In the era of instantaneous, nearly-free electronic messages, why would anyone still use direct mail to communicate with their customers and prospects?

Direct mail may be more expensive and more time consuming than e-mail and social media, but it also provides a much higher return on investment, and there are many good reasons why. 

Higher Purchase Rates

Global interactive marketing company ExactTarget recently reported a survey that showed 65% of respondents had purchased a product or service thanks to direct mail.  That’s nearly three times the percentage who purchased after receiving marketing messages delivered by social media or mobile messaging. 

Higher Message Acceptance

That same survey showed that Direct Mail is the preferred message type (beating email, telephone, text messaging and social media) for promotional messages.  This includes promotional messages from companies they already do business with and companies they have never purchased from.  If direct mail is your customer’s preferred method of communication, shouldn’t you be using it?

Lower Message Avoidance

It’s estimated that there are over 183 billion spam messages sent every day.  According to the Message Anti-Abuse Working Group, the amount of spam email is between 88–92% of all email messages sent.  Your email marketing is competing with this daily and likely going unread the majority of the time.  Using direct mail ensures a much higher likelihood of being noticed by recipients.

Physical vs. Virtual

UK Company Milward Brown was recently hired by the Royal Mail to investigate how the brain processes physical marketing materials, such as direct mail, compared to virtual materials presented on a screen.  They used functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery to understand how the brain reacts to the same images provided digitally and physically.  The same material was shown to subjects on screen and on printed cards and their brain was scanned during the interaction to assess how the processing of marketing messages was affected by the medium of presentation. 

The findings were significant.  “Tangible materials left a deeper footprint in the brain.  This suggests that physical material is more “real” to the brain.  Physical material involved more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.  Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater ‘internalization’ of the ads.”

The findings definitely support the idea that relying on virtual or digital marketing alone may be a mistake, despite the fanatical focus on it right now by marketers and trend advisors.  Having a social media strategy is important.  But incorporating tangible, physical marketing materials into your media mix will insure a deeper, more emotional, more memorable impact on your prospects.