It’s a surprisingly common question I get – ‘is direct mail dead?’
And the short answer is no.
If it was, then the direct mail I write almost on a daily basis for clients simply wouldn’t get written, because my clients actually test this stuff and know what they’re doing, as, indeed, do I.
I suspect this rumour (to be kind to those who like to tell downright lies to further their aims), is down to ignorance, lack of ability, and, of course the Internet marketing ‘gurus’ who want to sell you the latest whizz-bang marketing shit.
It is true direct mail response rates have apparently fallen over the years as people become more attuned and wise to the techniques we use when writing them, which is why so many small business owners ask “is direct mail dead?”.
But that’s not to say there is no scope to send highly effective and profitable direct mail.
Is direct mail dead?
No, but you can kill it if you don’t follow the rules.
What’s more, there’s a lot we can do to increase our chances of getting a favourable result.
Here are a few tips to resurrect your direct mail:
- Write to the people who are most likely to respond. Best list you’ll ever have is your existing list of buyers, followed people who have had something free from you before in your lead-generation shenanigans (because you ARE doing lead-generation, aren’t you? Hmm?). Direct mail to these people can get responses hundreds of per-cent better than to a cold list. Is direct mail dead for your existing customers? Not a bit of it.
- Stick to a using a direct mail formula we know tends to work, like the AIDA model of marketing. You don’t get extra jelly-beans for being smart and trying to re-invent the wheel (to use an over-used cliche). The AIDA model of marketing works. We know it works. So use it, and wait until it’s made you some money before doing new and funky stuff to impress the chicks.
- Write more regularly. In a recent test a client sent the same direct mail letter to the same small list three or four times (excluding responders, of course) and each time got a 7% or 8% conversion rate with a ROI of several thousand percent each time. I think the last time he sent it he got only 1 response, but it’s worth waiting a few weeks and trying again, perhaps with a spring-cleaning theme (he’s in carpet cleaning). Ask him is direct mail dead? and he’ll just laugh at you.
- Test! Most people just send one thing and then base their conclusions about direct mail on the one result from one mailing. You then get surprises. I get them all the time. Don’t be afraid to send stuff that’s a bit ‘off the wall’. As long as you don’t sink your life savings into it, a poor response is no big deal, because you learn something from it. And remember the biggest sin you can commit is to be boring. Have fun. Spread your wings.
- Pay attention to detail. Remember the order things have to happen in to get your mail responded to: it has to be delivered, then opened, then read, then acted upon. So, create the whole package with all that in mind (for example, make it a ‘lumpy’ mailing, because your postman is less likely to dump it in a hedge if he thinks you’re expecting a gift or something, and it’s far more likely to get opened when it has been delivered).
None of this is rocket science and the biggest thing stopping people using direct mail is the irrational fear of failure.
If your direct mail is leaving you feeling a bit uncomfortable, then that’s a good sign, because it means you’re most likely doing something you not only haven’t done before, but something no one else you know has done, either.
So, to conclude…
Once and for all… is direct mail dead?
No. Fact is, direct mail still works. Any problems you have are problems with the implementation and execution, not the strategy.