Is Direct Mail Dead

Is Direct Mail Dying?

The saying, “everything old is new again,” has been around for a long time. Does that mean it’s now new again? Or, is it, by definition, old. It’s a conundrum. The statement can’t be both old and true.

Confusing, right?

Often in life and business we hear statements and accept them as fact without really stopping to question their validity. That seems to be the case with another “fact” with which I’m often faced. “Direct mail is dead.”

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that everyone uses email and the Internet for everything, and, that digital communication is, therefore, the best way to communicate every message to every audience.

I disagree.

Basically, most people fall into one of two camps. Those who are active online, who I’ll call “Digi-doers,” and those who aren’t. Let’s call them, “Digi-don’ts.” Used properly, direct mail can be effective for both groups. Here’s why.

Let’s start with the first group. Because the Digi-doers are active online, they are also very likely buried in digital communication. It’s a daily struggle for them just to weed through “piles” of emails and to endure the pop-ups, banner ads, “promoted stories” preroll videos and other frustrations inherent to living and working online. They’re buried in electronic information and, therefore, very good at deleting, ignoring and otherwise obviating anything other than what’s immediately important. (A generic e-blast or self-promotional email probably won’t make the cut, by the way!)

For these people, receiving a physical piece of mail is an unexpected event. If it’s intriguing and creative, and if the message is appropriate and/or useful to the recipient, it might even be an unexpected treat, offering them a break from their electronic overload. It’s an interrupter, and therefore has a chance at grabbing their attention. They might even show it to a friend, stick it up on their refrigerator, or put it in a stack on their desk for future reference.

Even if they only glance at it and drop it right into the recycling bin, it probably made more of an impression on them than any of the 47 emails they deleted already that morning without opening them just based on the subject line or sender.

So, what about the Digi-don’ts? For them, going through physical mail is part of their everyday life and they feel compelled to open every envelope and read every postcard in case it’s something important. These people also still use old-school checkbooks to manage their money, write letters to friends with actual ink, plan car trips using paper maps and engage in all kinds of other “analog” behavior that seems foreign and obsolete to the Digi-doers. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It does, however, mean well-executed direct mail is a great way to reach them. Actually, it may be one of the only ways to reach them.

Convinced yet? Good. Now all you have to do is make sure your next direct mail campaign is done well. Here are some tips:

Tip #1

Start with the desired end result in mind when writing and designing your mail piece. Consider what specific action you want your audience to take and what would compel them to take it. Then, focus on only that. Good direct mail pieces are like good billboards. They drive readers to learn more by making a phone call, visiting a website or going to a retail location. They should never be brochures. Cut to the chase by using a focused message that drives action.

Tip #2

Cut through the clutter by using an unexpected shape, an offbeat image or clever wordplay. Again, think of your mail piece as you would a billboard. It has to have stopping power.

Tip #3

Make it trackable, timely and valuable by including a special offer that’s only available to people who bring the mailer in, mention it when they call or use a special code when ordering online. This tactic may also give your piece a longer shelf life because it encourages recipients to keep it around for future use. Most importantly, making it trackable lets you measure what works and what doesn’t — so you can improve your results by learning as you go.

Tip #4

Use a rifle, not a shotgun. Don’t waste your money sending unfocused messages to untargeted audiences. Using direct mail successfully requires planning effectively. Choose audiences based on their likelihood to be receptive to your message. Then, create a mail campaign that will make sense to them.

When it comes to direct mail marketing, maybe everything old is new again!

Thinking about incorporating direct mail into your next campaign? The “Monsters of Mail” can help. Call Wax Communications today at 305 -350-5700 or visit