Guest Post by Jim Gilbert and some commentary by @yoavkaufman “Direct Mail’s Death Rumors are Greatly Exaggerated (but by whom?)”
I’ve been following Jim Gilbert of Gilbert Direct @gilbertdirect on Twitter for some time. His latest article caught my eye since it’s a question in the back of my mind and I think one that’s on many peoples radar.
The topic is direct mail and more specifically, the lifespan of direct mail.
Let’s be honest, direct mail is a dinosaur in the world of marketing and fundraising. It’s been around forever and although it changes and adapts, it’s still the senior member of many companies marketing campaigns. Being senior has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Being tried and tested means one knows the craft and has been around the block and back and lived to tell about it. A disadvantage is that at every move you have people guessing when will be the last game you’ll play.
I’ve been in the direct mail business for 10 years or so and the view from my desk shows little slow down. Business may have peaked in 2007 or so, but mailers are back now that the economy has taken a turn for the better.
Personally, I don’t see direct mail disappearing any time soon unless we see some radical change. If the U.S. post office shuts down or postage triples in cost overnight (which may be both actual possibilities some time in the future!) then we’ll see a big shift. Also, when my kids get to be my age in another 35 years, it’ll be interesting to see how direct mail plays into the marketing scheme of things since my kids and many their age were raised on iPads, not handwritten letters.
But, can’t we all just get along? Actually, no.
“Every time I turn around, there’s a new name and/or affront to direct mail. First it was push marketing. (We were being too pushy!) Then it was outbound marketing. (“They” coined the phrase “inbound marketing.”) The term I hear all the time these days that makes my blood boil is “intrusion” marketing.”
“Who creates these monikers? It’s the marketers of course!”
“And while referring to direct marketers as intrusion marketers, they’ve named themselves “attraction” marketers. Let’s attract; let’s start a conversation; let’s communicate. Oh please!”
So let me set the record straight for those who proffer the garbage that direct mail intrudes.
Consider the following:
1. Direct mail isn’t going to die anytime soon. Direct mail marketers will evolve, survive and thrive. By taking advantage of personalization and the multitude of tools online, direct marketers’ response rates will increase and targeting will get even better. Direct mail is still the most highly targetable media around. There are thousands of list on the market both consumer and B2B with endless selections and possibilities for drilling into the data for precise targeting. There are coops like I-Behavior and Abacus that allow for very tight predictive modeling for prospecting as well. And then there is mailing to your own company’s house file. I do that regularly. A diet postcard I mailed a while back generated about $200,000 in revenue on costs of $4,000…. that’s a 50:1 ROI folks…. and it’s not something that is an exception to the rule either.
2. If your goal is to be relevant, direct mail delivers. Direct marketers don’t want to mail to people who don’t want to receive their offers. And those consumers who don’t want to receive catalogs/direct mail can turn to suppression services such as Catalog Choice and the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service to opt out. All mailers can use those files as suppression files before mailing so as not to reach someone not wanting to be mailed.
3. All of us so-called “intrusion” marketers set the rules for direct marketing and internet marketing. We created a medium that’s all about measurement and metrics. Direct marketers are responsible for the tools that differentiate themselves from those dot-bomb sock puppet marketers, so why are they dissing you?
4. You’d think there’s room for all types of media in today’s marketing mix. Direct marketers don’t bad-mouth pull marketing. They embrace it, use it, measure it — and if it works, roll out with it. They’re driven purely by return on investment. If it works, they love it.
5. It still works. Direct marketers have taken big hits on paper and postage rates, the economy, even anthrax in the last decades, but they continue to soldier on. The truth is, they still get response and ROI. If not, they’d stop mailing. Consumers still buy via the mail, and will continue to do so.
The bottom line: Don’t buy into the self-fulfilling prophesy that direct mail is a dead medium. It ain’t! My clients are seeing good to excellent results in the mail. Just follow the principles of direct marketing and you’ll succeed.
Please note: This article originally ran for Retail Online Integration Magazine where I have a regular column.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog, direct marketing and social media agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert. You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect