Is Direct Mail a Good Option for Your Local Business?

Image source: G2 Crowd Learning Hub

Local businesses should not overlook the marketing potential of direct mail. Learn how it complements digital as a key local marketing tool.

Digital marketing channels, such as social media, email, and websites, are central for most local marketers. While you can’t set digital aside, it’s important not to overlook the power of offline tools.

For those promoting local businesses, few tools are more powerful than direct mail marketing, especially when you consider USPS direct mail options specifically designed for local marketing.

Skeptical about snail mail? Let’s take a look at some statistics around direct mail.

Local businesses can stand out with direct mail

It’s no secret the amount of time we spend online has become astronomical. According to Nielson data, in 2016 American adults spent an average of 10 hours and 39 minutesa day consuming media. And I’m willing to take a guess that number hasn’t gone down in the past two years!

With so much of our time devoted to phones and computers, you may be wondering why there you would want to consider direct mail. However, that time spent online is exactly why direct mail marketing is so powerful.

Wherever we go online, we are surrounded by marketing messages. Consider everything that happens in just one minute in 2018:

Image source: Visual Capitalist

With so many platforms for consumers to bounce between, it’s easy for your message to get lost in the land of digital marketing.

Think about how many emails you get on a daily basis, especially if you check your promotional folder on Gmail. A mere glance at the headline and that email is destined for your virtual trash can before ever being opened.

Mail, on the other hand, gives your prospects and customers a tangible item they’re holding in their hands. This leads to much higher open rates of 66%, compared to an average email open rate of 21%.

I’m not saying to ignore email marketing. According to Marketing Sherpa, 60% of customers like receiving regular updates from brands through email. But don’t miss the fact that 54% of consumers want to receive marketing materials through good old-fashioned snail mail.

Marketing Sherpa Direct Mail

Direct mail response rates

Direct mail marketing has proven results when it comes to consumers taking action.

Yes, it’s easy to measure click-through rates on emails you send, but response rates for direct mail are substantially higher. Data from the Direct Marketing Association shows that mail has a response rate of 4.4%, compared to an email response rate of 0.12%. Perhaps this is why direct mail has such a strong impact on sales. (That is, after all, the goal of marketing, isn’t it?)

Direct mail can be trickier to track; many consumers receive direct mail, such as catalogs, then go online to purchase or find more information. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that 62% of customers who responded to direct mail made a purchase.

Direct mail’s impact is strongest on sales when it is one part of an multi-channel marketing campaign. Rather than running a stand-alone direct mail campaign, combine it with your activities on other channels. Sales, acquisition, and market share are all proven to increase when you add direct mail to your existing campaign.

Direct mail can deliver results, but let’s consider some of the pros and cons of executing this strategy.

The downside of direct mail for local business

Direct mail is a strategy that works for those practicing B2C or B2B marketing. However, like any marketing strategy, there are also negatives to be aware of.

We touched on the fact that direct mail can be harder to measure. While you can provide a custom URL to track campaign results, consumers may choose to search for your company on Google rather than typing in that URL.

Direct mail also comes with a higher price tag than many digital marketing activities. While you can promote yourself for free with social media marketing, or utilize free email marketing software, at a minimum you’ll pay printing and postage costs for direct mail.

In addition, it is a strategy that takes time. In email marketing, you can send to thousands of contacts with the click of the button. When it comes to direct mail, you need your postcard, envelope, or parcel to physically travel into the hands of your customer.

Even if you’re sending out nothing more than a piece of paper in an envelope, you will need to go through the process of stuffing, sealing, and stamping those envelopes. Then, after you physically mail your item, it takes time to arrive at the final destination of your customer. This means direct mail can’t wait for the last minute, especially if you are getting a custom print job.

But the statistics above displaying the benefits of direct mail can’t be ignored. Before you let the time and costs scare you, consider the direct mail options available to you, and their potential revenue.

Here we’ll look at the types of direct mail available to you as a local business.

How to execute direct mail for local business

When you’re sending a direct mail campaign, the same basic marketing rules apply. You need to know your goals and how you will measure success. Even though you can’t do an automated A/B test, you can still do a test run. If you’re sending 3,000 postcards, start by printing and sending just 200. Measure your results, then make any adjustments needed before paying for the remaining 2,800 to be printed.

The types of direct mail you can send include coupons, announcements, product samples, catalogs, gift cards, customer appreciation gifts, and promotional items, such as earbuds, phone accessories, magnets, toys, or even electronics.

Sending a physical item, such as the swag you give out at events, is another direct mail option that can have powerful impact. People simple can’t help but open a box or bulky package that they receive in the mail. Sending more than paper was how Keri Lindenmuth, Marketing Manager for Kyle David Group (KDG) found direct mail success. She combined direct mail with social media for the ultimate win.

KDG is a company that specializes in web design, software development, and other IT business solutions. Keri shares how she sent tangible items and used an integrated approach between direct mail and social media to get local business results:

“Our company has recently started utilizing direct mail with great success. Everyone loves to receive gifts or surprises in the mail, so we always like to include company swag in our mail campaigns when we can.

One campaign we’ve been working on is a social media/direct mail campaign for local businesses. We send these businesses a box of swag and other goodies, along with a card about how much local businesses mean. Then, we call them out on social media with a picture of their gift.

We not only want to build a relationship with these businesses but also hope that
they’ll continue the trend and call out other local businesses themselves.”

KDG’s social media aspect of the campaign includes weekly posts with a picture of the gift box and the message: “This week’s social media shoutout and goody box go to Bethlehem business [insert company name]. Thanks for all you do! #LovetheLehighValley”

This type of direct mail does cost more, reserved best for a small number of highly targeted customers. In addition to the items you’re sending, anything that’s not flat will have a higher mailing cost.

Local businesses can still see direct mail results from sending printed materials, especially coupons and postcards.

Image Source: Postcard Mania

Consider the local business Leash on Life, a company who provides pet care services. Combining event marketing and direct mail strategies, the company mailed 500 postcards to promote their “Loving Care Pet Fair.”

As a result of sending 500 postcards, the company gained 130 event attendees and $4,000 in revenue – results any small business can appreciate!

Coupons are another flat piece of mail that increase brand awareness and purchases. More than 90% of millennials use coupons to plan their shopping lists and 57% of shoppers purchase from businesses they haven’t before simply to redeem a coupon.

If you’re sending a coupon, consider doing so in postcard format so you can make use of Every Door Direct Mail, a service provided by the Post Office which we’ll discuss now.

USPS direct mail service for local businesses

There are a variety of options when sending USPS direct mail.

Here, we’ll focus on one specific service the Post Office provides that is ideal for local businesses. If you’re delivering flat mail, such as postcards, newsletters, or menus, consider doing so with Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM).

EDDM enables businesses to send flat pieces of mail to each household on a mail carrier’s route. Consider it the cold-calling version of direct mail; everyone, regardless of if they are a customer or not, will receive the mail.

You are able to narrow and reach recipients by age, income, or household size, but no other targeting is available. In addition, you can select only consumers as the recipients, or a mix of businesses and consumers. Unfortunately, B2B companies are not able to send EDDM exclusively to businesses.

EDDM is an effective way to build brand awareness, especially for those who don’t have a database. Individual names and addresses are not put on postcards or envelopes; instead, the label will say“Postal Customer,” “Residential Customer,” or “PO Box Holder.” It’s a cost-effect direct mail option, with prices starting at $0.178 for flats weighing 3.3 ounces or less.

While the concept isn’t difficult to execute, there are some guidelines that must be followed. For example, your mail must meet specific sizes, and there are label requirements and forms to fill out; understanding the language on the Post Office’s website can get tricky.

Thankfully, there are plenty of businesses ready and willing to assist you. While it will increase your costs, these companies know how to navigate the maze of red tape leading in and out of the Post Office.

A simple Google search will provide you with an abundance of businesses eager to help with your EDDM campaign. Alternatively, USPS provides a list of direct mail experts who can give you online support. If you prefer speaking with someone in person, enter your zip code into the USPS “Find a Printer” page to find local direct mail vendors.

Yes, direct mail may require more time and money to execute. But, a clear plan and developed strategy can lead to a positive ROI. Once you determine your local business marketing goals, it’s worth looking into direct mail to complement the rest of your marketing efforts.

Kristen McCabe
Kristen’s 10+ years of global marketing experience expands a wide range of industries, including events, tech, publishing, film, and professional associations. Her passion for marketing focuses on innovation, putting the customer first, and maintaining true authenticity. Kristen regularly shares her expertise in many publications including Addicted 2 Success and The Content Marketing Institute.