Small Business Marketing: Is Direct Mail Still Relevant?

by Emily Retherford

2 min read

With so many lean, fast, and cheap marketing methods emerging online, direct mail marketing might seem like a relic from a bygone era. Sending marketing materials by snail mail may not offer all the bells and whistles of social media campaigns, it might be just what you need to reach your customer base, depending on the type of business you run. Before ditching direct mail altogether, take some time to weigh whether printing and mailing flyers, postcards, brochures, and catalogs would work for your target market, even in the digital age.

Pro: Less Competition

The demise of direct mail, in a way, increases its effectiveness for businesses that still use it. Consider how 10 to 20 years ago, mailboxes were inundated with direct mail pieces, as the majority of advertising had yet to find its way online. Back then, it was easy for a postcard or flyer to get lost in the stack, particularly if a competitor happened to mail out a shinier, more eye-catching piece on the same day. As more companies ditch direct mail for email, those that stay the course compete with fewer items for customers’ eyes. Not to mention, the price of direct mail, in the wake of declining demand, has dropped considerably in many cities.

Pro: Geographic Targeting

While e-marketing platforms offer a host of targeting criteria, such as age range, gender, and level of education, one thing they cannot provide is geographic targeting by neighbourhood or subdivision. Certain businesses can benefit from going after particular houses on certain streets. For example, the audience for a lawn care company’s social media ad might feature 40% who live in neighbourhood associations or condominiums that provide lawn care to residents. But if the business targets specific streets and neighbourhoods using direct mail, it can ensure that a very high percentage of recipients are potential customers.

Con: Less Captive Audience

Going to the mailbox is no longer a big deal, unless you’re expecting a package. With the majority of important personal and business communications having moved online, people don’t get excited about what’s in the mail anymore. For the most part, it’s just bills and what people refer to as “junk.” While high-quality, professional direct mail pieces shouldn’t be characterized as junk, they often get filed away in the wastebasket alongside the endless stack of 30-cent-off coupons and phony sweepstakes winner notifications that people find stacked in their mailboxes.

Con: Slower Results Tracking

Tracking the results of online marketing is simple and fast. Many platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, show you in real time how many people engage with your ads in various ways. This makes it easier to build client relationships faster, as you can adjust your campaign on the fly based on what is working and what isn’t. Tracking the results of direct mail is slower and more difficult. Either you have to set up a separate phone number for your direct mail ads and measure how many calls come in, or you have to ask each new customer how he or she heard about you and manually check off the ones who called from the direct mail ad.Newer marketing methods may be all the rage, but don’t discount direct mail entirely. Depending on your business, direct mail might be the best fit for expanding your customer base.

References & Resources

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