It is 2018 and if you read most of the articles in the “trades” for the last number of years, Direct Mail was supposed to go away as an important marketing tool in the same way vinyl records did in the 1980’s. Well, just as you can buy brand new vinyl records in Barnes & Nobles today, Direct Mail remains a vibrant and effective marketing tool; one that marketers need to include as part of their marketing plan.

How vibrant? In June 2017, the Direct Mail Association (the DMA) reported the highest response rate that the DMA has ever reported since coming out with the Response Rate Report in 2003 at 5.1%. This is compared to .6% for e-mail; .6% for paid search; .2% for on-line display and .4% for social media (yes, there really are periods before each of those percentages). Even if you want to argue that the DMA has a motive to inflate the findings in the Response Rate Report, you cannot argue with the huge gap in response between Direct Mail and the other forms of “modern” marketing tools.

I believe that there are four strong reasons why Direct Mail is as effective as it is proving to be today and how Direct Mail is different than its counterparts.

1. Noise: According to the United States Postal Service, mail volume has decreased from its high-water mark of 212.2 billion in 2007 to 154.3 billion in 2016. Logically, this means less pieces of mail in our mailbox each day and the opportunity to focus more attention on the pieces of mail that are received each day.

On average 2.6 pieces of marketing mail are delivered to a consumer. Compare that to average 121 e-mails received each day in our business and private e-mail accounts, and it is no wonder that a whole industry has been developing ways to stop messages from ever reaching our electronic mailboxes and those trying hard to find a way to beat those systems. By law, every piece of Direct Mail that is sent to an accurate address must be delivered and therefore has a chance to be seen by your prospect.

2. Trust: In a study done in 2015, over 60% of respondents aged 18 to 25 preferred to receive information regarding new products via Direct Mail. In fact, according to the most recent DMA Response Rate Report, 12.4% of people aged 18 to 21 respond to direct mail. While it is true that this demographic is comfortable with technology, their rejection of “snail” mail is proving not to be the case. This demographic is very savvy and is aware that not everything that they read on-line is necessarily factual (think Wikipedia). In many ways, the internet is like the wild west and people perceive that Direct Mail is more truthful and reliable. Besides any claim that is made via Direct Mail can easily be researched via (let’s say it together) “the internet”. But having the information from two or more different sources increases the perception in people’s minds that they are receiving the truth and makes them more likely to be interested in at least trying the product or service.

3. Company has control over the message: Many of the electronic marketing sources, especially in Social Media, are controlled by the user and not by the marketer. Direct Mail allows the marketer to present its message in the way they believe it will be the most effective without worrying about the natural restrictions of other electronic marketing forms. This is a big reason why Direct Mail is thought to be on the “offensive” and geared towards growing a brand, while electronic marketing is thought to be “defensive” and excellent for retention and research.

4. Targeted: Direct mail can be targeted on very sophisticated levels with the aid of strong databases and achieve amazing results. But even if you are starting out, there are ways to purchase decent lists that can target your message effectively. There is very little argument that the more targeted your message is, the better your results will be. After all, the goal of marketing really has not changed no matter what tools are developed. It is about getting the right message, to the right people, at the right time and Direct Mail is still an excellent tool to achieve this goal.

Now, I know that there are some (perhaps many) reading this and conceding that Direct Mail may be effective, but it is also expensive with the postage and printing costs, and I wouldn’t argue with that. After all, the return on investment (ROI) for e-mail marketing for example is 124% according to the June 2017 Response Rate Report and it is nearly impossible to beat.

However, it may surprise you to note that the reported ROI for Direct Mail is 29%, which is very favorable compared with other marketing tools, such as paid search (23%); on-line display (16%), and social media (30%). This translates to every $167 spent in Direct Mail, there are $2095 worth of goods sold (or a ratio of every dollar spent in direct mail, $12.5 dollars are produced). I would think that would be a strong return of the investment for any company’s marketing dollars.

The expense of Direct Mail is a legitimate concern and should not be minimized. However, in upcoming blogs, I hope to make suggestions to help decrease those costs and help to increase your chances for success.