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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2 Responses to “Direct Mail Part I: The Big Benefits of Traditional Direct Mail Marketing”

  1. Linda Pophal says:

    Cost is certainly one of the biggest concerns related to using traditional direct mail. You have the costs of list rental, printing and mailing, which can be significant. With email marketing you *may* still have list rental (and renting email lists is definitely “clunkier” than traditional direct mail), but you don’t have printing/postage costs. Still, given the very low open rate for online vs. traditional, those costs may not be a really valid consideration *if* you’re accurately targeting a specific market segment with a message designed to address their needs/interests. IMO traditional direct mail, despite the costs, often makes sense.

  2. Hello,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this particular blog post because I, too, have been contemplating whether marketing departments and company’s would gain an advantage by strategically sending advertisement, etc. via US Postal Service rather than email. From a personal standpoint, I flip through my emails so quickly I couldn’t even tell you who my most recent messages are from. I receive so many for extra coupons, ongoing/future sales, and more that I couldn’t possibly go through and read them all. I think your three major points met in this blog post were very relatable. I know several thousand people recieve the same emails I do from Bath and Body Works daily; therefore, I know it is no where near as personable as it should be. BUT, when I receive something by mail, it is typically addressed to me and is more personalized. As you stated this simple action makes me feel like someone put in the extra time and effort to make me feel as if they were thinking specifically of me. The trust factor is another major point that tends to have individuals concerned. We have been raised in a technology world where we are suppose to be suspicious of emails from senders we do not know personally. (For safety and security purposes). I know you briefly mentioned the cost-effectiveness within your discussion; however, I may have more in depth questions for you. What do you think may be a marketing company/departments biggest concern by using USPS instead of email? Do you think it would break the bank? How do you think this would affect the consumer side of things?

    I look for ward to hearing from you!


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