It is about time that quick printers got some good news, and here it is:
Print and mail are alive and well!
Contrary to conventional wisdom among customers and even some printers that direct mail is “junk” mail, or “old” technology, or incompatible with environmental stewardship, print and mail remain an important part of any effective marketing program.
Skeptical? Consider the results of a 2008 study of 1,000 American consumers (split 50-50 between men and women), age 18 and older, from 10 major metropolitan areas (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, and Seattle). The results, published as the DM News/Pitney Bowes survey, showed these findings:
• Nearly 94% of consumers survey reported taking action on promotional offers and coupons received via direct mail.
• 20% of consumers reported that more than 10% of the offers or coupons they received by mail led to a purchase.
• Almost 40% of respondents said they had tried a new business for the first time because of information received via direct mail.
• Nearly 70% of respondents said they renewed a relationship with a business because they received a direct mailing or promotional item.
• Respondents stated that information received via direct mail often led to a contribution to a non-profit organization for the first time.
The surveyors concluded that: “Direct mail induces the consumer to touch the offer—recipients of direct mail are receiving, sorting, reading, and using direct mail to make purchasing decisions.”
In 2009 Target Analytics published the Index of National Fundraising Performance, which analyzed giving via direct mail marketing for 79 of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States. The study included data from more than 38 million donors, and more than 74 million gifts totaling in excess of $2 billion in revenue.
Study results show that direct mail was responsible for 78% of donations received, or about $8 of every $10 contributed. This made direct mail the top source of fundraising—ahead of the Internet (9%) or telemarketing (3%). The study also found that Internet-based giving is increasing (from 4% in 2005), and that Internet gifts tend to be larger than those received as the result of direct mail ($79 versus $45).
One particularly interesting finding is that in 2009, 89% of all new donors to the non-profits in the study were acquired via direct mail, while only 12% were acquired online.
Local Targeted Marketing
Knowing the national trends in direct mail marketing will help keep you from having to agree with your customers who insist that email marketing is superior to traditional direct mail. Trends may be pointing in that direction, but as shown by numerous studies, today direct mail still dominates results.
This is even more apparent when thinking about marketing locally. An obvious example of successful local marketing using direct mail is a political campaign for mayor, city council, school district, a local bond issue or proposition, etc. For local campaigns, direct mail remains the most effective way to introduce a candidate or an issue, largely because the marketing can target specific blocs of voters.
Likewise, direct mail remains an effective and economical way to reach a small geographic division such as a neighborhood. Many mail list providers now offer online tools to pinpoint a small area such as a one mile radius around a restaurant, or offer list enhancement services (adding demographic information such as household income, gender, race) to enable even better targeting of the audience.
In fact, the ability to target a specific audience remains a primary strength of direct mail versus other communication channels, including email. Businesses that collect additional information about their customers can develop very personal campaigns based on using variable data printing. Or the direct mail piece can act as an introduction to Web-based marketing by presenting a PURL (personalized URL) as the call to action.
Comparing Direct Mail to Email
Cost alone is not a sufficient measure to compare direct mail to email because using email introduces other factors that do not apply to direct mail. For example:
With email, the sender has incomplete control over how the message appears to the recipient, both when it is received in preview and after it is opened. A printed piece does not change based on the type of reader the recipient is using.
Email depends on a variety of Internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver the message, each with its own blocks and filters for email. The USPS delivers all the mail unless the address is faulty. There are also tools such as National Change of Address (NCOA) processing and delivery point validation (DPV) to identify undeliverable addresses during mail list processing.
A sender of email risks having his Internet Protocol (IP) address being blacklisted by ISPs. While blacklisting is a useful tool to cut down on spam, the decision on whether a message should be blacklisted rests with the ISP, not with the message recipient. With traditional direct mail, the recipient decides whether to put himself on the “Do Not Mail” list.
In its 2009 Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path, an email deliverability company, found that 20% of email ads directed at consumers were undelivered (sent to “junk” or “bulk” email addresses). More than 20% of business emails were undelivered. This compares to traditional mail list providers who will guarantee a deliverability rate of 88% or higher.
When talking about costs, discourage customers from only considering the cost of distribution (i.e.: printing + mailing + postage costs) when comparing direct mail to email. A better comparison is the cost-per-response for direct mail and email—although, as yet, there is insufficient data on email response rates.
The Final Word: Walk the Talk
Printers and mailers can make a strong case for traditional direct mail as part of a marketing campaign, but only if they walk the talk. A printer who relies solely on email to stay in touch with customers and prospects or, worse yet, uses no form of outreach at all, has a serious credibility problem.
This is what it takes to conduct a traditional direct mail marketing campaign:
• Get a mail list. Include your Top 100 customers, the prospects for whom you issued a quote for significant work, and all the businesses within a 10-15 mile radius of your printing company that you think you should be doing business with you or who buy a significant amount of the type of printing you do best.
• Design a mail piece. Postcards are a good choice, so is a monthly newsletter. Subscribe to a newsletter service such as Printips and you’ll have content to use for the newsletter, a postcard, and email.
• Write up a work order. Viewed in the context of walking the talk, your direct mail piece is as important as any work you are being paid to produce. Get it on the production schedule and complete it on time.
• Partner with a lettershop or mail at the single-piece first class postage rate. If you don’t have the skills and equipment to do the mailing yourself, find a lettershop you can subcontract to. If there are no convenient lettershops, mail at the single-piece first class postage rate. Walking the talk is more important than saving money on postage.
Keep it up. Don’t stop. Augment traditional direct mail with email if you like, but don’t ever stop using direct mail. Your shop’s future depends on it!
Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printingresources.com. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.