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What Is Direct Mail Marketing? Does It Still Work in 2018?

When you’re marketing your business, you want to try different marketing tactics. This includes tapping different marketing channels – traditional and digital. Here, we’ll talk about what is direct mail marketing and why businesses should still use it in 2018.

What is direct mail marketing, and more importantly, does it work?

Well, check out some of these stats. According to the Data and Marketing Association, 42% of consumers read catalogs received in the mail. In the U.S. alone, 100.7 million adults made a catalog purchase in 2016.

The direct mail response rates for house file are 5.3%. For prospect lists they’re 2.9%. Compare those numbers to the average email response rate of only 0.12%.

For almost 200 years, direct mail was the uncontested marketing leader. Now it has competition. Read on to discover exactly what it is and why it’s worth pursuing.

What Is Direct Mail Marketing?

Direct mail (DM) is a type of outbound marketing which relies on physical letters, postcards, catalogs, and notes. You send the mail through regular postal services, like USPS, FedEx, and UPS. Customers receive your mail and open it as they would any letter.

This type of marketing has been around since the advent of the postal service. Big names like Sears, Montgomery Ward, and J.C. Penney got their start through mailcatalogss. It granted them the power to move beyond the confines of their brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Only recently has the DM approach faced competition. It comes in the form of digital marketing. Does that mean DM is dead?

Nope, it’s still going strong. Just take a look at the sections below.

High Return on Investment

Consider its ROI for a moment. When you compare direct mail (DM) to outbound marketing, like paid search and online display ads, DM wins. It has a median ROI of 29%, trailing close behind social media marketing.

It loses to social media by only a single percentage point. If you’re already investing in social media marketing, consider expanding your campaign into the DM channel.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Expert marketers set up campaigns using multiple direct marketing channels. They utilize search engine optimization. They play with LinkedIn ads. They build blog content. They post videos.

They research their market and target customers. Then, they design a campaign to match.

They know where their prospects hang out. They know their problems and interests. They use multiple avenues, targeting prospects from different directions. That way, they can lead prospects through each stage of the buyer’s journey.

When you combine digital and physical marketing, you create a more personable experience for consumers.

It Takes Less Effort

No, not for you. It takes less brainpower for consumers. DM takes 21% less cognitive effort to process than email. (You need to put in the same amount of work.)

For marketers, communication is paramount. If your prospects don’t understand your message, they’ll reject it. It’s as simple as that.

The less work it takes consumers to decipher your message, the higher your conversion rate will be.

Location Based Targeting

Facebook gives you the power to target prospects with pinpoint accuracy. Google offers different filters, but they still give you laser focus. That’s arguably the main reason that experts love digital marketing.

Recently, the United States Postal Service (USPS) implemented its Every Door Direct Mail program. With it, you have a similar fine-point focus over your campaign’s geographical location. These are a few filters they offer to refine your campaign:

  • Routes
  • Businesses
  • Residences
  • Zip Codes
  • Age Range
  • House Size
  • Income Range
  • Total Delivery Addresses

USPS even calculates the approximate costs for you. Set up your filters and they do the rest of the work for you.

Millennial Marketing

Shockingly, 87% of millennials actually like receiving DM. That’s mind-blowing. Perhaps it gives them a break from their digital pursuits.


77% of millennials also react to this form of advertising. This percentage is comparable to a dwell rate on a webpage. They browse physical mail more than any other generation.

These stats translate into attention rates. Guess what? Just by sending them a piece of mail, you automatically hold their attention 77% of the time.

It’s a marketer’s dream. All you need to do now is work on your pitch.

Incomparable Tracking

One of the coolest benefits of modern technology is real-time tracking. USPS, United Mail, and FedEx use intelligent mail barcode systems. Each piece of mail is scanned when it changes hands.

That means you know the exact location of any catalogue you mail, anytime day or night. You can plug this data into your metrics to refine your campaign. You’ll know when your prospects receive your letters and how long it takes to respond.

These numbers could mean the difference between a successful campaign and a failure.

Primed for Small Businesses

Small businesses (SMBs) typically lack capital for expensive, outbound digital marketing. Even if SMBs build an online presence, advertising through search engine and social media platforms doesn’t guarantee you’ll generate enough leads online.

There’s a learning curve.

DM, on the other hand, is straightforward. It’s ideal for small businesses with a small budget. Generate your mailing list from your customer base. Then build your direct marketing strategy from the results.

Better yet, use it in conjunction with other marketing channels to target consumers at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Strong Perceived Value

Only our interpretation lends the world beauty. The world exists independent of our experience and observation, but only they can give it color.

To ascribe value to digital elements is more difficult. An email may contain the same fonts, colors, and words as a physical letter. But it lacks other relevant dimensions.

What is the texture of the paper? How about its weight? It’s smell?

A study conducted by UK Royal Mail concluded that the upswing in DM is caused by this difference. When you give, receive, and handle tangible objects, you connect to a deep, intuitive part of what it means to be human.

What’s Next?

Well, did the article make you into a marketing guru? Probably not, but you should be able to answer simple questions, like what is direct mail marketing? And how is it still relevant?

Remember, no single marketing channel does it all. Experts design their campaigns using multiple channels. Consider DM for your next campaign.

If you enjoyed this article, hop over to our site and read our other great articles on marketing. Go on, do it now while it’s fresh on your minds.

So long and good luck!

P.S. If you need help designing your next campaign, consider using MRP. They’re an expert marketing firm with a history of success.