Just a few years ago, common wisdom in marketing predicted that digital would snuff out direct mail, along with many other more traditional printed sales methods. Despite an obvious decline in direct mail’s popularity since the pre-internet days, for the large part that hasn’t happened though. In fact, direct mail may be a better option than ever before, thanks in part to exactly the way digital media has changed the advertising landscape.

Digital Advertising Going Stale

The world of spam has made advertising so saturated that it has led many of us to either distrust the messenger or overlook the message entirely. Young people especially are inundated by email, spam, and social media in a way that makes them highly responsive to direct mail, according to research cited by the U.S Small Business Administration. Banner ads, are now being seen by many marketing experts as a wasteful expenditure. For some perspective on how efficient web ads are, the integrated digital marketing experts at Smart Insights estimate that the average clickthrough rate for both standard and rich media web ads is 0.06 percent, meaning for every thousand people who look at the ad less than one will click. And then you have to consider data showing that ad blocking increased 41 percent in 2015 with no sign of slowing according to PageFair. That’s thousands more people who are blocking your pitch before you even get the chance to reach out to them.

Rebirth of Direct Mail

By comparison, the Direct Mail Association estimates the response rate on direct mail is between 2 and 6 percent depending on the physical attributes of your mailer (whether it’s full color, personalized, or optimized for example). Plus, the SBA notes, upwards of two-thirds of the population bought something via direct mail last year according to the Direct Mail Association. That’s a significant segment of the population that simply can’t be overlooked. When you factor in how direct mail and web advertising cost just about the same amount, you can quickly see why direct mail is worthy of consideration a second time by people looking to reach out to new customers.

Understanding why and how direct mail still works is easy when you think about how you go through your inbox in the morning. Whether you’re sitting down at your desk at work or standing in line at the cafe and flipping through twenty or thirty emails selling products, promoting a sale, or nonprofits looking for donations, chances are you aren’t fully engaged with any of them. According to a study from the Radicati Group, consumers received an average of 87 emails in their inbox daily. And many people don’t check their email daily, leading to what direct mail expert and CEO of Simpson Direct INC Craig Simpson describes as “email overload.”

Now, consider how you sort through your physical mail. Most people grab the stack of mail and bring it into their home to sort first, taking the time to pull important things like credit card offers from the mix. A study by Epsilon found that 77 percent of people surveyed sort through their mail immediately when they get it, limiting the amount of buildup to process at a given moment. Most everything that looks reputable and important gets opened and examined—if only to make sure it’s not important—offering the chance to connect with a reader and generate a lead.

Direct Mail Tips From Web Ads

Web ads show us a lot of ways on how to reinvigorate direct mail too. From design to copywriting and preparation, being well versed in web advertising is a great boon to making direct mail stand out for the reader. Here are a couple of tips and strategies derived from web advertising that can help you get the most out of direct mail:

  1. Apply effective web ad design tactics on print. Data procured by the digital space has given designers a lot of insight into what works and what does not. There’s a lot of interesting insights to be gleaned from the success of online journalism’s new media pieces.
  1. Know what type of mail compliments your service. Different products are best served by different types of mail. Some sales pitches are best outlined in a two-to-three page letter outlining the specific benefits of a service, whereas others thrive with the visual element of a postcard. A real estate listing likely connect with your potential client without an image, for example. If you are sending B2B direct mail, write a snappy pitch letter that clearly outlines the benefits of using your service above all others.
  1. Have a strong pitch . . . and know why it is your customers will want to buy. Of course this has always been the case—a bad pitch has always been a bad pitch—but in a world where advertising is everywhere, people are more discerning than ever. Don’t get spend all your time laser-focused on clever layout and snappy copy! Making sure your sales pitch touches on your client needs and clearly articulates the value of your product is key to landing a new customer.
  1. Use color smartly. Color is as important to direct mail as it is for the web. Color influences the way people unconsciously interact with advertising. You can also use familiar cues people have learned for sorting mail to your advantage For example: when the holiday season comes around, the color and shape of an envelope can signal “holiday card” to the recipient. If your pitch is visual, spending a little extra for a four color design or including a photo can make all the difference.
  1. Personalize your pitch. Make your pitch personal to your reader by putting their name on it. Know the desires and pain points of your customer intimately, and above all be sure to get the right mailing list. Mailing to a wide list that hasn’t been vetted properly means sending direct mail to people outside your target—or even people who are in jail or deceased. This is a huge waste of ad resources, not unlike sending pitch emails directly into someone’s spam folder.
  1. Testing, testing, testing. Direct mail isn’t something you can just set and forget. A criticism of direct mail versus web advertising is the lack of data generated during a campaign. Before you start your campaign, go through several tests to gauge the efficacy of your mailer. This will help ensure you’re on the right track before you start your direct mail run. Once you start a direct mail campaign, your ads are fixed and can’t be tweaked to suit customer needs or fix errors. Testing is important to ensure that your ad is effective before it’s put into print and into the mail!