Effective direct mail marketing: Old techniques work well in 2018

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direct mail pices

I remember well studying the art of direct mail marketing, way back in the 1980s, when I was a federal government public relations person, and used company (er taxpayer) money to take a direct mail marketing course (appropriately delivered by mail). I wasn’t wasting the government’s money — one of my tasks was to develop effective marketing pieces and I wanted to learn the science as well as the art of effective direct marketing.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Post Office’s killer and saviour.  First class mail has declined substantially to the point that it could kill the conventional postal services, but for one thing — online ordering has reached the point that parcel deliveries are skyrocketing. Of course, “online ordering” is the modern version of direct marketing, which traces its rules, traditions and models to direct mail.

There are some obvious differences between online marketing and direct mail. Junk mail can be irritating, but most people don’t mind receiving it. Spam is another story. Of course the reason spam is so problematic is that it is virtually free to send and the system/recipients pay the costs (kind of like sending your junk mail “postage due” — not nice!)

That leads to the follow-up question: Could old-style direct mail campaigns work in 2018, and the answer is “yes” in part because conventional mail still has the tactility and can include the surprise factor that will be interesting to readers. And you can target your message effectively — and make it easy for readers to connect with you online, enhancing the experience.

And, guess what: Direct mail has been researched and tested and because of that, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you start a campaign. (And you can minimize risks by starting small and testing variables, if you have a larger list.)

Here’s an example of one of the direct mail foundations, from Eric Gagnon of the Business Marketing Institute:

When in doubt, go with “three pieces in an envelope:” Whenever you are faced with the task of developing a direct mail piece for a completely new marketing project in your company—especially one that involves the launch of a brand-new product, or a product in a new and untested market, it’s best to stay with the conventional, “three-pieces-in-an-envelope” letter-size (or larger) direct mail format.

This format is not only the most proven direct mail format used in most mailing projects, it also gives you four different opportunities to present, explain, sell, and close the recipients of your mailing—through the outer envelope, the sales cover letter, the brochure, and the “call to action” reply card. Most important, this format also minimizes the risk of not providing your prospects with sufficient information to motivate them to take the next step closer to buying your product.

There’s more advice in the relevant eletter posting, but you don’t need to sweat too much — you can research effective direct marketing through a variety of sources, and you will find a simple direct mail campaign won’t break your budget, even if it is very small.

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