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The Power of Direct Mail in a Digital World

Even in a digital world, direct mail can still pack a punch.

I started my career as a direct mail copywriter. Those were my salad days, when clients had generous direct marketing budgets and I had the luxury of writing long letters and direct mail "packages" filled with fun components like long sales letters, "buckslips," "lift letters," broadside or multi-page brochures, order forms ... you name it. 

Then came email marketing and social media. And all the clients with the big direct marketing budgets moved on to short, strategic digital marketing tools.

Yet, with all of the new digital marketing strategies that yield a high ROI, is direct mail really dead? On the contrary. I believe that, because everybody's scrambling to leverage digital methods, good old traditional direct mail is more effective than ever. Because there's so much less of it these days, it actually really stands out when it arrives in a decision maker's mailbox.

I looked at some math about this recently and it's encouraging. A recent survey found that 42% of recipients read or scan direct mail pieces. That means they actually take a few seconds out of their busy days to stop and read your message. Compare that to digital ads, that, if they're lucky, get a 0.14% ad clickthrough rate. And when it comes to the landing page, the average conversion rate is 2.35%. 

When you consider that the average worker receives about 122 emails every day, these stats are not really all that surprising.

Turns out, a freelance writer like me can really take advantage of this situation. Case in point: I recently mailed a postcard (pictured above) to some of the country's leading content marketing agencies. After following up with an email (yes, of course, email works nicely with direct mail to drive the message home), I received this reply:

Hi Julia--Thanks for reaching out (the postcard, by the way, is a great touch). She went on to tell me that she had forwarded my contact information to a content director who specializes in my areas of expertise.

After I thanked her, she replied:

I have to tell you this little story. I was in a meeting the other day with some of our interns and various people on staff were going through their job responsibilities, etc. The designer who was there had all of these postcards that he gets from illustrators and he was talking about how they help him discover new artists, etc. I was thinking, "Hmm, I don't think I've ever gotten a postcard from a writer. I wonder if that would work?" Later that day, when I checked my mail folder, your postcard was there. So I must admit, I checked out your site almost immediately.

What wonderful validation of my decision to use direct mail to reach out to prospects. I've always recommended the tactic to clients. Now it's really working for me. Needless to say, I'm printing more postcards and continuing mailing these postcards to my prospects. I may even develop it into a full-blown lead generation series. 

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