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Direct mail in 2020

Leveraging handwritten holiday notes to nurture customer relationships and drive engagement.


Scroll through almost any marketing blog and you’ll quickly find an article titled ‘Is Direct Mail Marketing Dead?’. We’re here to save you some time and tell you straight up that the answer is No.

Direct mail marketing is still very much alive. But it has undergone a few changes over the years.

In this article, we'll outline trends and changes in direct mail marketing, and how it compares to email marketing.

Identifying these trends will show us where the future of direct mail is headed. So keep reading if you want to get ahead of the game and learn how to optimize this uniquely effective marketing tool.

Direct Mail vs Email

In 2012, 13.8 billion letters were sent, of which an estimated 4.4 billion were part of direct mail marketing campaigns. This averages out to 12 million marketing letters sent every day.

This might sound like a lot, but compare it to the average of 205 billion emails that were sent every day in 2016 (56% of which were considered spam). That's a lot of clutter in your customers' inbox.

Why is there such a difference?

Many consider it to be the costs involved. After all, sending a digital email is much cheaper than sending something physical. Not to mention easier.

But when you start to consider the increased effectiveness of direct mail marketing, this preference towards email doesn't really make sense. Why spend an hour generating one lead, when you can spend two hours generating ten?

Response Rates Are at an All Time High

Customers are getting tired of the endless barrage of emails they receive every day. And who can blame them? When you get so much cold, impersonal marketing in your inbox, a targeted letter through your door is a welcome change.

Direct mail marketing has trumped its digital counterpart in terms of response rates for the longest time now. In 2012, it was found that direct mail achieved a response rate of 4.4%, while emails saw a mere 0.12%

And it looks like those rates are only going up.

In 2015, direct mail marketing’s average response rate for prospect lists (potential customers who are deemed likely to use the service) came in at 1%. For campaigns targeting house lists (people who have already bought or ordered from the service), the average was 3.7%.By 2018, those numbers had increase significantly, with a response rate of 4.9% for prospect lists and an impressive 9% for house lists.

What Makes Direct Mail So Effective?

There are a lot of answers to this question. It seems there’s something about the physicality of direct mail that appeals to people. What would you prefer? A dull, intangible message on your screen, or something with weight that you can hold in your hands? This is why 41% of Americans look forward to checking their mail each day, and why up to 90% of all direct mail gets opened, compared to only 20-30% of emails. Mostly, though, it seems that people enjoy the personal touch that direct mail can offer. Recipients keep hold of their direct mail for 17 days, while unsolicited emails are kept for an average of two seconds before they are sent straight to the trash. In a world where people are flooded with cold, impersonal emails, direct mail marketing seems to mean something to people. Good marketing means engaging with your leads, something that email is getting less and less effective at while direct mail is growing in popularity.57% of people say that receiving mail makes them feel valued, and 24% say that they value something physical that they can touch and hold over something they can only read.

It Reaches More People Than You Target

Good marketing can have a knock-on effect that professionals often ignore. They focus so hard on directly reaching their leads that they forget that they are targeting people. And people can talk.I bet you can't remember the last time you told someone about a great email that you received. Meanwhile, direct mail recipients actively look to share their positive experience with others, even if their mail had been overtly salesy. 21% of promotions are shared between people in a household. In terms of marketing, an extra lead for every five people reached is an amazing figure.

So What’s the Next Step?

It's the personal nature of direct mail that appeals to recipients, something that emails can never replicate. Something physical that has been tailored specifically to the recipient will stay with them much longer than a blanket promotion. If you want to start engaging with your customers with direct mail marketing, then why not lean hard into this personalization? By taking that extra leap and engaging with your leads, clients, and customers in a much more intimate way, you can increase your response rates exponentially. For perfect personalization, why not try our custom handwritten notes service? By personalizing your direct mail marketing, you can help generate leads, nurture business relationships, and boost engagement rates by as much as 400%. You can even automate the whole process with our seamless integrations, making the creation and distribution of a handwritten marketing campaign as easy as sending an email. Now email doesn't even have convenience over direct mail! Despite the incessant questioning, direct mail marketing is still very much alive, and while it’s still an effective channel in its own right, personalization is the next step to transform it into a truly formidable marking tool.