Direct Mail Part I: The Big Benefits of Traditional Direct Mail Marketing

In the age of social media, search engine optimization and email, it might sound crazy to suggest anyone think of including direct mail in their marketing strategy, but that’s just what we’re about to suggest. And, yes, by mail we mean paper mail delivered by a United States postal worker.

Craig Simpson, a direct mail marketing professional, defends this form of marketing — and his livelihood — in an article for Simpson gives several reasons to consider direct mail over email:

People Check Physical Mail More Frequently than Email

We are constantly being flooded with emails. It’s not at all uncommon for business professionals to have hundreds, or even thousands, of unread emails in their inboxes. There’s just too much clutter, from personal emails, to junk mail, to all those emails you get needlessly CC’ed on every day. At the same time, Simpson references a study by Epsilon that shows that 77 percent of consumers sort through their physical mail every day, and data from the USPS shows that 98 percent of people check their physical mail every day.

Physical Mail has a More Personal Feeling

When someone sends you a holiday card or a wedding invitation, do you typically receive it via email or physical mail? Chances are, you receive these through good-old-fashioned email. Why? It has a personal touch. It makes it seem like someone put some extra effort into what they sent as opposed to just quickly shooting off another email. Additionally, you can spruce up physical mail in ways that you just can’t achieve with email. Again, think wedding invitations with all their finery.

The Trust Factor

Simply put, it’s hard to get through to potential customers via email. Even if you make it through someone’s spam and junk mail filters, we’ve been trained to be suspicious of any unsolicited mail from strangers. A perfectly legitimate sales pitch can have the whiff of a down-on-his-luck Nigerian prince to wary email users. Physical mail doesn’t have this same stigma. You can’t get a computer virus from opening a piece of physical mail.

In Simpson’s arguments, he points to an article in by Minda Zetlin which notes that direct mail is a powerful tool for precise audience targeting. Zetlin quotes Mark Satterfield, author of The One Week Marketing Plan, as saying, “If you want to target people by zip code or profession or which associations they belong to, you can buy all those lists.” Zetlin notes that this precise targeting can make direct mail marketing much more cost-effective than one might initially think. You don’t need to spam millions of email accounts or send out millions of physical mailings. You can narrowly target a couple of hundred key individuals.


While your initial instinct might tell you that this form of marketing is a couple of decades outdated, traditional direct mail remains a very viable form of communication for marketers in a wide range of industries. Alone, or in combination with other communication activities, traditional direct mail can be used to very specifically target an audience and, if the direct mail piece is compelling and stands out from other offers, marketers can generate results very cost effectively. Hopefully we’ve sufficiently piqued your interest in direct marketing.


Next week, we’ll go over some specific strategies to help fine-tune your campaign.


Recommended Reading: 

Direct Mail in the Digital Age

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