Why direct mail is still a power for good

Royal Mail’s price increase announcement at the end of March brought the media spotlight back on the mailing industry. Yet while most of the focus has been on the increase in costs for first and second-class stamps, which have risen by 30% and 39% respectively, there has been less talk on the effect on business mail. Without looking into the facts, it would be easy for businesses to panic and move away from direct mail to other forms of marketing – but doing so would only serve to neglect what remains a crucial and effective way of reaching customers.

Royal Mail figures show that in 2011, 21.9 million people in the UK directly responded to a mail piece received in their letterbox, with 8.3 million of that number keeping the mail in their possession to peruse again. That’s the reach of an incredibly powerful medium – and the responses make for great reading too, with 7.3 million going to a store or picking up an item in person and 6.2 million heading to online shopping as a result of direct mail.

With marketers looking at every possibility to reduce costs and meet tight budgets in a time of austerity, some may look at direct mail to take the fall. A return on investment of £14 for every £1 spent (DMIS Response Rates survey) shows that it’s still very much relevant in the armoury of any marketing team. That is reflected further as it was one of the few methods of business communication to actually see a growth in marketing budgets in the last year, according to the IPA Bellwether report.

The comparison with other forms of marketing is brought up regularly, with those who have a vested interest such as social media marketers eager to proclaim that traditional forms of marketing are in decline. Such claims are very much wide of the mark. Putting all eggs in a single basket has rarely been best practice, and that remains as relevant today as it always has.

The key is to combine these different methods of marketing and use them to their strengths – and direct mail certainly possesses some distinct advantages compared to those other methods. It’s tangible – where tweets and emails become drowned out by others soon after their arrival, and radio and television advertisements pass by in fleeting moments, direct mail is there to hold, to pass on, to view again in future. It can be personalised in a way that no other forms of marketing can, ensuring that for any marketer who knows their audience, it’s the perfect way to make a connection with the customer and build links that will last.

So for those proclaiming the decline of direct mail, the message is clear – such reports have been an exaggeration, and it is here to stay, as flexible, relevant and beneficial today as it has always been.

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