Mailbox or inbox – which side of the fence are you?

Mailbox or inbox – which side of the fence are you?

DIGITAL marketing is everywhere. But, with inboxes flooded and junk overflowing, those who stuck with the traditional methods of direct mail are the ones reaping the benefits.

“We live in a digital world,” – that’s what they keep telling us. “We live in a digital world and that’s all that matters.”

But does it? Did all that came before it count for nothing? Did we just imagine the success of traditional methods of marketing?


Is digital all we have?

The answer, resoundingly, is ‘No!’ When it comes to putting offers and promotions in front of an audience, a responsive audience, then the evidence is that direct mail is by some distance the most effective tool at hand. While emails sit idly in inboxes, ignored by users wearied by the sheer relentless volume of messages sent at random to all, firms who use targeted direct mail know they are placing their offer precisely before a large percentage of potential customers.

Get this for a statistic – 80 percent of direct mail is opened, compared to one per cent of emails. That’s your chair right here in the real world you’ve just fallen off.


A touchstone of quality

Presentation is key when it comes to making first impressions. There are some who contend that we have been changed forever by digital media. Really? If so, why do so many hugely successful industries persist with print?

The answer is because it offers a touchstone of quality. A well-produced, beautifully presented leaflet, catalogue, postcard or brochure, correlates directly in the mind of the customer with the quality of goods or services a company is offering. That business is making an effort to directly engage with the customer, and it is doing so in a manner which makes it clear that quality is their byword.

This is not to say we should be taking a Tardis back to 1990. In fact, modern direct mail benefits from computer technology which allows businesses to find and target their core customers. Back that up with a finely designed and well-executed, personally named even, direct mail delivery, and you begin to see the potential for old and new working, and paying dividends, side by side.

Far from the impression sometimes given, there are plenty of companies still engaged in direct marketing. Indeed, if anything, they have benefited from others leaving behind the modus operandi. Think back twenty years and the battle to open your front door after a week’s holiday. The direct marketing world has shrunk massively, the result being that those who use the system in a nuanced and targeted manner are actually now being seen by customers. We have moved way beyond the culture of scoop up off the mat and throw into the bin.


Safety over security

Think also of the ease with which direct marketing allows engagement. No-one is being asked to click on an email (that in all likelihood has landed in their junk box anyway). No-one is being asked to trust in attachments, to put phishing fears to one side, to risk their online integrity. Here we have a leaflet/brochure, order form and possibly a prepaid envelope. No-one feels as if they are dealing with the anonymous, the distant, the potentially exploitative. There is zero chance of compromise.

Potential clients have in front of them – on a targeted day of the week if need be – the visible embodiment of a company seeking concertedly and genuinely to engage with them on a human level.

It’s a myth that direct mail isn’t cost-effective compared to digital marketing. The latter still requires the cost of design and software. The difference is that direct marketing exists, it is tangible, present, and in front of potential customers. It is not subject to the whims of email firewalls or Internet algorithms as to whether it will make it to the client’s eyeline. And in the times of fake this, fake that, fake everything, how believable is anything that approaches us through the online doorway these days?


Tangible and quantifiable

The success of direct mail is more measurable than you might think. Marking order coupons, for instance, with a specific serial number, allows a company to assess reach, profitability and efficiency of an individual campaign. Importantly, it allows them also to test the water. If one mail-out is successful, the door is open to increase its scope next time around.

Direct mail also panders to natural inquisitiveness. Postcards are a popular method of getting a message out there. And we’re hardwired to look at such things. The same goes for colourful envelopes, inventive packaging. We are an interested people who have become dismissive and disinterested to email bombardment. Even if a product or service can be better represented on the internet, it’s worth bearing in mind how an initial mail-shot, containing a link to the relevant website, can establish both trust and a willingness to connect.


Return on investment

Don’t imagine these are the words of a fairy tale with a very papery hero. Statistics back up this story. Research shows that young people aged 25-34 prefer direct marketing to email marketing. Social media, meanwhile, comes second to direct mail when it comes to return on investment.

Direct mail also has a higher response rate than its email rival and attracts repeat business.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by these statistics. We are, after all, talking human nature here. We enjoy the aesthetic of good design, the same as we enjoy being approached on a personable basis, and treated as if we are more than just another email recipient, one of millions, a source of revenue to the soulless and the faceless.

Customers deserve better, and those who have kept faith with direct marketing know as much. The Internet is a portal. Print is a portal to success.

Next time the subject of marketing comes up, it’s worth taking a step back to consider what is the most important touchstone in driving business. The conclusion will doubtless include the words ‘connectivity’ and ‘trustworthiness’.

Strength comes from the doormat up.


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