Is Direct (mail) Marketing dead or smugly toasting its own rude health?


By Ian Simpson

Direct (mail) Marketing does divide opinions though, but with 86% of consumers opening direct mail and 22.4% of the UK population over the age of 15 increasingly responsive to direct mail – it must still have a healthy pulse!

Here are some more interesting numbers, 64% of consumers reported that they value the post they receive in their postbox. This confirms an earlier DMN News/Pitney Bowes survey showing that over 52% of people receive greater satisfaction from reviewing their postal mail when compared to e-mail. With over 94% of consumers taking action on a promoted offer or coupon that they received through direct mail. So far it’s still breathing and hanging in there.

Once upon a time Direct (mail) Marketing was, well, very direct! The piece would arrive in the mail to a prospect and the engage-to-sale journey would be very short. If it looked too good to be true – then it probably was – but it didn’t matter anyway. Direct (mail) Marketing has evolved somewhat, and it is rarely a single strike to the consumer jugular. It is much more a nurturing tool aimed to develop a relationship between buyer and business. Consumers are far more brand savvy and informed – they know what they want to buy and why. And they will always respond with ‘What’s In It For Me?’ (WIIFM).

Engagement and education are very much part of the purchasing journey. Consumers can now compare any product or service online and direct mail is a very tangible way of reaching out to reinforce your proposition.

Marketing Life Cycles

Marketing trends are incredibly cyclical and each new generation of marketers ‘discovers’ a new approach – or applies a new slant to existing channels. There is the inevitable ‘Eureka!’ period where this new-found technique has a novelty value and responses are high. Once this technique or approach is visibly successful other marketing companies latch on and start to replicate the approach. This leads to market saturation and ultimately less engagement from consumers, finally killing off the strategy. It eventually is recognised as ‘redundant’ and the race is on to find the next marketing innovation.

Digital/Online Marketing

Digital marketing has proved an extremely successful way to connect businesses to consumers. Although online media has been around for some 20 years, it is still in a relative ‘honeymoon’ stage and there is still a fair bit of hype around it. The beauty of digital and online marketing is that it is inexpensive and extremely easy to measure and automate. It is also seen as the universal panacea to all marketing woes – and in a world of receding marketing budgets the cost/coverage equation of digital is extremely seductive.

Social media has given digital marketing a huge boost – largely because it can continue marketing conversations away from the desk and blur the distinction between business and personal messaging. Digital is a very personal channel, but as we have seen, it exposes individuals to very real security fears. In the face of rising digital marketing, direct (mail) marketing is seen as less of a priority and something of an anachronism. But it is long way short of dead!

Measurement of R.O.I.

The measurement of R.O.I is one of the cornerstones of all marketing activity. And with so many channels now active, it is increasingly hard to attribute response to a respective channel. Digital marketing is easier to track and often in real time – responses can be quickly tallied and accredited. But ‘click throughs’ and ‘visits’ are only part of the story, it may take several ‘touch points’ to activate a response. And that last final trigger could just be that mailing piece landing on the doormat.

So, is direct marketing dead then?

There are great parallels with online and offline marketing and they exist for the same purpose – to communicate. The web is a tool, a website is a channel – but the unsung hero of Direct (mail) Marketing is still catalogues. Uniquely, catalogues are both a marketing and sales vehicle – they take the messages to your customers, without them have to ask. They invite themselves to the party – but you have to invite the website and to a certain extent all other digital contact. Catalogues dive through your letterbox, leap out of magazines and generally make a nuisance of themselves, whether you like it or not! And this is where they hit the spot, they tell you about things you never knew existed, from companies you have never heard of and get you interested in things your never knew you needed. And the web can’t do that nearly as well – although it is getting cleverer. Catalogues are a proven, valuable part of an integrated marketing strategy and great at driving online sales.

The predicted demise of catalogues, in the wake of online marketing, never happened. Yes -catalogue mailed volumes have declined – but they have become far more targeted. They can probe and exploit target markets very effectively, producing a cohesive assault on your prospective customers in combination with digital channels.

Direct (mail) Marketing is not dead, but it is changing and finding an important role within a multichannel (or omnichannel) marketing approach. Catalogues are the most tested and researched pieces of direct mail, we know exactly how they work and how they are increasing in relevancy.

According to DMA’s 2012 Response Rate Report, the average direct mail response rate was 3.4%. Thats more than 30 times the 0.12% response rate for email. Ok so the investment in direct mail is higher – but so is the response! Mail responders spend more. And you still think Direct (mail) Marketing is dead?

About the author

Ian Simpson is Managing Director of Catalogues4Business, what he doesn’t know about Catalogues isn’t worth knowing. They call him the Catalogue Guru.

Catalogues4Business specialise in producing highly effective, marketing-driven catalogues. C4B’s catalogue design offers brands the maximum effect to sell their products.

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