Posted on 13th November 2017

Is DM Dead?

Direct Mail (DM) can be quite a divisive topic. The rise of digital media and email marketing, coupled with Royal Mail rate increases, gives the perception that Direct Mail is no longer a viable option in the marketing mix. But many of us still regularly receive marketing materials through the post or at our place of work, which must account for something. So just how successful is DM compared with online channels? Let’s investigate…

The Case for Direct Mail Marketing

1. Your physical mailbox is less packed than your digital mailbox

Many people query the effectiveness of DM compared to digital marketing, but seasoned web users tend to subconsciously tune out online banner adverts, PPC search results, and bulk email. Capturing customer attention is now harder than ever, with audiences now tired of seeing endless promises and offers in their overflowing inboxes.

While some may argue that DM requires a conscious effort from every recipient to either throw the piece away or to keep it, impacting on its open rate and overall effectiveness:

A recent Royal Mail survey found that 72% of all people open their post

[Source: Royal Mail]

In comparison, MailChimp suggested average open rates of less than 20%, indicating a postal campaign with a creative fold out or piece of curious copy can encourage more opens than you might think. Furthermore, given the current noisy online landscape, DM response rates are at their highest point (2016) in over a decade at 5.3%, compared to a 0.6% response rate for Email marketing during the same year.

2. Consumers trust ‘real’ mail

In an online world, trust is hard to formulate. For some businesses this is achievable, but naturally consumers are more dubious about claims made by email. In comparison, print marketing expresses credibility, demonstrating to your recipients that you’ve spent time and effort on producing something which generates respect. Research from the Direct Marketing Association supports this, finding that while 56% of people regarded print mail as trustworthy, only 28% of respondents said the same about email.

3. DM is easier to process

Multiple studies demonstrate clear evidence that DM requires less cognitive effort than Email, being easier to understand and more memorable impacting positively on brand recall at a rate of 70%. Furthermore, 70% of respondents state they feel they ‘receive too many emails’ – consistent with the overwhelming sense of overload that digital information bombards consumers with daily. In effect, this makes sense. When prospects read Email they are usually multi-tasking – this could be commuting to work, or on a coffee break in the middle of the day. When it comes to DM, recipients are far more likely to be paying attention as DM requires touch and focus, reminding them to take action with every glance.

4. DM can support other marketing channels

The attractiveness of DM is that it can be used in combination with digital channels. Given the increased wariness of consumers today, the evidence indicates that audiences need around 5 touches from a brand before they have decided you are credible. Research further found that campaigns that included mail were 40% more likely to deliver top-ranking acquisition levels than campaigns without mail. In other words, when mail was included, ROI rose by 12%.

Part of good marketing is to match the message and method to the target audience. Digital marketing may be the hot topic right now, but if your focus audience is older or generally not familiar with tech; then postal campaigns may be a far better bet. Remember that only 38.7% of over 75 year olds report using the Internet recently, so if you’re hoping to appeal to an older audience, they’ll most likely prefer to receive something in the post.

Surprisingly, DM is a viable avenue for young adults too. Among 18-24 year olds, a recent study showed 69% of respondents preferred print and paper communications to reading off a screen. In effect, the novelty of printed material gives it tactical power – with 59% of people visiting a company website after receiving mail – leading to increased visibility, a strengthened customer relationship and a perceived brand value proposition. In other words… sales!

5. DM is cost-effective to implement

The age-old argument goes that print campaigns are more expensive than digital. However, in truth this is not necessarily the case. Over the past 5 years, the cost of digitally printed mailings has fallen by 25%. As such, a well-planned campaign that reaches out to the right people with the right offer can deliver a great ROI. In addition, though email marketing may initially appear more efficient, email addresses can become defunct over time. Physical addresses are far less likely to change as frequently, so a lead could potentially stay on your books for longer on average.

A further practical advantage that DM has over digital is simply that there are no issues with compatibility, screen resolutions, or display setting. All print media will look exactly the same in everybody’s hands with nothing lost in digital translation.

6. DM is trackable too

People may cite online channels as being easily trackable, but DM can be far more trackable than you might think. You know exactly who a campaign has been sent to, how much you’ve spent, whether each recipient has responded and which contacts generated a sale. A/B testing is also a huge topic in online marketing circles, but similarly testing the effectiveness of two or more given headlines or design options is the bedrock of DM campaigns.

The Case Against Direct Mail Marketing

Though DM has plenty of benefits, there are some counterpoints.

  1. The pervasiveness of technology and its increasingly inexpensive nature means that digital marketing has a very low barrier to entry.
  2. If your business is small or new, online marketing is typically cheaper and can seem far more effortless than getting materials printed. Digital marketing therefore appears more accessible in terms of price and resources.
  3. Tracking direct marketing campaigns can be tricky, but not impossible; you could use a custom phone line or URL to track responses to a given campaign, but setting these up may add to DM’s already higher cost-per-send compared to online marketing opportunities.

Multi-channel – Is integrated the way forward?

The Direct Marketing Association reported that 79% of consumers act on Direct Mail immediately compared to 45% who act on a marketing email immediately.

[Source: DMA via The Drum]

Direct marketing is most definitely alive; the fact that businesses still use it is testament to that. However, we should never see DM and digital marketing as mutually exclusive. Mounting evidence suggests the best campaigns are those that span across multi-channels.

Customers spend 25% more when a business used a combination of direct marketing and email marketing.

[Source: Digital Doughnut]

As it’s established that you need to make numerous ‘touches’ to win a client, it makes sense to consider what works better when approaching people through a variety of channels. If you’ve only ever contacted people through a single given platform, switching up your marketing media can help spur new interest from older leads.

Running integrated campaigns across numerous platforms is called “multi-channel marketing” and can include any marketing method you care to mention, both digital and offline.

In support, 91% of marketers agree it’s important to do better integrated multi-channel marketing to reach key customers. Furthermore, 81% of adults want to choose how they receive their information, while 84% of adults do not like when companies take away their right to choose how they are communicated with, constructing a potential argument for the value of DM within integrated communications.

In Conclusion

In closing, DM is a great asset to all kinds of companies, especially when used in targeted, multi-channel campaigns that include both digital channels and print media. With tools such as QR codes and the ease of social media interaction, having your recipients cross the line between offline and online is easier than ever.

DM may be very much alive, but it needs to be carried out wisely and in conjunction with other efforts in order to be effective. Plum Ideas are experts in providing campaigns across multiple channels; including producing Direct Mail campaigns for the likes of NIVEA, Red Bull and Neopost.

Plum Ideas specialise in Branding, Digital Marketing and Direct Mail campaigns, and blend these three proficiencies to give your prospects the most comprehensive and professional image of your organisation.

If running a Direct Marketing or multi-channel campaign interests you, why not get in touch? Call our friendly team on 01384 697980 or drop us a line at