Direct Mail is Dead – Or is it?

Stick a fork in it. Direct mail is dead.

Direct Mail is Dead - Or is it?Small business clients that I call on are dead tired of spending $600-$800 on a postcard mailing to find only one or two end up back in their store. That equates to $100-$300 per lead. Ouch!

Many of them think that the people receiving their carefully constructed and colorful mailings just are not in the mood to listen to them, or buy. They could not be more wrong. The people that are receiving your letters or postcards will review them and make the following Decisions.

Consumer Decisions

  1. Is this something I would buy? Probably the most important decision a consumer makes, and the quickest. A 20 year old will rarely receive a mailer from a hip-replacement firm and do anything but throw it away. Is your mailing list targeted or did you just buy it? Does your list include past customers? Have you validated that the list is not too old? (anything more than 24 months old is considered “ancient”)
  2. Does the mailer (postcard/letter) include ‘calls to action’? Does the headline tell the consumer exactly what you want them to do, or how important it is to buy/call/visit soon?
  3. Does the mailer provide me with a ‘Default-Out’? Say I don’t have the time or the desire to jump in my car or get on the phone with you right at the moment, but I am a willing consumer of your product/service and would like to have a ‘default-out’. Does the mailer provide a website address where they can claim their prize, or confirm their interest?
  4. Does the packaging and wording ensure the mailer won’t hit the wastebasket? Paying a bit of attention to call-outs like “Free Prize” or “Limited Offer” or “Act Now” will help to ensure the viability of your communication. If there is an official looking code or key that you provide your customer, or a certificate that must be presented.. it is more likely to stick around and be returned.

Direct Mail is not Dead.. It is just ill.

I can’t tell you how many mailings I receive each week that don’t have a call to action, are poorly constructed, and fail to engage me directly. Most get tossed without the envelope being opened. Why? If you can’t tell me what you have to tell me in the few seconds I have your mailer in my hand… You are wasting my time. Time it seems is the disease that direct mail suffers from. The consumers of 2010 have a lack of attentiveness and a lack of time and cannot be bothered by lengthy and protracted communications. Give me something, give it to me now, make me want it….

The Math

OK, so say you are a small restaurant and send out post cards with a $2.00 off coupon on the back off of lunch. Say that you normally receive back 20 postcards. Now, if you provide them with a short link to your website, and tell them they can have access to $50 worth of coupons from your restaurant, you will not only receive back those 20 postcards, but also 20% more (4). You will also then receive 10 coupons from your website that are redeemed by interested customers for a total of 34. These are numbers based on average statistics provided by the Direct Mail Association. Even they know that you have to provide your customers with more than a piece of paper, you have to build momentum, provide additional options and opportunities and stoke public opinion of your establishment.


If you are glad that you didn’t chuck your mailing list, and if you are interested in harvesting qualified leads, sending out direct mail pieces that are delivered, read and returned to you, and providing your customers with a way to stay in touch with you and take advantage of opportunities via your Web Site, contact Mike today.

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