“Do Not Mail” coalitions also claim that taxpayers subsidize direct mail marketing because commercial mailers get discounted postage rates. The argument is usually framed by contrasting the single-piece first class rate with a heavily discounted standard mail rate, making it seem like advertising mail is getting a subsidy at taxpayer expense.
The counter to this argument is that commercial mailers earn the postage discount on the basis of work sharing—preparing the mail for efficient handling by the USPS. Worksharing activities include such things as address standardization, move update processing, postal coding, traying/sacking/palletization, and labeling mail containers so they can be read by optical character readers. Also, in contrast to e-marketing, all costs (printing, mailing, postage) are borne by the sender of the advertising mail.
There is also an economic argument against eliminating advertising mail. Since 1970, the USPS has received no taxpayer dollars for its operations. Advertising mail accounts for the biggest share of mail handled by the USPS. To eliminate a significant amount of advertising mail could imperil the continued financial viability of the USPS and eliminate a huge number of jobs. It would also threaten the entire mailing industry, which represents nearly 10 percent of the nation’s economic activity.
As software for conducting email campaigns becomes more prevalent, interest in e-marketing is growing. However, recent research suggests that digital marketing may not be an adequate substitute for direct mail. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive in July 2009, of 2,265 US adults age 18 and older, a majority of respondents stated that printed media is easier to read than the digital equivalent (though they did prefer the immediacy of the digital media). Of those surveyed, 68 percent said they felt more comfortable when they have something on paper rather than on a computer screen.
One problem with email marketing is delivering the message. Return Path, an email deliverability company, found that for the first six months of 2009, 20 percent of consumer email ads sent by their Mailbox Monitor system were undelivered. Of those, 3.3 percent were sent to “junk” or “bulk” email folders, and 17.4 percent were not delivered at all. The lack of delivery rate was even higher for business email addresses. Return Path found that, on average, only 72.4 percent of commercial email is delivered.
Despite all the arguments, direct mail marketing remains a proven way to communicate with customers and prospects. Do your part to keep direct mail marketing relevant by learning the facts and by using it to promote your own business.
Nancy DeDiemar is president of Printing Resources of Southern California in Upland, CA. DeDiemar is also the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printing resources.com.