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Direct Mail in the Digital Age

Modern Mail

Direct Mail Still Works

The driving force of traditional advertising has had to adapt to a new era of marketing. Direct mail has been used as a strategy by businesses for millennia; the first-ever print ad was actually used to sell bibles, if that offers any perspective about its age. It has been modified, tweaked, and engineered over time to sell billions in consumer products and services, and still accounts for a considerable amount of revenue.

The Numbers Never Lie: Direct Marketing at a Glance

To give you an idea of the power of direct marketing at large, in 2012 alone it accounted for nearly 9% of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product. In that year, this type of advertising generated in excess of $2 trillion in product/service sales. Keep in mind that direct mail, you know, the ones you probably receive in your mailbox every day, is a subset of the greater strategy, and it respectively produced $94 billion (roughly 1/20) in the same year.

Given that conventional sales letters represent only a fraction of modern-day business income, why do many corporate professionals still consider it an indispensable component of their company’s marketing strategies? In light of the explosive growth of the internet and its various trappings (e.g. email, social media, etc.), where do traditional print ads stand?

The Goal of Copy Fusion

Interestingly enough, despite the rise of the digital era, there still is and always will be a dire need for hard copy. In other words, direct mail is far from dead in the water, as plenty of people would mistakenly believe. Business owners that understand its worth and place a high value on the integration, as opposed to dissolution, of this marketing strategy, with new-age techniques, are the ones who will witness the highest degree of growth and success.

So with that, how should you adapt your company’s current direct marketing efforts so that they align and ensure optimal results and ROI? There is no doubting the convenience of digital advertising. Emails are super easy to create, and their corresponding campaigns, along with social media and the works, can be tracked effortlessly for measuring purposes. Cost-effective and efficient, they should be viewed as an asset and implemented via a multi-pronged marketing approach.

Below are the top ways digital media has affected the direct mail industry, as well as ideas about what the future likely holds for this time-honored form of advertising. Keep in mind that if you wish to continue being successful with conventional marketing, it needs to evolve and adapt to meet changing market conditions.

Less content is often just as engaging

The goal of any advertisement is to turn a reader into a potential buyer, to get them to make the purchase. To do this, it has long been understood that people need quite a bit of convincing before they will commit to buy, regardless of the price of the particular product or service in question. Traditional direct mail sales letters run the gamut from single page pitches to multi-page, comprehensive overviews.

Many studies have found that when browsing the web, customers tend to spend less time reading than they do with paper advertisements. If you have ever seen a website landing page, for instance, you will notice that marketers emphasize quality over quantity. While this is also true for conventional direct mail campaigns, the concept of “less is more” is one that needs to be understood.

Thus, in this sense, digital media has compelled modern marketers to take a step back and analyze the main goals of their direct mail strategies; knowing how readers will respond to a particular message and what changes may need to be made to ensure the highest possible conversion rate is essential.

Multiple response channels are critical

The widespread availability of information on the internet has turned the business-to-consumer power relationship in favor of the latter. Consumers will not waste their time with a company that does not offer them value, and they know that a simple Google search will present a hundred new options (i.e. competitors) to buy from.

You have to give your readers multiple ways to respond to your advertisement; people are used to getting what they want on the web in record times. The challenge now is ensuring their convenience needs are being met. Going forward, direct mail promotions must include various customer response mechanisms. Phone numbers, web links, and mail-back enrollments are just a few of the things marketers should list in their landing pages.

Write for the web-based reader

Entire articles can and have been written on the importance of effective online copy formatting. Where you position the text and how you present it to the reader is extremely important, as one wrong move can cause conversions to plummet. Not everyone prefers to read information the same way.

Some enjoy attention to detail and are satisfied with in-depth paragraphs that give them everything they need to make an informed buying decision. Others do not wish to read long form copy and thus want neat bullet points that summarize the main items. The highest-converting direct mail advertisements strike the balance between the two, thereby appealing to the greatest number of readers vs. isolating a select group.

Reel them in with multiple calls-to-action

Everyone knows the call-to-action is what makes or breaks an ad. Instead of placing just one at the end of the digital letter, you will want to spread it (subtly or overtly) throughout the content many times.

Remember, only a portion of readers will read the letter in its entirety, so you need to account for those who prefer to scan. Additionally, throwing in expiration dates develops a sense of urgency, forcing the individual to make a purchasing decision they may have otherwise ignored or set aside for later. Of course, you want to be careful not to overload your letters with calls-to-action, but use three at the bare minimum.

The rise of digital media has provided marketers with a lot of useful information regarding the efficacy of direct mail. Pay attention to the trends and never stop adapting your content. Versatility is an asset.


Direct mail has been majorly influenced by the development of digital media. Modern marketing techniques have caused businesses to stray away from traditional advertising practices for those that favor the online scene. Since the dawn of the internet, there has been a rapid increase in online marketing; direct mail advertising numbers have subsequently slowed down, but they are still a quintessential element of the modern marketing engine.

Taking what we have learned from internet campaigns and merging them with traditional direct sales letters, we can see that the effects on conventional ads can be completely positive when used the right way.

Using less content, making that content more streamlined for online readers, giving customers multiple ways to respond to promotions, and reinforcing sales pitches with multiple calls-to-action are just some of the many modifications marketers need to make to their existing, direct mail copy.

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