the importance of direct mail in the digital age

The digital world has changed so many things in our lives. It’s changed the way we do business, the way we write books, and the way in which we market our creations to a potential clientele.

While innovations have affected nearly every aspect of life, a few old-school things have managed to survive. Direct mail is one of them, and it can still be considered quite effective in a digital age. Even if you’re attempting to promote a digital product, direct mail can help you accomplish a lot in terms of brand establishment.

Are you still curious and hesitant about trying a snail-mail technique? If so, the following guide will shed some light on direct mail, the best approach to using it, and why it delivers such excellent results.

What Is Direct Mail?

Direct mail advertising involves sending letters to a specific group of people. That’s right, actual, real paper letters!

The letters could be geographically targeted, they could be sent to potential buyers who have requested such information, or the audience could be chosen on the basis of other criteria.

Maybe you target your audience based on opt-ins, like people who have ticked a particular box on your email newsletter subscription form, or you might even do direct mail to bookstores or shops that could be interested in carrying your books.

Very often, direct mail consists of junk letters and brochures that nobody wants. This happens when no personalization is done. If you know how to tailor the letter to the specific needs of the recipient, however, chances are that your advertising message will not go unnoticed.

what is direct mail

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Why Does Direct Mail Work?

Direct mail still works in the digital age for a number of reasons.

It Makes People Happy

Let’s face it: people like getting things in the mail.

While email has become the preferred method of communication for many people, it lacks the personal touch of getting something in a traditional mailbox. People still enjoy traditional letters, and if these are tailored to their interests, you can expect a positive response.

After all, isn’t it always a treat to get something other than bills in the mail? And when the piece of mail you get is relevant, timely, and targeted right to your interests, you’re likely to pay attention.

Studies have shown that people like getting mail. And we definitely want to give our potential audience things they like!

It Improves Brand Recognition

We’re wired to respond differently to paper than to pixels.

An interesting study was carried out in Canada comparing direct mail marketing campaigns were to digital advertising. Eye-tracking technology and EEG brain scans were used to determine how people respond to the different media.

Researchers found out that when they were asked to process direct mail, people used 21% less of their cognitive capabilities than they did for digital ads. And in this case, less is more!

Using less cognitive capacity means you’re not stressing out your brain with trying to understand the ad. So letters are easier to understand and could potentially be remembered over a longer period of time than digital ads.

In addition, the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns was seen as greater than the effectiveness of digital marketing. People who see direct mail are capable of recalling the brand 75% of the time. When a campaign is carried out via digital channels, the memorability goes down to 44%.

It Works with Other Approaches

Whether you’ve just launched a startup or you’re trying to build your career as a successful author, you’ll need a powerful marketing campaign right from the start. Targeting the right audience, delivering the most effective message, and relying on multiple channels will all play a role in your success.

Direct mail is highly effective in combination with other marketing techniques.

The term “Smartmail marketing” has been coined to describe this kind of savvy multi-channel marketing. Smartmail marketing refers to connecting both physically and digitally with the consumer. Multiple channels are utilized, both in the traditional outbound realm as well as in the digital medium.

There’s a very important reason why the Smartmail marketing approach works. Depending solely on digital promotion will give you access to an audience that’s in front of the computer or the smartphone screen. Occasionally, however, people will turn these devices off. In such instances, you’ll be entirely incapable of connecting with them.

The appeal of holding a piece of paper hasn’t died yet. This is why magazines and specialized publications are still alive. The very same reason is responsible for the high success of direct mail in a digital world.

Direct mail enters the home of your potential buyer. It stays there and it can be examined again in the future. People tend to keep flyers, letters, catalogs, and other mail that they’ve received and deemed relevant. They refer to it over and over—putting you in front of your audience more than just once when your ad flashes on their screen.

There’s Less Competition

As a person who’s taking their first steps to establish their writing career, you’re probably a little nervous about the competition. Most authors in today’s world know that self-publishing has given millions of people across the world an opportunity to write something and sell it for money. The sheer volume of writing makes it almost impossible to compete for the attention of a limited audience.

Direct mail advertising can help you stand out from that crowd. It comes with less competition, because just about everyone has gone down the digital route. Statistics suggest that about 81% of companies rely on social media (particularly Facebook) for the purpose of brand establishment. While digital advertising is relatively inexpensive, such massive competition can easily reduce its effectiveness.

Marketing experts believe that a person’s computer inbox is the new mailbox. It’s filled with personal letters, digital invoices, offers, and newsletters. People have learned to quickly go through all of this clutter and get rid of most mail without even opening it.

Things are a bit different in the world of direct mail, especially if you manage to personalize your marketing materials a little bit. Putting each one in an envelope, for example, will make it much more likely for people to take the message home and look at it.

It’s Open to All Audiences

If you’re trying to address the young, hip, cool crowd of millennials, sending traditional mail may not be the best approach (though it may enable you to differentiate yourself in certain situations). Very often, however, you’ll be targeting different groups of people.

Have you written a novel that will appeal to an older crowd? If so, a Facebook ad campaign may not be the best tool in your arsenal.

Direct mail opens your message to all audiences. Even people who aren’t particularly technologically savvy like opening their mailbox and seeing what surprises it holds. There’s a huge segment of the population that marketers still cannot reach through inbound digital campaigns.

If these people matter to your business or your book’s target audience, doing something a bit more traditional is definitely going to be the right way to connect and to make a great first impression.

How Authors Can Use Direct Mail

As an author, you’re probably wondering how you can use direct mail to your advantage.

For a start, you can use it to send potential readers a quick sample of your work. Giving people access to the first chapter of your new book, for example, is a great option for getting them hooked. If people dedicate some time to exploring the content, chances are that they’ll want to read the rest of it.

Hook your direct mail campaign to your online marketing efforts by offering a special freebie when people sign up to your newsletter using a specific link, or give them something else of value in return for connecting with you.

Make sure to include a strong, clear call to action, telling your readers exactly what you’d like them to do.

To make direct mail promotion successful, you’ll have to put emphasis on the layout. It’s a good idea to work with a graphic designer who knows how to make the letter attractive. If you have the budget for it, print the letter in color. Add the cover of your book to make an even bigger impact and increase recognition.

Finally, think carefully about the group of people you’re going to send direct mail to and the specifics of the message.

Experienced marketers know that it’s best to create several groups, sending each one a personalized message. You can have a small brochure for potential readers and “behind the scenes” materials for your biggest fans.

The most important thing to do is ask yourself what you want to accomplish through the campaign. If you know the answer, you’ll find it much easier to do targeting.


Have you tried a direct mail marketing campaign? Share your experience in the comments!

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