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From the Trenches

Direct Mail Lives: 5 Reasons to Make It a Content Marketing Tactic

Yvonne Lyons | March 25, 2016
5 Reasons to Make Direct Mail a Content Marketing Tactic

I’ve said it before: Print is not dead. In fact, as one of the tactics in your content marketing arsenal, direct mail can be more effective for certain audiences than email. Gasp! I know what you’re probably thinking, “It’s a digital-marketing world, sister. Catch up.”

Well, listen, no one is suggesting that you should shift all your marketing dollars to print and shut down your marketing automation platform. Direct mail is not for every use, every audience, or every budget, but it can be super effective in the right situation.

We recently had a client who was looking to increase the number of new campers for their successful regional basketball camps. They had been using a combination of email and direct mail to reach out to former campers and had been maintaining their numbers, but not growing. Instead of mailing to their existing list for a second time, we suggested a new strategy: Purchase a list of prospect names to target camper households similar to the ones they already had, with the same household demographics, including income, children in the household, proximity to the camp, likelihood to attend sporting events, and more.

The strategy worked. Numbers are up, jumping right after brochures hit households.

One of the reasons that these folks had success is that direct mail is effective for some very specific things — targeting specific groups is one of them, and it really works better than email for this. In fact, the Direct Marketing Association recently made its 2015 DMA Response Rate Report  available (for a fee), and it shows that the response rate of direct mail outperforms all digital channels. That doesn’t mean you should go on a direct mail spree. It’s not for all audiences, and it definitely has more hard cost attached to it than digital mediums have, but here are some solid reasons to at least consider direct mail as part of your B2B or B2C content marketing toolkit this year.


  • Print is unique.


    1. You can make direct mail into, well, anything you want. Harness the power of design and stand out from the crowd. With email you are limited to the flatness of the digital medium. Print offers dimension, texture, variations in size. All kinds of fun stuff.


    1. It’s easily targeted. Mailing lists are among the most targeted ways to reach an audience. The ability to target and segment a list of desired customers is unmatched in the digital arena. Get a good mail shop and give them your current mailing list. They should be able to do analysis on your current customers and offer you a list of look-alikes with similar demographic and psychographic characteristics. Then go get those people. Even without analysis, you can rent names that mirror your current best customers if you can provide information on geography, income, household size or inhabitants, and lifestyle.


    1. You can track it. Sure, some people will say this is hard. Everything has its pitfalls. If someone doesn’t click through directly from your email, it’s tough to track, right? Offer a coupon, discount code, or voucher to track your direct mail. Your tracking “device” can be different each time you mail. Customers might not use it, but you’ll know where the ones who do use it came from.


    1. Direct mail can integrate with digital. Use PURLS (personalized URLs) on direct mail to personalize an offer for recipients via a trackable URL or a QR code. It’s also an instant opt-in for email follow-up. Even if you don’t personalize URLs, direct mail that grabs attention can be a strong component of an integrated campaign and an integral part of your B2B lead generation efforts.


  1. It can outperform email. Direct mail response rates outperform digital channels by quite a bit, according to the DMA Response Report. Direct mail achieves a 3.7% response rate with a house list, and a 1.0% response rate with a prospect list. All digital channels combined only achieve a 0.62% response rate.

Direct mail can be a winner with the right audience, but the key is getting it to the right people because it’s not cheap. Hard costs like printing, mailing, and postage have to be factored into your budget in more significant ways than with digital campaigns, so after you identify campaign and marketing goals, make sure you get hyper-focused about who you are mailing to.

The digital-focused millennials might not be the ideal audience for direct mail as mobile seems to be what they turn to for purchasing information (54% say that their mobile device is the most important shopping research tool), but a new Marketing Charts study noted that for Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (those born from the mid 1920s to the early 1940s), direct mail is the most commonly cited purchase influencer of the 16 that they listed, ahead of word of mouth and online consumer reviews.

As you put your content marketing plan together and consider what types of content you will plan for the year, think about including direct mail in the mix. It could be the right answer for that event communication, or launch announcement, or even regular communication to your customers. It won’t be the answer all the time for all the audiences, but remember it can be an effective tactic at the right time for the right audience.

Need help getting your content marketing planning off the ground? Download our eBook, “Build Your Content Marketing Plan: A 10-Step Guide,” then get in touch.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.