7 Ways the Internet Makes Direct Mail Better

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In an era of emails, blogs, user generated content and social media, direct mail may have lost some luster in your marketing plans. It shouldn’t. Direct mail still works and should have a place in your marketing mix.

As a marketer it can be intoxicating watching your email campaigns deploy before your eyes as you monitor opens, clicks and completed transactions. In 72 hours it is 80% over and in five days it is pretty much done. And there is more… you can manage the entire email lifecycle – from concept to design to postcard_costs-300x242 2deployment to analysis – all from your desktop.

Direct mail still works. A recent study from MarketingSherpa indicates 79% of companies find direct mail somewhat effective to very effective. Another study by PRIMIR Group in 2010 indicates that direct marketing continues to grow and is now 51% of all advertising expenditures. Of this, direct mail leads the way at 31%, followed closely by telemarketing at 29%. The study further indicates that marketers find direct mail remains strong as a customer acquisition channel when compared to alternative media [i.e. email]. As I noted in my prior posting, Practical Tips for Effective Direct Marketing, I have also found direct mail a strong tool for customer acquisitions, particularly when used as part of a mixed media campaign.

1. Easier for both novice and experts

Direct mail has gotten easier. Before the Internet, sending postcards to a mail list required knowledge of paper stock, postage rates, size and weight thresholds, database format, address layouts, press options and more. Now, expert advice and services are readily available directly from USPS.com or hundreds of online direct mail vendors. The enclosed chart illustrates an example postcard mailing and the impact of technology in reducing the costs and skills for deployment.

2. Affordable for both large and small mailings

Even though print and postage costs continue to rise, technology keeps niche marketing for direct mail affordable. Widespread use of variable data printing (VDP) and mailing database software allows for personalization and customization of each mail piece while maximizing postage discounts – even for very small mailing files. For an excellent discussion on how technology creates opportunities for profitable niche marketing, I highly recommend Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail.

3. Convenient

E-commerce has come to direct mail and many direct mail campaigns can be launched from your desktop via printing websites. For design, choose from 1,000’s of templates for postcards, self-mailiers, tri-folds, business letters, business cards, reply cards and more. For mailing lists, purchase from online vendors or upload your own file. Here are a couple examples at USPS.com. (At Expo-Commerce.com, just click ‘add-to-cart’ to purchase and launch turnkey postcard campaigns to the mailing list of your choice).

4. Quick deployment

Some online printing sites can turn direct mail projects around in less than 24 hours – upload by 2pm and it will be in the mail the next business day. (At Expo-Commerce, our business model is to batch projects and mail to proprietary databases on pre-arranged dates. We do provide 2 –4 day standard fulfillment, however by batching projects we maximize printing and postage discounts and provide extremely competitive pricing, particularly useful for small mail files).

5. More options for call-to-action and measurement

Quick response codes (QR), and personalized URLs (PURL) are two more new technologies that aid direct mail. Both technologies enable database driven direct mailings to steer the recipient to specific online web page or promotion.

6. Easy trafficking and fulfillment

Web-to-Print technology enables both the mailing database and design files to go directly from your desktop to a variable data printer, making project trafficking and fulfillment seamless. (At Expo-Commerce.com, we have both. We use Web-to-Print to fulfill our services to our clients or build a client self-service portal for those that want it).

7. Execute direct mail with confidence

Regardless if you are new to direct mail, used it with mixed success in the past or an old pro, technology allows you get competent services at competitive prices without hiring an expensive ad agency.

Direct mail works. While it may not be as exciting as email and search marketing, it should still be an important part of most firms’ marketing mix.