‘Old-school’ direct mail can still be effective

Have you checked your email inbox lately?It’s hardly headline news that for more than a decade more businesses than ever are adapting email marketing, because it’s cheap, interactive and fast. This is why our email boxes fill up daily with more than 100 messages a day and those numbers are expected to only grow as search engine optimization methods become more refined and efficient.The problem in this era of unprecedented mass marketing is that hitting the delete key before opening most, if not a majority, of messages has become a default practice. I do it, and the reason is simple. According to one 2011 report by Pingdom, more than 89 percent of all emails are spam.One of the unexpected developments over the past few years is a combination of old-school mail and new-school digital marketing. It’s clear that more businesses are reassessing their practices. They are using tried-and-true direct mail platforms to drive traffic to and enhance the effectiveness of their online presence and potential sales.We know that a comprehensive marketing plan will include conventional marketing, radio, television, print as well as online methods to our computers, tablets and our smartphones. When I talk to customers, it surprises them when I cite Amazon and Dell as good examples of online companies that have utilized successful direct mail campaigns. Their ability to drive traffic to their websites through the old-school platform of direct mail is fast becoming a smart way of breaking through the marketing clutter for businesses of all sizes.Why? We are seeing an inverse law of marketing physics — as our email boxes fill up, our regular mailboxes are becoming less crowded.Brand awarenessMuch has been written recently about the demise of the U. S. Postal Service, as more and more businesses are turning to electronic billing and consumers are paying bills online. We know big changes are coming to the USPS, due to economic and political realities, with offices closing and fewer delivery days in the offing.While the USPS has financial struggles, its service remains popular and cost-effective. According to a recent USPS customer survey, people enjoy getting and sorting through their mail daily, with 77 percent of those customers looking at their mail immediately.Direct mail is still a cost-effective way to reach potential clients and merging it with your digital platforms can reap significant rewards. There is a unique opportunity for direct-mail users because there is less mail in our mailboxes. They can reach more people and target them effectively because they are standing out more.The USPS has implemented a program called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), making it easy for small businesses to market locally. With EDDM, you do not need a mailing list or mailing software. Your local post office will give you the mail counts and you bring the mail back to that post office to be delivered to every household on their routes.The reality is that you can get a marketing flyer into someone’s hand at their home for 26 cents or less (standard presort rate) plus the cost of printing. Direct-mail users get heightened brand awareness each time a client or potential customer handles the mailer, reads it and sees the company logo.On the other hand, when a client deletes your email without ever opening it, brand awareness suffers. As a business, which option would you prefer?Kevin Boyarsky, president and owner of NH Print and Mail Services in Concord (printingnh.com), is a member of the New Hampshire Postal Customer Council.