Why Your Direct Mail Isn’t Working (Hint: It’s Not Due To Old Technology)

direct-mail, direct-mail-ROI, Direct-Marketing-StrategyMarketers know that direct mail is so “last century.” It’s just not effective anymore. The folks at Rochester Institute of Technology would beg to differ. On their Print in the Mix portal they claim that, “direct mail continues to deliver as consumers’ preferred means of receiving marketing messages, with six out of 10 Americans reporting they ‘enjoy getting postal mail from brands about new products.’” They also report that donors are three times more likely to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal than they are to an e-appeal. And they assert that direct mail gives B2C direct-response marketers the strongest ROI for customer contact, retention and acquisition.

Maybe your direct mail experiences aren’t reflecting those same results. Maybe you’ve seen direct mail response drop off over the past few years. And maybe (just maybe) the problem isn’t with the “old technology” tool you’re using. Maybe you’ve gotten away from some of the basics of good direct mail practice.

There is a long-established “formula” in the world of direct mail marketing known as “The 40-40-20 Rule” that highlights the three most important factors in the success of any direct mail project. Industry experts agreed that your list accounts for 40 percent of your mailing’s success. Your offer contributes another 40 percent to your mailing’s success and your creative makes up the remaining 20 percent. But if you’re mailing to the wrong audience (list) it really doesn’t matter how good your offer is or how great your creative efforts are.

Here’s a real-life example of why audience is so important. A friend’s 89-year-old mother recently visited the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a photo ID. She no longer drives, but still needs an ID, and the DMV is the place to go for that. Local car dealers have access to some DMV information. This woman’s name and address popped up on the list of individuals recently visiting the DMV. As a result, she began receiving offers for new cars. The (false) assumption made by local dealers was that she’d been to the DMV to get a driver’s license. That direct mail effort had a ZERO percent chance of success. And it had nothing to do with direct mail being an “old” technology.

Even if you’re mailing to the right list, however, your direct mail efforts can fall flat if you don’t make the right offer. Too often marketers shortchange this step. They offer a meager discount. Or they offer a “free consultation” that is really nothing more than a thinly veiled sales pitch (By the way, a free consultation really can be valuable if it provides your prospect with helpful information he or she can actually use!). Often what people want today is accurate, helpful information that helps them make a good decision. This is particularly true if your product or service involves a significant investment. For many buyers, making the right decision is much more important than saving a few dollars. And direct mail is a great way to catch someone’s eye and direct them to your website where you can fulfill their need for in-depth information with very little cost. It’s fast for them (a big plus) and it gives you a record of who is genuinely interested in your goods or services.

Keep in mind as well that there is a whole group of consumers out there (digital natives) for whom direct mail is virtually a new phenomenon. Receiving mail is a new experience for many young adults who have grown up in an online world. And with the volume of mail being lower now than ever, your mailing has a better chance of standing out.

If you haven’t been getting the results you want from your direct mail efforts, it may not be because direct mail doesn’t work. It may be because you’ve wandered away from the basics of good direct mail. And while there’s no question that you want to pull potential customers into your website to do business, you shouldn’t overlook direct mail as part of your overall marketing strategy.