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Direct mail still works wonders

March 29, 2010
An example of a direct mail brochure

Direct mail - saying the right things, in the right way, to the right people will grow results handsomely


These days it is all too easy to focus marketing on new methods at the expense of the old. Marketers want to play with Twitter, Facebook, wikis – you name it, that’s what they want to do. But wait, people – don’t forget that marketing must be measurable; when it comes to social media the new reach it provides creates measurability issues of its own.  

There is no doubt that social media adds an incredibly valuable element to the marketing mix: brand tangibility and credibility in the online space. But hold it right there! Many customers are prompted into the online space by traditional means. And direct mail is still one of the best drivers we have.  

Provided that direct mail is properly targeted and says the right thing to the right people, it provides an unbeatable marketing tool. Especially in the B2B market place. But the key is that it does say the right thing to the right people.  

Send out a great piece to the wrong people and your campaign will fail. Send a poor pice to the right people and your campaign will still fail (but probably to a lesser degree). But send a great piece to the right people and you are onto a winner.  

So what is a “great piece”? Let’s start with communication. Some of the most skilled copywriters of today – people like Andy Maslen and Bob Bly – know exactly what I am talking about. They know that you can’t get away with hackneyed phrases, tired ideas and a lack of excitement.  

The piece has to say the right things and answer the key questions: what’s in it for me? Is it worth the money? Does it work? How do I know it will be any good? I am sure there is a cheaper product available elsewhere but where?  

And then the design of the piece has to get the message across. It’s no use saying great things if the piece is all reversed out of black, or has column widths so wide the eye gives up. The list of design errors is finite but it is surprising how many are made even by the great agencies. Communication is key – don’t make it hard.  

Oh yes, the right people. Who are they? What do they do? Have they bought from you before? Do they match your existing buyers? It’s no use buying in an untested list and hoping for the best. In my time I have seen this happen again and again and external lists almost without exception perform far worse than any in-house list. That’s not to say you don’t use them – after all, you have to get new customers from somewhere – but be very specific about the types of people you are looking for.  

So we’ve got the right list, are saying the right thing, and we are making our message easy to understand. Nothing complex in that. Yet it is amazing how these basics are often neglected.  

But get the basics right, invest in skilled people to deliver them and you start to make money.  Sales go up. ROIs go up. Web visitors go up. Web sales go up. Direct mail is a fundamental tool in the business marketing armoury. Neglect it at your peril!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2010 9:27 am

    Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  2. March 30, 2010 12:16 pm

    Not to be too reductionist but…if producers of physical products such as magazines, books and conferences really expect digital only promotion to be “cheaper” and more cost-effective than “physical” promotion then…why persevere with non-digital products anyway?

    They do, because they still work!

    As part of a mixed pallet of on- and off-line activity, direct mail has as big a role to play as hard copy elements of bundled brands.

    Your customers will tell you that.

    Some have developed sophisticated/profitable “e-relationships” with their customer base but most of us are still on the road…heading, optimistically, in that direction. With two or three hats…

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