Both email and snail-mail promotions have advantages and disadvantages. After all, email is quick and cheap. It allows businesses to easily and inexpensively test a market, and downloadable fulfillment pieces are instantly accessible. Snail mail, on the other hand, seems so 20th Century. With email, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets and video chat available, why would anyone use U.S. postal mail to reach out to customers? For one, it’s a lot more effective.
“Direct mail responses vary, but anything from 0.5 to 2 percent is considered good,” Mark Satterfield, author of The One Week Marketing Plan told Inc.com. “For unsolicited email marketing, a good response rate is 0.01 percent. So (with direct mail) you have a higher chance that your promotion will be acted on.”
Direct-mail marketing offers a lot of other benefits to which e-mail just can’t compare, including:
1. Reaching High-level Decision Makers
Email marketing to this demographic never works, Satterfield said. “Their spam filters are so tight that if you send unsolicited email it has zero chance of getting through. Whereas if you send a direct-mail piece that looks like business correspondence, it’s much more likely to get through.”
2. Introducing Yourself
If your business is new to the neighborhood or the industry, a direct-mail piece is a great way to grab people’s attention in a crowded marketplace. An eye-catching postcard with compelling graphics might just catch their eyes when an online ad or unsolicited email would be ignored.
3. Reaching a Target Audience
Direct mailing lists are easy to precisely target. If you’ve determined your target customers, you can create direct mail campaigns targeted tightly to those people.
“If you want to target people by ZIP Code or profession or which associations they belong to, you can buy all those lists,” Satterfield said.
Determing your target market can also save costs. If, for example, tight targeting has produced a list of only 100 people who truly fit your target customer profile, and each direct mail item costs 50 cents apiece, you can reach that target market for only $50 plus the cost of buying the list.
4. Tying a Promotion to a Holiday or Event
Direct mail is an especially effective way to get customers through the door when you’re running a promotion tied in to an event such as a sporting match or a holiday. “If you tie your services or product to a holiday and then do promotion around that holiday, it can be particularly effective,” Satterfield said. “We had an irrigation service client who did a direct mail piece around Arbor Day. Who even remembers when Arbor Day is? They sent an oversized postcard reminding people about the holiday and offered a discount. They sent it to a ZIP Code where there were expensive homes. It was very successful.”
5. Directing People to Your Website
“Direct mail is a great way to get people’s attention and start a relationship,” Satterfield said. “It’s not that effective at actually selling things.”
Direct-mail marketing should include a strong call to action, which often will send people to your website for more information, to receive a discount or download free content. According to Satterfield, one particular consulting firm had a free report available on its website, and the direct-mail piece was designed to motivate recipients to download the report. To do so, they had provide their names, and they were offered the chance to opt-in fora email messages. Since opt-in email lists are very effective for marketing, the combination of the direct-mail piece and the website were very effective.
“If you view the objective of your direct mail campaign as getting people to express interest in you, then it’s very powerful,” Sutterfield added.
6. Receiving a Positive Response
“Even in consumer marketing, the volume of mail people receive every day has dropped dramatically,” Satterfield said. “So we’re seeing even an oversized postcard with an intriguing call to action having very good responses.”
The direct-mail environment is a good one. People may call it “junk mail,” but they use the term with a lot less ire than when they refer to “spam.” When they check their email, they’re often sitting at a desk staring at a monitor and just generally busy. When they sort through postal mail, on the other hand, they’re probably much more relaxed and feel less rushed.
7. Offering Space to Tell a Story
Direct mail allows senders to incorporate emotion. With a letter or flyer they can inspire, convince, argue, persuade, frighten or motivate. Readers are less likely to follow an emotional appeal in an email. Email readers want you to get the facts and get out.
Email and other digital-marketing promotions often work only when sent to people you know or whom you have earned the right to email, such as those who subscribed to your mailing list from your website. But if an email recipient doesn’t know you well enough to recognize your name or email address, there is a big chance that they will delete the email as spam and perhaps even block future emails from you. To further complicate the question about whether to use email for promotions, some email, if not worded or constructed correctly, will get stopped by spam filters and blockers installed on email servers. Certain words, phrases and behind-the-email technical factors are red flags that get an email blocked – never to be seen by the recipients.
Direct mail, on the other hand, can be very cost effective but there’s no question that your front-end costs are going to be higher. The good news is that Vistaprint offers customizable flyers, brochures and postcards that are sure to grab recipients’ attention. And because time is money, you’ll save both with Vistaprint’s postcard-mailing services.