Wisdom Wednesdays: Direct Mail: “I’m not Dead Yet!”

by Jon Nelson

“The death of direct mail is the most exaggerated story in marketing,” writes Thorin McGee in “Editor’s Notes: The Money’s in the Mail,” from Target Marketing magazine.  This piece is a commentary on Target Marketing’s research into “The Top 50 Mailers of 2012.”

“Even today when most orders come through the Web, direct mail is a huge piece of many direct marketing programs, where it continues to prove its worth,” McGee writes.  “The proof part is important.  When you look at the Top 50 Mailers, these are not marketers to dismiss as dinosaurs.  They’re some of the most sophisticated and successful companies in direct marketing.  They know how to test and track results—they still use direct mail because it’s profitable and efficient for them.”

Nelson-Jon-webIndeed, when spreading the word about your organization and getting people to take action, the potential of direct mail should not be ignored.  Taking action, by the way, is key.  Whether you’re sending out a letter, postcard, email or tweet, make it clear that recipients should do something – send money, mark their calendars or call their senators.

Yes, it costs something to produce and send direct mail, but sometimes you can’t afford not to use this tool … if it’s what works for your organization and your constituents.

This isn’t imploring you to go out and spend tens of thousands on a new direct mail campaign right now.  Instead, try doing a bit of relatively cheap research, and see how it turns out.  This summer I printed 400 full-color postcards for well under $100, and after postage it was just a couple hundred total.

“I’m certainly not saying everyone needs to send mail,” McGee states, “—because the idea that every marketer needs to use any particular push marketing channel is ridiculous; respect your own data—but direct mail is certainly weathering this whole ‘digital shift’ pretty well.”

The way that many organizations are seeing the marketing results they are is that they aren’t just doing one thing or another.  They’re combining various channels in order to reach out to people not just multiple times, but in multiple ways

That’s why at ALDE we still do a physical, mailed registration book for the International Educational Conference, in addition to all the email and social media messages.  (By the way, you’ll be getting yours in the next month, so keep your eyes open!)  It’s also why we still do an Annual Fund appeal by mail, and send gift thank-yous by mail, as well.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, try a few different options, and if you’re only doing one thing, try mixing up your strategy to include various means of contact.  Quantity doesn’t do so much if it’s all the same.

Thanks to Denny Meyer, President of Meyer Partners, for sharing the “Editor’s Notes: The Money’s in the Mail” article with us.

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communication Services with ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.


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