Without a Strategy, Direct Mail Goes Directly In The Trash

You know by now that I’m a big fan of direct mail. But I’m the first to admit that it’s not an automatic “home run.”  There are plenty of direct mail success stories. But there are perhaps even more cases in which companies feel they got almost nothing out of it. My take? In most of the latter cases, those companies simply didn’t use print management to do it correctly.

You learn a few things if you work with businesses long enough (and we certainly have—nearly 100 years’ worth). Too many owners, managers, and even marketing firms make the mistake of thinking that direct mail simply consists of locating some prospects and sending them an ad. Well, before you take it to the post office….

Take It from the Post Office

I came across a case study recently from the U.S. Post Office that I found fascinating. It’s a lengthy report on research conducted in 2017. It includes intriguing findings that show differences in how people react to mail based on demographics and other variables.

On the surface, the results seem to be a blend of news, with some good and plenty of bad. But when I look at it, I think it fits my theory perfectly. Look closely enough, and you might find some insights why many direct mail efforts fall short.

Sent Without Thought, Received Without Interest

There is certainly good news and plenty of opportunity in the results, and we’ll touch on that in my next post. But today, let’s focus on a couple of survey findings, both positive and negative, that should grab your attention.

  1. Fifty-three percent of households read “advertising mail” and an additional twenty-one percent at least ‘scan’ it. So on the bright side, nearly three-quarters of people who receive a direct mail piece won’t toss it in the trash without looking at it.

The downside: Twenty-four percent of households do not usually read it—and that’s nearly triple the percentage who felt that way a few decades ago.

The lesson: People can still be reached through direct mail, but their tolerance is shrinking. You’d better think it through and make sure your mailing is timely and relevant. If not, you’re testing their patience and wasting your money. Look for more on this in Thursday’s post.

  1. Household behavior toward advertising mail is dependent on age, and how much advertising mail the household receives. The older the head-of-household is, and the less advertising mail a household receives, the more likely they are to read it. 

The downside: Lower-income households tend to receive fewer pieces of advertising mail so they have higher read rate.

The lesson: A bit hidden within these findings is the fact that households with an Internet connection read more advertising mail that those without one. Internet households tend to be better educated, a trait associated with higher read rates. We will look at what kind of opportunity this presents in Thursday’s post.

Simplest Way to Waste the Direct Mail Opportunity? Don’t Call

“Seat of the pants” is no way to approach direct mail planning. Chances are, you’ll wind up sitting on a lot of expenses you can’t justify, and large quantities of direct mail pieces you won’t be able to use. To maximize every direct mail opportunity, work with an experienced partner that is skilled and knowledgeable about how direct mail really works.

Stop back Thursday, and I’ll provide an example or two of what I mean by strategic planning for direct mail success. I’ll also explain why print management is such a big key to achieving two major goals. It helps make your direct mail program financially successful. And it helps turn a higher percentage of direct mail recipients into direct mail readers. We’ve got the tools to do it, and I’ll tell you about them.

Don’t miss next week’s posts either. I’ll be telling you about the biggest opportunity in direct mail, and how you can stop missing out on the great results it delivers.

At Superior, we know this territory very well. Our ISO certification was achieved through systems and practices designed to propel our customers forward. Our two consecutive Best of Print and Digital awards are the result of positive reviews from those customers who appreciated the results we helped bring them.

Can’t wait till Thursday? Just contact us and we will start making your direct mail and all your printed materials do a better job for your business.

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