It’s the equivalent of taping things to your audience’s fridge. “We’ve had people tell us that they had one of our mailings sitting on their desks for months,” notes Andre Palko, president of Technifold USA. “Although they didn’t act immediately, we remained top-of-mind until they were ready to act. You don’t get that kind of staying power – or attention – with email.”

Direct mail gets noticed

4. It’s still effective when the target recipient has moved on
“If you send an email to someone who’s no longer at a particular company, it bounces. If you send a postcard, the new person in that job sees it — and you’ve just introduced yourself as a vendor,” says Palko.

5. Direct mail doesn’t have to compete for attention
Email is an effective tool, but it can be overwhelming for your target audience. In 2014, The Radicati Group found that business users sent or received 121 emails per day. By 2018, this is expected to rise to 141.

Larry Bradley, owner of Proforma Sunbelt Graphics, writes, “The overwhelming volume of email received at work is a huge hurdle for legitimate email marketers. It’s hard to separate the junk from the legitimate email. As a result, a huge percentage of email sent to businesses is never read. Businesses don’t receive nearly as much marketing mail as they did a decade ago. That’s a unique benefit for direct mailers.”

Print is king

6. Certain offers just won’t get traction by email
There’s a reason businesses are more likely to get lending offers in the mail than they are by email. B2B decision-makers trust direct mail more than email, especially for high value products and services. Mailers can also include a wide variety of trust-building content not possible (or reasonable) to include in email. Yes, you can provide links. But with direct mail, you get that content in front of them in a tangible way right out of the gate.

7. Direct mail can reach high-level decision-makers
There are only so many things you can do to make email look more important. But beyond writing a compelling subject line, most of them look hokey. Direct mail offers options like kits, dimensional mail, and unique packaging options that, by their nature, get past the gatekeepers. (Palko has used everything from metallic envelopes, lunch bags, packing list pouches and prescription bottles to mail letters. “They are not only fun, but they get opened!” he says.) While these mailings may have higher price tags, they can also get near 100% open rates. When you’re trying to reach the C-Suite, that’s worth a lot.

8. Direct mail drives social media and online marketing
Many people believe you don’t need direct mail when you have social media and mobile marketing. What they’re overlooking is how social media and mobile marketing relationships get captured in the first place. Very often, it’s through print. Saying that you only need social and mobile is akin to saying that when you buy a house you only need the upper stories and not the foundation. Without print, getting social and mobile engagements is much more difficult.

Print is King