16 Reasons Why Direct Mail Is Still an Effective Marketing Strategy

The cost for online advertising has risen over the past few years, as more marketers spend most of their marketing budget online, neglecting traditional marketing methods like direct mail.

A report by USPS showed that between 2006 and 2017, total mail volume declined by 29.85%.

But does this mean that incorporating traditional marketing methods like direct mail into your marketing strategy is no longer effective?

More recent evidence suggests that this is far from the truth.

Direct mail marketing is still a marketing tactic smart marketers should consider in their marketing strategy.

 Examples of direct mail include brochures, newsletters, sales letters, marketing materials, postcards, catalogues, etc., which can be created in a way to connect with your customers or leads on a personal level.

If you’re not sure about incorporating direct mail to your marketing strategy, then the points below will help you decide. 

Direct mail grabs attention

When you see an online advert and you don’t click immediately, chances are that you won’t see it again or even if you do are likely to forget seeing the advert a few seconds later. This is because you’re focused on other things which eat up your attention.

Direct mail is different. Your potential clients or customers can see the mail physically every day until they actively dispose of it.  If they do not have the time to read your mail at that moment, they can always return to it later.

Direct mail is less annoying

With everyone jumping on the bandwagon of digital marketing, it is not strange to see the social media timeline of an individual flooded with adverts.  This can annoy users who prefer only to see updates from their social connections.

 Email too, is a common target for sales ‘spam’.  This could discourage anyone from regularly checking their emails.

Direct mail marketing is less annoying since the individual knows that he or she is going to the mailbox or door primarily to get out or look at mail.

Checking for mail can be a delight for most people and they engage in it regularly and with less distraction. People want to check the contents of the mail even if they end up disposing it.

Direct mail allows personalisation

When you use the right technology tools, you can get to know the buying habits of your customers and prospects, and thus design your marketing campaigns to meet their needs.

People are known to respond better to marketing strategies when they feel they are tailored to their individual needs.

Therefore, if you can use the right tools to find out your customers’ personal information or shopping habits, you can tailor your marketing strategy to suit each individual.  This is likely to be preferable to the customer and more fruitful for you, compared to bombarding them with random information they don’t find useful or relevant.

Direct mail has a higher possibility of conversion

A 2018 report by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate compared to email’s 0.12%.

 A significant portion of business marketing emails ends up in the ‘spam folder’ of prospective clients. The same thing happens with online ads, which some people scroll past without giving a second look.

Don’t get this wrong, digital marketing is still a major source of revenue growth for most businesses today. However, when combined with traditional marketing methods like direct mail, you can boost your conversions. For one, with direct mail, your mail won’t end up as spam (trash) until the recipient has read it and decided they are not interested. You can also easily condition your mail to drive the prospect to check out your website.

Direct mail can be used to achieve different goals

You can use direct mail to achieve different goals, in ways your digital campaigns may not. For example, a company might use direct mail to create an awareness of a new product, for coupon sales, birthday or holiday wishes, surveys, questionnaires, etc.

You can also use direct mail to get an update of the personal information of your existing customers such as phone numbers, email address, and so on.

Direct mail is measurable

You can keep track of the amount of mail you send to your prospects or customers and the responses these generate. This way, you’ll get to know if your campaign is giving you a return on investment or if you’re just shooting into blank spaces. You can also use coupons and other codes to measure the response rates.

With the information obtained from the direct mail campaign, you can decide whether to continue fuelling your marketing efforts or to try out other strategies.

Direct mail focuses on your target

Before sending out mail, you must have obtained the personal information of your prospects. What they do for a living, where they live, their age range, etc. This allows you to direct the mail to your targets. You even get to select the country, region or age group you want your campaign to reach. This makes your target more likely to respond to your offer, giving you more bang for your buck.

Direct mail helps other marketing strategies

The more strategies you utilise to generate sales leads, the better. When you add direct mail to the list of other marketing strategies, you create an effective and sustainable business-growth strategy.

You can employ direct mail as a tool to gather important information by using questionnaires. You can also use direct mail as a short- term promotional tool.

Direct mail is more trustworthy/preferred

The Cambridge analytical scandal in 2018 and the GDPR legislation show the atmosphere of mistrust surrounding digital marketing. A 2012 report by The Global Trust in Advertising Report from Nielsen revealed that 92% of young adult shoppers prefer and put more trust in printed materials over digital alternatives when they have a purchasing decision to make.

In 2013, an Adobe study questioned 3,004 consumers across the UK, France and Germany, as well as 752 marketers in the three countries, a third of whom were in the UK. It found that 39% of the UK participants preferred print magazines, 23% preferred TV ads and 12% preferred websites. Participants surveyed in France and Germany also had a strong preference for print media as compared to TV ads or website ads.

Direct mail is an effective tool for brand awareness

A 2015 Neuromarketing study by Canada Post showed that direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media and elicits a much higher brand recall. Post-exposure memory tests validated what the cognitive load test revealed about direct mail’s memory encoding capabilities. When participants were asked to cite the brand (company name) of an advertisement they had just seen, the recall rate was 70% higher if they were exposed to a direct mail piece (75%) compared to a digital ad (44%).

Another study conducted in 2015 at Temple University found that physical paper advertising activated the ventral striatum area of the brain more than digital media. A previous study of successful ad campaigns found that the ventral striatum was an indicator of desire and valuation.

Direct mail has a high ROI

A 2017 report by Marketing Charts showed that direct mail had a median Return On Investment (ROI) of 29%; behind email (124%) and social media (30%), but ahead of paid search (23%)

Direct mail is multi-sensory

Humans have 5 basic senses which are sight (vision), hearing (audition), taste (gustation), smell (olfaction) and touch (somatosensation). Digital campaigns mostly focus on sight and hearing. Direct marketing also presents an opportunity to appeal to someone’s sense of touch, smell and even taste which makes it multi-sensory.  Implementing a marketing strategy that integrates digital media and direct mail can hit all 5 primary senses and aid customer penetration or generation.

Direct mail is easy to target actual residents in a specific location

You may run a Facebook ad targeted at users in the UK but part of your ad viewers might be bots or people who are not be present in the UK. This is because of tools like VPNs that can make it easy to browse the internet with a foreign IP address, which makes it hard for Facebook to track one’s location. Direct mail eliminates this problem.

Direct mail penetrates age groups

Direct mail provides a great opportunity to target all age groups not easily accessible via digital channels like YouTube.

Direct mail can enable you to reach new audiences 

As of April 2019, a report by Statista showed approximately 4.4 billion people (58% of the global population) were active on the internet. This means around 42% of the world’s population are not connected to the internet. Direct mail marketing can be a great way to reach these individuals.

Direct mail can also be a great tool to reach individuals who may not be members of marketing-friendly digital channels like Facebook.

Direct mail is less saturated

The rise of digital internet marketing has prompted many advertisers to ignore traditional marketing methods like direct mail. This has resulted in a fall in the amount of direct mail being sent to customers. Therefore, direct mail can be a way to stand out from your competitors and gain the undivided attention of your target audience.

Direct mail can be cheaper than digital media

The saturation of online advertisers and the competition for ad spots has driven PPC costs up. Today, a click on an ad might cost about 3-10 times the price of sending direct mail to sales prospects.

To illustrate this point, choosing the UK as a target location, let’s look at the table below containing the average Google Search ads Pay Per Click costs for the keywords car insurance, insurance, lawyer, loans, mortgage, and tax over the last 12 months.

This table shows the Google Keyword Tool’s historical data for specific keywords from June 2018 to June 2019 (target location: United Kingdom).

Compare spending £8.29 per click for the keyword ‘car insurance’ to spending under £1 per mail to a prospective UK-based customer interested in car insurance.

Take another table with the same keywords but with the United States as the target location.

This table shows the Google Keyword Tool’s historical data for specific keywords from June 2018 to June 2019(target location United States).

Compare spending £80.81 per click to for the keyword ‘car insurance’ to spending under £7 per mail to a prospective USA-based customer interested in car insurance.

It’s worth reiterating that the 2017 study by Marketing Charts found direct mail to have a higher ROI than search ads. This shows direct mail marketing may not only be cheaper than Google search ads but convert more. 


Every form of marketing has its role to play in creating awareness about the products or services of a business and generating sales leads. Direct mail may be one of the more traditional forms of marketing but is still very much effective and thus should not be overlooked when making marketing plans.

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