Written by Steve Johns

Direct mail advertising has been a staple of marketers everywhere for many years. Since the advent of the Sears & Roebuck mail order catalog in the early 1900s, direct mail has evolved into an important part of the marketing equation. Even as email and on-line marketing was supposed to be the next big thing; direct mail has remained steady and even shown some growth over the past few years. There are several key reasons this form of advertising has proven so resilient for so long.

The first is that it is highly targetable. Unlike other advertising media that appeal to the masses, direct mail allows you to pinpoint a specific audience to receive your message. Using a variety of readily available data, it’s easy to zero in on exactly the type of person who is likely to buy from you, so you are only talking to your most likely prospects. Think of it as the “rifle shot” approach rather than the “shotgun” method.

Direct mail is also very flexible, giving you many creative options to get your message across. The amount of space you use and type of piece you send is limited only by your imagination, your budget, and what can be sent through the mail. Whether a one page letter, a brochure or postcard, product samples in tubes, or a complete catalog, direct mail is flexible enough to generate leads, make sales, or just build awareness.

With the flood of marketing messages bombarding consumers today, advertisers who can deliver information that is relevant to each individual recipient has a far better chance of standing out from the crowd. Using today’s digital printing technology, direct mail advertisers have the ability to personalize each individual piece of a mass mailing to speak specifically to each recipient based on what you know about that person. Think of the possibilities. A “special offer” can be tailored to individual buying habits, or you could market entirely different products to different people.

Another key advantage for direct mail success is the ability to track the results of each ad campaign. It could be as simple as collecting the coupons that are redeemed for a special offer, or something more complex. Response usually occurs quickly after a mailing, so with a carefully designed response mechanism, it is easy to know how good the results are.

By harnessing the trackability of direct mail, you can also easily test different concepts. Break your mailing list into statistically comparable segments, then send different offers, different designs, or different types of pieces to each segment. Or take the mailing you have been doing, make a few tweaks, and try it again. By carefully tracking the results of each variation, you can easily determine the most effective package that creates the highest ROI.

Perhaps the biggest reason that direct mail remains so viable is that it has consistently been proven to get positive results. All types of companies have found that it is a cost-effective way to generate business, which is the main reason that direct mail is one of the few forms of advertising that has grown in usage over the last few years. Is it part of your marketing mix?

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