This is a milestone year for me and my business. In 2010, Printing Resources marks its 40th year as a going concern, and I reach my 29th year with the company. When I joined my parents at Helen’s Place Printing in 1981 printing was very different from today, except for one thing. Customers, then as now, were telling us what products and services to offer by constantly changing what they bought from us.
Today customers are telling us that they prefer e-marketing to traditional direct mail. I’m sure you’ve heard the rationalizations: “E-marketing is less expensive and better for the environment. It doesn’t kill trees or add to landfill. And I can do it myself.”
Don’t let this conventional wisdom go unchallenged! A growing body of evidence indicates that direct mail marketing is still effective, it does not harm the environment, and the line between e-marketing and spam is blurry.
Consider this: every year since 1987, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has conducted an annual study called The Household Diary Study. In 2008, the study included 5,312 households that completed a seven-day household diary of mail received and sent for all 52 months of the study year. Here are some of the study results:
• Advertising mail represented 63 percent of all mail received—an average of about 16 pieces a week.
• Seventy-nine percent of households said they either read or scanned the advertising mail they received.
• One in three households said they made one or more purchases as a result of receiving the advertising mail.
• Contrary to the prevailing opinion that direct mail is “junk” mail, a majority of respondents in the Household Study reported paying attention to the advertising.
If you have customers that are non-profit organizations needing to communicate with alumni, members, or donors, inform them of the results of a 2009 Pitney Bowes survey. It included 1,100 US college graduates who were asked about their preferences for receiving information from the school they attended.
The survey found that 54 percent of respondents have a strong preference for direct mail. Only 23 percent chose email as their preferred method of communication. The alumni also prefer print mail for correspondence and news from their alma mater—57 percent indicated a preference for mail versus 31 percent for email.
In March 2009, Bredin Business Information (BBI) published the results of a survey of 50 small to medium business marketers and 741 principals of US-based businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Marketing to SMBs in 2009 revealed that 43.6 percent of the 741 businesses said they rely on direct mail, including letters and postcards, for information on products and services.
Environment and the USPS
“Do Not Mail” coalitions use environmental arguments to make the case against advertising mail. When talking to your customers, you can defend direct mail as an environmentally responsible way to advertise. Trees that are harvested to create the pulp from which paper is made come from tree farms grown specifically for that purpose.
Known as “managed timberlands,” the trees are an agricultural crop, like fruits and vegetables grown for market. America’s forestry and paper industries plant more than four million new trees each day (or 1.4 billion per year). That’s three new trees for every one harvested.
Like other paper products that have served their purpose, direct mail pieces can be recycled fairly easily and inexpensively. According to the EPA, annual recycling rates for advertising mail have increased seven-fold since 1990. In 2008, 57.4 percent of all the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling—the equivalent of nearly 340 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child in America. The paper industry has set a goal of 60 percent recovery by 2012.