Direct Mail Marketing

What is Direct Mail Marketing?

January 24, 2017
Michael McCarthy

You know those postcards and letters you get in the mail, advertising everything from specials on getting your teeth cleaned to coupons at your local grocery store? That’s direct mail marketing. Or, as most people who receive these offers call them, “junk mail.”
But, according to a study put out by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in 2015:

  • U.S. organizations spent $46 billion on direct mail marketing in 2014.
  • Most households receive an average of 19.1 pieces of direct mail per week.
  • 42% of direct mail recipients read or scan the pieces they receive.

Direct mail is still going strong, despite a significant increase in digital marketing.
Because you can’t ignore something as easily when it’s sitting in your hand. An ad on your mobile phone is easy to click away from. You can delete an email. But when you’re holding a postcard or an envelope, your eye is drawn to it. You may note the company name and the offer, regardless of whether you’re interested in the product.
Here are a few more interesting statistics:
According to the DMA’s 2015 Response Rate Report, the median response rate for direct mail advertising sent to house lists was 3.73% in 2014. A “house list” is the list of customers and potential customers collected by the company.
Customers who have bought from a business before are 9 times more likely to respond to a direct mail promotion than those who have not, according to the United States Postal Service (USPS).
And, 70-80% of consumers polled by the DMA say they open most of their mail. This includes mail they know is “junk mail.”

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The History of Direct Mail

The first time we know someone used direct mail marketing was in Egypt in 1,000 BC. A landowner printed a reward notice for a runaway slave on a piece of papyrus. That piece of papyrus is on display at the British Museum.
Since then, direct mail has developed as people have learned to read and write. It became more popular with the invention of the Gutenberg Press in 1440. As printing became easier to do (and more people learned to read), businesses used direct mail to sell seeds to American colonists.
But direct mail is probably best associated with the Montgomery Ward’s and Sears’ catalogs. These two direct mail pioneers sold everything from seeds and clothing to barn and house kits.
Now businesses use direct mail to sell everything. You’ll get postcards for automotive services and swimming lessons. As well as letters selling cable packages and banking services. Internet marketing has taken over. But direct mail is still one of the most common and popular ways for businesses to advertise.

How Can Using Direct Mail Help Your Business?

As shown above, people pay more attention to a letter or postcard in their hands than they do Facebook ads (which can be blocked) and Google ads (which some people ignore). Direct mail gets your message in front of the people who need your products or services.
Is it possible that your postcard or letter will end up in the recycling bin? Yes. But there will always be people who are ready to buy every time you send out a new mailing. And when people see your company’s name as they sort their mail, they’ll remember you when they are ready to buy.

How Do You Use Direct Mail in Your Business?

What types of direct mail pieces do you send out? If you don’t use direct mail, why not? Tell us about it in the comments.

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