Is Direct Marketing Dead? - DataGro.IO Consultancy
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Is Direct Marketing Dead?

Does Industry Really Think Direct Marketing Dead?


There is a general belief out there, in the marketing ether, that direct mail has been destroyed by the internet. But, is this true?

Certainly, marketing channels are more diverse now and it is difficult to deliver a singular voice to your customers.  Drawing together all the channels and making a consistent message is the new golden chalice of marketing.  However, direct marketing is still a strong force in the marketers’ toolkit and is more likely to result in a response from a new and existing customer.

Millennials love a letter

Let’s begin with the millennials.  There is a possibility that your least likely target demographic for direct marketing to the door would be the twenty-somethings.  Life is often alive with contradictions – and this group of people are not used to receiving mail – actual post directed to them.

People of older generations may have become cynical and fearful of mail – the dreaded brown envelope – but younger people have yet to get over the childhood excitement of feeling like a “grown-up” because there is a letter on the stand by the door, for them – not for their parents – for them!  This group of people actually choose to check their physical mailbox and they have a combined potential spending power of over £1 trillion, globally.

One of the great ways of taking advantage of this naïve love of paper in an envelope is to make sure that when you are dealing with address lists you know who the person is behind the name.  Matching the name to an accurate address is a must – but also considering the demographics of the people targeted for your campaign is always going to make it more successful.

Overwhelmed by online marketing messages

Yet, the truth is that any demographic – young, old, somewhere in denial in the middle – is overwhelmed by online marketing.  It has become an intrusion into the browsing experience and an intrusion into our mailboxes – to the point that new privacy laws across the EU have stifled most marketing email lists.

The emotional impact of receiving a banner message across your screen, or junk mail in your inbox, is resentment.  Contrast this with the sense of value and authority that comes from a physical product in your hands.  It is easy to ignore both online and direct marketing – but our attention span on the internet is less than 8 seconds – we work hard to ignore the clutter of images and text and to switch the sound off when an advert plays from some random browser tab.

A letter is a tactile relationship

There is a growing sense that people feel invisible to the companies they interact with.  The internet provides convenience – a quick click here or there – but there is nothing tangible about the relationship between company and individual.  People are starting to feel that they travel in an electronic bubble that may eventually discount any need to leave the house.

A letter is a tacit reminder of the physical presence of another human being.  33% of all your customers will find learning about a product from direct mail to be the most effective.  Stats suggest that 79% of consumers will act on direct mail – and 74% of people look forward to seeing what letters they have delivered that day.  Compare this to your click-through rates and conversions from emails and online marketing.

Credibility and retention

Here are two crucial factors for marketers, which are worth further exploration.  These factors are a reason why you should maintain your direct marketing address lists – mostly because credibility and retention lead to conversion.


Let’s start with credibility.  A printed document, on paper, sits in a special place in our psyche.  If it is written down with actual ink, then it is proper and real – especially if it is on quality paper and with a message directed personally to the individual addressed on the envelope. There is no risk in opening the letter – you are not suddenly going to let a virus loose on your computer… your personal details are not suddenly going to be trawled from your hard drive.  This is a quality piece of paper, designed well, paid for and delivered to your house where you can look at it when you like.  This is a real company – with a bricks and mortar shop you could choose to visit – and you don’t need to risk anything in the wild west of the internet.

Too dramatic? Contrast this with a potential reaction to junk mail in the inbox or a random banner popping up on the page.  It lasts a second – costs barely anything – but leads the audience to suspect it is from a kid in a bedroom using photoshop – or some random foreign spy operation!


Then there is retention.  Retention is a cornerstone of successful marketing.  This is not the lifelong customer loyalty – though this is also crucial – but the retention of information read in marketing messages.  Psychologists studying response to marketing point to the way direct mail is dealt with as a superior means of engraining the message in the memory of the consumer.

80% of people open all the mail.  Then, there is a large proportion who create a pile of mail that they then go through again later – on a Sunday morning maybe – where they decide what to keep and what to throw away. Your marketing message has gone through the memory of your consumer twice – once on receipt and once when they make a conscious decision about yes or no to it being relevant to their life.

In short – it’s more personal

It is easy to talk big concepts like single customer view, clickthrough rates, conversion rates… however, direct marketing is more personal.  With a well-managed address list, you have the name and address of your potential consumer.  You can easily tailor the message to the individual – just by using their name at the start.  You can send them a postcard with a deal code – based on their shopping experiences with your store – as if you know them.

And here is the final point.  It is not an either/ or situation.  You can use your direct mail to complement your online offering.  You can use all that wonderful Big Data digital profiling to know your people – then print them off a letter that responds to the image you have of them – and they will be excited – because someone took the time to get to know them.

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