The Shocking Truth About Direct Mail Marketing-The Facts You Should Know


Have you ever considered using direct mail in your business?

It still works, you know.

Although it mightn’t appear sexy.

Direct mail is a marketing format that is greatly underrated and overlooked by small businesses in Ireland.

This is partly because of the hype surrounding social media marketing.

Unfortunately much of the hype surrounding digital media/online marketing through social media marketing is driven by assertions and opinion rather than facts.

Because the facts don’t support the hyperbole, and there are signs that an increasing number of small business owners are discovering this for themselves.

Direct Mail Overlooked

Direct mail, as a consequence, is overlooked.

This is a big mistake for small business owners because it offers huge opportunities to run cost effective, return generating direct marketing campaigns.

Direct marketing in local newspapers, parish newsletters, free sheets, magazines, local radio, and even in national newspapers, has become an attractive proposition, especially now that advertising rates have dropped significantly and competition for advertisers is fierce.

Direct Mail Benefits

The benefits of direct mail include

  • Targeting
  • Direct mail allows your marketing message or offer to be highly targeted at the very customers who are most likely to respond, unlike mass advertising which can see your offer being wasted on prospects who have no interest in your message, for example advertising lawn mowers to apartment dwellers.
  • Tangible
  • Direct mail is tangible-it allows you to place your message directly in the prospects’ hands including special offer coupons, stickers, fridge magnets, calendars, and other promotional material.
  • Personal
  • Direct mail is personal allowing you to speak to your prospect by name and speaking to their desires and interests directly.
  • Flexible
  • Direct mail is flexible as it allows you to target your prospects with sales letters, post cards, flyers, samples, brochures, and so on.
  • Measurable
  • It is measurable in a way that internet or digital channels are not. You simply count the number of responses received compared to the number of direct mail pieces sent to see how effective your campaign has been.

The ability to see the exact response obtained allows you to tweak your campaigns, messages, and so forth to improve your response rate.

  • Easy to Implement
  • A direct mail campaign can be easily set up and implemented with a home computer and a printer.

Desktop publishing software allows you to get more sophisticated with your mail pieces but the essential success of your campaign will depend on your offer, and the words that you use (your copy).

And a great offer delivered by a letter which you can create on your home computer is all you need.

Types of Direct Mail

The most popular types of direct mail are

  1. A direct mail letter
  2. Leaflets/flyers
  3. Brochures/catalogues
  4. Post cards.

The success of your direct mail campaign will be largely determined by your offer.

This can consist of

  • The service or product itself
  • A great price discount
  • A free sample or trial
  • A money back guarantee
  • A coupon to be redeemed in your business if acted upon within a certain period of time.

Regardless of which format you choose, the text/copy on your direct mail piece will be the biggest determining factor in how successful in getting a direct response from your target.

Direct Mail Mistakes

The biggest mistakes I see regularly made are

  1. Slavishly copying the campaigns of other small business owners wasting a lot of space with big, irrelevant images on their flyer/leaflet
  1. Failing to think enough about the words that are used on the piece and the offer made and giving the reader a compelling reason to act, and act now.

Good copywriters command very large fees because of the difference in profitability between a high response to a direct mail campaign and a low one. The difference in return between a 1% response rate and 2% can be enormous, depending on what type of product or service you are offering.

So the strong advice is not to skimp on the copy used in your campaign, and engage the services of someone who is skilled at writing words that persuade and influence.

Direct Mail Letters v Post Cards

So, when should you use a direct mail letter and when should you use a post card or flyer?

The direct mail letter is perfect when you want to tell the story of your offer and it cannot be done briefly. It is especially suitable when your product or service has a high price point or has a great lifetime value of acquiring one new customer or client.

Your letter, if written professionally, can really engage your reader and you can also include coupons, testimonials, reply cards, brochures and other relevant sales material.

Postcards on the other hand should be used to present a special offer, drive traffic to your website where you can do your selling, or even to keep in touch with customers and thank them for their business.

Your postcard will definitely be seen so your message needs to be concise, easily understood, and direct.

You can of course use both letters and postcards to create teaser campaign firstly with your postcard and follow up with your letter with your detailed offer.

The Truth About Digital Marketing

The reality is that small business owners are being duped and misled by unsubstantiated claims for the success of digital marketing, social media marketing, text messaging etc.

These channels do work, but not for all businesses and not to the extent claimed in many circumstances.

So you will encounter many who will be promoting the latest, greatest “shiny object” without any real data to support the claims.

Facts versus Myths:

Video marketing via YouTube and smart phones has been strongly trumpeted as a marketing channel that small business owners should not miss out on.

Nielsen’s 3rd quarter “Cross Platform Report” is worth a look because it delivers something in pretty short supply when it comes to information for business owners as opposed to assertions.

It finds that

  • Video viewing on a television (live plus time-shifted) came to 97% of all video viewing
  • Video viewing online accounted for a little over 2% of video viewing
  • Mobile video viewing was about half of 1% of total viewing.

Direct Mail in Ireland

On the other hand direct mail is tried and tested for decades and the shift towards “digital” has meant that there are some incredibly effective opportunities in direct marketing.

In short, direct mail works, is incredibly effective and provides a clear, measurable return on your investment.

It is no wonder that banks, credit card companies, and financial service providers are some of the biggest spenders on direct mail in Ireland.(Source: An Post, Amarach Research 2009-2011 & Ipsos MRBI research)

This same research found that

  • Direct mail costs are coming down quickly
  • Direct mail increases loyalty with 32% of Irish consumers saying that direct mail increased loyalty compared to 22% for email
  • 75% of Irish consumers prefer to have a physical catalogue to peruse rather than view online
  • Direct mail gets a response: 41% of Irish people surveyed will go online to find out more when they receive a direct mail piece

Direct mail spending in the US was expected to surpass $13 billion in 2013. Interestingly the spend on direct mail in the Irish market is only a fraction of the US, the UK, Australia, and other leading economies.

What You Can Do Now

The key to success with direct mail/direct marketing is the offer.

Can you think of a great offer you could make to people living in the biggest housing estate in your area? Or to people coming out of Mass on Sunday? Or to the customers coming and going from the car park of your local supermarket?

This offer could be the basis of your first successful direct marketing campaign.

You will no doubt have noticed that I have used the terms “direct marketing” and “direct mail” interchangeably in this piece. The reason for this is although are not the same thing, they both rely on the words-the copy-to persuade the reader to read you message and take you up on your offer.