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Direct mail was once one of few marketing tactics that could place your message directly into the hands of your audience. Now, we have websites, social media, texts, and email, which not only deliver content directly to our targets but also do so with an unmatched immediacy and instantly trackable results. Some think these tools have made direct mail obsolete, but they’ve actually had the opposite effect.

Think of it this way. How many emails, tweets, and posts do you receive in a single day? How much effort does it take to evaluate each one and decide to read it or delete it? Now, compare that number to the number of pieces of mail you receive in a day. There’s probably much less “noise” in your mailbox than in your inbox; therefore, there’s much less competition for your attention.

The recipient has a visual and tactile experience with your message, and every recipient gets the same message in the same package, so you have greater control of the experience.

But, you’re saying, it’s junk mail, and people throw away junk mail just like they delete email or scroll past posts. Yes, they do, but the digital experience of an email is different than the physical experience of direct mail. When you receive an email, you probably look at a subject line and whatever appears “above the fold” in the window of your email program. The visuals you receive depend entirely on your email service, the size of your computer or phone screen, and your instantaneous impression of whatever is visible. So, as the sender or marketer, you have little control of how your target is going to view your message. But that’s not the case with direct mail.

With direct mail, the recipient has a visual and tactile experience with your message, and every recipient gets the same message in the same package, so you have greater control of the experience. Also, the decision to keep or discard your message takes more effort. It’s pulled from a mailbox or stack of mail and it’s held in the hand, which engages more of the recipient’s senses and active attention, even if it’s on its way to the circular file. If the direct mail offer or service is of interest, the piece is kept for further action, whereas a comparable digital message may be buried in the inbox onslaught.

So, will direct mail work better than email or some other digital delivery? That depends on your audience. Knowing the needs and behaviors of your audience is key. Some audiences are more “plugged in” and digitally oriented. Others may be technophobes. Thinking about who your audience is and how they operate will help you decide, and sometimes the decision is counterintuitive. For instance, the “plugged in” audience may actually be more receptive to direct mail simply because it’s a break from their normal cycle of digital information intake.

The effectiveness of direct mail is really up to you. Your message, your design, your timing, your call to action—these and much more will determine how well your direct mail meets key performance indicators. It will also determine the cost of those results. As part of our reporting, we often calculate a cost per lead, and we’ve had highly successful direct mail campaigns with extremely cost-effective results. New mailing options from the US Postal Service such as EDDM are part of what help make direct mail an affordable marketing tactic. In addition to a geographic location, EDDM allows marketers to choose mailing addresses by age, income, and household size, which is much more targeted than the zip code blanketing of the past.

If you’d like to learn more about direct mail or other marketing tactics and strategies, contact Gary at or 717-823-6939.

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