Is Paper Direct Mail Dead?

January 18th, 2005 by Bob Bly

The answer is a resounding ?no,? according to Target Marketing columnist Denny Hatch, who writes: ?With the Can Spam Act and do-not-call laws, snail mail is once again the workhorse of direct marketing. And all direct marketers better learn how to write it, design it, and find precisely the right people to send it to, or they will wind up in the same career ash heap as the smarty-pants, dot-com wizards of the late 1990s.?

Is Denny right? Is direct mail ?hot? again? Does it work and make money? Or does it cause needless tree deaths, as people throw it away without a second glance?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2005 at 7:04 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

25 responses about “Is Paper Direct Mail Dead?”

  1. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    I know direct mail works. But is it once again “the workhorse” of DM? I can only speak from my recent experience. I have written more direct mail packages for clients in the past five months than I normally do in a year. My email and web copywriting, by contrast, is way down.

  2. Jim Logan said:

    I believe paper direct mail is highly relevant and should be part of all field marketing initiatives. We have successfully used paper direct mail in conjunction with web presence, through use of landing pages, which have resulted in a significant increase in lead generation and sales. In this case, direct mail is used to draw prospective customers to your web presence where they can be sold in a dynamic environment.

    With the amount of frustration and pure anger SPAM has bread in the use of email marketing, combined with the difficulties of search engine placement, paper direct mail is a fantastic way to reach targeted prospective customers for any web presence. In my opinion, paper direct mail is alive and kicking!

  3. Anonymous said:

    In my own opinion, being a consumer? Consider it a potential lynching hazard.

    It’s something to sort my legitimate mail out of and discard. The same can be said for e-mail. Far as I can tell from experience, if it requires direct marketing the odds are I don’t want it anyway. No amount of marketing will turn laughable products into hot commodities; nor will it remove the consumer alienation caused by people trying to use quantity over quality for a fast buck.

    That said, I’m pretty amused by the overwhelming impression that those who write, design and send all of it do one of two things:

    1. Throw it out themselves

    2. Fail to connect with the customer by actually looking at their content from the perspective of BEING one.

  4. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Anonymous says that “No amount of marketing will turn laughable products into hot commodities; nor will it remove the consumer alienation caused by people trying to use quantity over quality for a fast buck.” My friend, that is EXACTLY what successful direct marketers believe in.

  5. Mark Nenadic said:

    This is taken from a comment I posted on my Blog. I think its appropriate for this post :)

    My missus has a girlfriend who delights in binning each and every piece of direct mail sent to her! She deletes every email if its not in her personal address book too. She knows I am an internet marketer (and web designer) and we chat about marketing often because she hates marketing.

    The other day she went riding with my missus sporting some very nice mountain rider boots. Oh where did you get those Netty says? Oh I got them from a catelogue I was sent she said. How I laughed!

    Everyone hates marketing until something they are interested in catches their eye!

    Mark..

  6. Jim Logan said:

    After reading comments about direct marketing here and in articles on other sites, I feel compelled to offer an example of the positive results of paper direct marketing. Paper direct marketing is relevant and works.

    First, I’d like to offer that I believe a determining success criterion is the most important thing to determine in any direct mail campaign. Before you write and re-write your material you should determine what constitutes success for a particular campaign. Every customer campaign should have a defined purpose.

    Within the past year we have successfully used paper direct marketing to position and sell a web-based service from a customer of ours to local governments. Using a one page letter with compelling content and overt calls to action to meet face-to-face, we have successfully met with 30 county Supervisors or Executives in the state of California.

    As background, there are 52 counties in California and in the campaign I’m citing we only targeted the 40 largest. Our paper direct marketing campaign was designed to generate face-to-face meetings. The results of this campaign were meetings with 30 County Supervisors or executives (Chief Administrative Officer or County Counsel – the most senior non-elected officials in county government). From letter to meeting was one phone call. Our campaign had a success rate of 75%! Paper direct marketing works.

    The average annual value of each customer we targeted in this campaign was $200K. Our cost of the paper direct marketing campaign was a one page letter, envelope, and $.37 stamp sent to approximately 350 people. We printed the letters and envelopes in our office and had two people assigned to follow-up. The first customer we earned from this campaign paid for this effort many times over.

    We have a similar campaign underway at this time targeting the 100 largest school districts in the US. We expect similar results.

    We used techniques Bob Bly extols. This comment is in no way a shameless “plug” for Bob; it’s just a fact and offered to refute those that think paper direct mail is dead.

    In this emerging era of Internet use, paper direct mail remains relevant and happily coexists with blogs – neither is an either or decision. Blogs have an important use in sales and marketing, and paper direct marketing remains relevant…and it works.

  7. Peter Stone said:

    “With the Can Spam Act and do-not-call laws…”

    I write sales copy and this is no more than my opinion.

    No, paper and ink sales letters are not dead. Volume diminished, temporarily while some individuals experimented with what appeared to be a cheap advertising medium.

    Generally speaking, ad agencies haven’t figured out how to sell on the Web, or through email. Few have. The emphasis on tracking and counting, makes this obvious to clients. That’s what the retreat is about.

    The medium is not deficient, because of the realities of doing business.

    Email filters and the Can Spam Act aren’t sending anyone, who is making money, packing. Snarling Doberman Pinchers couldn’t send anyone who is making money into retreat any more than postal regs are.

    I would be interested to see how the ROI of Agora’s email program, stacks up against their mail only promotions. They seem to have found a sales by email model that works.

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  24. ProCopywritingTactics said:

    Direct mail has the potential to stand out from the crowd, whereas email sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

    I think both online and direct mail have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s often a good idea to have a mufti-faceted marketing campaign to encourage maximum ROI.

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