Priority Mail: Direct Mail is Still a Viable Marketing Tool

Are you finding it hard to interest prospects in using direct mail for marketing? Have your direct mail customers been cutting back on their activities? Are you losing confidence in the future of direct mail as a marketing tool?

Don’t get trapped in this gloomy scenario! Direct mail marketing remains both viable and effective, despite what your prospects and customers may be telling you. A substantial body of evidence from unbiased third parties is surfacing, proving that direct mail still works. And the USPS is working hard to develop an entirely new audience for direct mail—businesses and organizations whose target audience is geographically concentrated.

Large National Companies Use Direct Mail

Ryder System, a Fortune 500 company, uses print-based communication to market its flagship division, Fleet Management Solutions. FMS provides leasing, rental, and programmed maintenance of trucks, tractors, and trailers to commercial customers. Sheryl Pattek, a marketing executive for Ryder FMS Marketing, uses “tried-and-true print communications along with the latest online marketing techniques for a truly multi-channel strategy that drives organic growth.”

Google also uses mail for promotion. In January 2010 it launched a promotion of Google Apps Premier Edition by mailing a paper-based Savings Calculator to CIOs. Then in March 2010 it mailed business owners a four-page overview of tips for using Google Adwords. Google periodically send sends businesses a discount card for Google Adwords.

Even Yahoo! uses direct mail. In August 2010, it used direct mail to tout the benefits of banner and display ads. If these large companies with sophisticated marketing strategies are using direct mail, shouldn’t your customers be, too?

Direct Mail is Still Relevant

Despite the popularity of social networking sites, research suggests that businesses and organizations should not drop direct mail as a marketing tool. For its 2012 Channel Preference Survey, ExactTarget, a global interactive marketing provider, surveyed 1,481 American online consumers about how they prefer to receive marketing messages.

ExactTarget asked how acceptable it is for companies to send unsolicited marketing messages through various channels (email, direct mail, text messaging delivered via Facebook). Direct mail was the only channel where an unsolicited message is not viewed as inappropriate. It also found that 65 percent purchased a product or service after receiving direct mail, while only 20 percent made a purchase after receiving a message delivered via Facebook, and only 16 percent made a purchase prompted by a mobile marketing message.

The Internet Advertising Bureau recently commissioned a study to examine how consumers interact with various marketing channels. The survey period was April 2012 and consisted of 1,851 respondents aged 18 and older. Results showed that 75 percent of consumers discover new products from off-line sources like word of mouth, direct mail, catalogs, and television. After the initial purchase, a slight margin of consumers preferred to be sent catalogs and direct mail as a way for companies to keep them informed.

Direct Mail is Changing

While direct mail as a concept remains an effective marketing tool, changes have come to the mail piece itself and its content. Using digital print technology, full color postcards can be printed and addressed simultaneously. Enhancements like QR codes and social media icons make once-static postcards interactive and provide an excellent method to introduce customers and prospects to places they can go to find more information.

Direct mail is also getting more personal. The Who’s Mailing What! Archive is the world’s largest library of direct mail information. Sponsored by the North American Publishing Company, the archive has been collecting information for 20 years in the form of 4,000 to 5,000 pieces of direct mail received monthly. Analyzed and stored as an online database, the archive is based on information from more than 240,000 direct mail packages.

An analysis of 40 months of data from the archive (January 2009 to October 2011) shows the growth of VDP for direct marketing pieces:

• In 2009, 28 percent of direct mail pieces were personalized

• In 2010, the number of personalized mail pieces increased to 34 percent (a 21 percent increase)

• In the first 10 months of 2011, the use of personalized mail pieces increased 21 percent over 2010, which is a 46 percent increase from 2009

The increased use of VDP for marketing is due to improving cost/benefit ratios (though a personalized direct mail piece costs more than a static piece, companies print only the number they need) and better response rates. MindFire, an industry supplier of personalized URLs (PURLs) and personal landing page technology, studied 1,856 cross-media marketing campaigns in 30 vertical industries. Results showed that in 2010 the response rate across all industries averaged 4.5 percent, compared to an average response rate from static direct mail of between 0.5 and two percent.


The USPS continues to pour resources into promoting the use of Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), its product for smaller local businesses whose target sales and service area is a neighborhood. After a less than enthusiastic reception from printers and mailers following the 2011 debut of EDDM, the USPS has added a focus on helping printers and mailers sell EDDM to their customers.

At the EDDM website (, printers, mailers, and marketing service providers can find information specifically tailored to their needs—four PDF documents (overview, retail fact sheet, BMEU fact sheet, and quick reference guide) written in easy to understand language and featuring examples of how to conform to postal regulations for EDDM. These documents can serve as the basis for training your customer service and sales staff as well as developing a sales promotion for attracting potential EDDM customers.

Other resources for printers on the site include:

• A brochure for printers explaining how EDDM can be used to attract new business

• EDDM User Guide with step-by-step instructions for preparing an EDDM mailing

• A schedule of Grow Your Business seminars presented by USPS personnel

• Sample Retail and BMEU facing slips

• Downloadable Retail indicia in a variety of formats

• Links to USPS forms to accompany prepared mail

• Link to Priority Mail Open and Distribute information

Finally, there is a USPS-produced video on EDDM available for viewing on YouTube: and three USPS television advertisements for EDDM viewable at There is also a free EDDM webinar on at

Direct mail remains a strong product offering for printers. Interestingly, EDDM provides an opportunity for printers with a limited knowledge of postal regulations and without mail list management software to add this specific type of direct mail marketing to their service offerings.

Nancy DeDiemar is a former chairman of NAQP and Printer of the Year. She is the co-publisher of Printips (, a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at