Does Direct Mail Work?

After 13 years of selling direct mail, It amazes me how often I still get asked the question “Does Direct Mail Work?” My response is always “Yes, of course direct mail works, when done right *for most industries*. Why would you think that direct mail wouldn’t work?”.

With direct mail you can target the exact prospect you want, at their exact address with the ONLY MEDIA THAT GUARANTEES a 100% OPEN RATE and the highest attention rate of any media. Isn’t that the holy grail of marketing, being able to target the exact prospect  you want, at the exact time, with the exact message, and guarantee that they SEE IT.

This is exactly what direct mail delivers and just two of the many reasons that make direct mail so powerful when done right. Let me repeat that, when done right as there are so many things that will kill a direct mail campaign before it even begins. Furthermore, for most industries, direct mail is one of the easiest media to track response rate and ROI. Therefore, you can take if from does direct mail work to this is exactly how well it worked for my business.

With all that said, the reason behind asking the question “Does Direct Mail Work.” Boils down to either one or a combination of the following 6 reasons.

  1. I have tried direct mail in the past and it just didn’t work.
  2. XXXX told me direct mail doesn’t work. Often this comes from a digital marketing company trying to sell the direct mail or could be a friend or colleague has told them that direct mail doesn’t work.
  3. I just don’t really understand marketing in general and/or do not understand the capabilities of direct mail and how it really works.
  4. I just don’t think it will work for my business.
  5. Let’s really break down each of these reasons and bring some transparency to the heart of the questions.
  6. I’ve tried direct mail in the past and it just didn’t work.

If this is you, here are the important questions that need to be asked.

Do you know who and where your mailers were sent to?

There needs to be a sound strategy behind selecting the right areas and prospects to target. Nothing will kill a direct mail campaign more than a bad list and sending your mailers to the wrong prospects in the wrong areas.

Do you have a copy of your last mailer?

This is an easy checkpoint to identify If your direct mail marketing was designed properly both from an aesthetic perspective and content perspective.

If your direct mail marketing wasn’t easy to read, easy to scan, did not have a strong call to action, a compelling offer, contained technical jargon and did not include strategic ad copy that would resonate with your prospective customers, you might as well toss your money down the toilet.

How did you track and/or gauge the effectiveness of your direct mail response and ROI?

Tracking your marketing efforts and determining how customers are finding your business is arguably one of the hardest parts. This becomes even more difficult when deploying a multi-channel marketing approach.

I often hear that call tracking was used to a client’s direct mail response rate. Unfortunately, in 99.9999% of all cases call tracking is NOT an accurate method to track direct mail response.

The reason being is that many prospects who receive your mailer will go online, read reviews and call from the number on Google or your website. The minute a call is made from any number other than the call tracking number on your mailer, you have lost all accuracy.

Although call tracking will show some results and does have some merit, It will only show you those that called from the number on the mailer and is not inclusive or indicative of all calls made from the number on google or your website, thus making it grossly inaccurate.

However, for businesses such as Home Services, HVAC, Plumbing, landscaping, Power Washing, Construction, etc. Auto Repair, Dental Practices, Fitness Centers, Insurance, Financial, Education, etc. etc. etc. that acquire their customers address when they become a customer, it is very easy to attribute ROI.

This is done with a very simple report called a match back report. The match back report takes the new customers your business acquires after your direct mail marketing has been sent out and compares It to the list of prospects who have received your direct mail marketing matching back a detailed list of every new customer acquired that was targeted with direct mail.

Of course, it cannot tell you if your direct mail was the only reason,  they became a customer. For example, the direct mail got their attention but your website and google reviews is what pushed them over the edge. The latter you will likely never be able to solve for at scale and you could spend a decade determining if you want to consider it first, touch last touch, etc., but it surely does give you the ability to  attribute direct mail as one of the touches, if not the primary touch that got them to become a customer at your business.

For other types of business such as restaurants, retail, etc. that are not able to acquire a customer’s address at time of purchase, it is likely you will never know your exact response rate. In these cases, the best you can do is count coupons or try and track special offers with unique codes to tie them back to an offer directly from one of your mailers. Many suggest look at sales as a determining factor. As intuitive as those sounds, I have seen a customer who are getting a response and have declining sales due to operational issues.

The best advice is consult with your direct mail partner and explore and deploy as many tracking mechanisms as possible to get the most accurate results. Did you target your prospects more than once, or did you send them on direct mail marketing campaign with only one touch and never contacted them again. Every successful direct mail campaign should have a harmonious balance of frequency vs reach. Frequency is the number of times you are going to target prospect and reach is the number of prospects you will touch with your marketing.

For a detailed breakdown and to learn more about the importance of frequency vs reach check our blog post.

Reach Vs. Frequency: Prioritizing Spend for Maximum Results

XXXX told me direct mail doesn’t work.

First, we must ask, who is providing you with this information. If it is a company trying to sell you another form of marketing and they are bashing another marketing channel, then you should probably just disregard it and/or ask them to provide you with fact-based evidence to substantiate their claim as opposed to what they think or what they say they are seeing. I’d be willing to be they can’t provide you with anything accurate.

If it is a friend, family member or colleague, it can only have come their opinion or from an experience they have had in the past with direct mail. If it is opinion based and not fact based than it can be disregarded. If it is based on previous experience, ask them the questions above addressed above to uncover if they executed their direct mail campaign properly and/or accurately tracked their direct mail campaign results to substantiate their feedback.

I just don’t really understand marketing in general and/or do not understand the capabilities of direct mail and how it really works.

This is a fair concern. Most business owners and managers aren’t marketing experts. Even those business owner managers that do understand marketing or have some expertise may not be the authority on a specific channel of marketing like SEO, Direct Mail, etc. Therefore, it’s always a best practice to find an expert in that field and rely on them to help you.

The key is finding the right expert which is the biggest challenge. Fortunately using google can help make this process much more efficient. I recommend by starting by looking for companies that have expertise with your specific industry and have the google reviews to match.

I just don’t think it will work for my business.

You may be right about this concern. Direct mail may not work well for your businesses, or it may work, but you may be able to

get a much better ROI using another form of marketing. This can only be determined by consulting with a real direct mail expert.

For example, let’s assume you owned an auto body repair shop. I would not recommend direct mail as the best use of your marketing dollars and the most viable way for your business to acquire new customers.

The reason being is that the need for auto body repair cannot be determined by someone’s demographic or where they live and there is no direct mail list you can buy that breaks down vehicle owners that may need auto body repairs. A vehicles owners need for an auto body repair will typically be determined by a recent event or immediate need they have to repair  their vehicle.
A better use of an auto body repair shops marketing dollars would be better deployed to channels like local SEO, optimizing your google business profile, executing PPC. These channels will ensure you are optimized so that when a prospect has a need arise and they head to google to find a local body shop that yours is at the top of the list.

In summation, direct mail is extremely effective when executed strategically for the right type of business.

To learn more about how Mail Shark can help your business strategically acquire and retain more customers the right way. Contact us today.