Print and Mail are Alive and Well

It is about time that 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 up, from 10 major metropolitan areas. The results, published as the DM News/Pitney Bowes survey, showed these findings:

Nearly 94% of consumers reported taking action on promotional offers 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% 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 U.S.

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%).

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 and 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, 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 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 such as adding demographic information 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.


Direct mail vs. 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. 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.

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. More than 20% of business emails were undelivered. Traditional mail list providers will guarantee a deliverability rate of 88% or higher.

So, next time someone tells you that direct mail is dead or dying, tell them that it is actually alive and well.


Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California and a contributing columnist for Quick Printing.