Direct Mail – The Low Cost Leader

In a head to head with other marketing platforms, direct mail performs at the lowest cost while producing the highest conversion rate.

These days, marketing is all about digital. We are emailing, blogging,  tweeting and Facebooking our little marketer hearts out. So direct mail (the kind that the postal delivery person puts in your mailbox, remember?) must be dead in the water. Right?

Wrong. According to the Direct Mail Association (DMA) Factbook for 2013, 65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of low cost direct mail. According to Direct Mail News, in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% for both business-to-business and business to consumer mailings. This is considerably higher than industry expectations and surges past electronic mail’s response rate of just 0.12%.

All this indicates that direct mail is alive and working well, thank you. Many of our clients, including those in high tech, recognize this value.  Unsurprisingly, low cost direct mail is going through a well-deserved renaissance. Small businesses may have maximized their online spend and need to find another channel.  Or, they may enjoy such a high response to direct mail that it’s added to the mix from the start. Either way, the results are highly satisfactory and direct mail is becoming a staple in their marketing plans.

Cost per lead about the same as email.

“Well, OK,” you might argue. “But it still costs more to mail something printed than to send out email. What about ROI?” Good question, however, the raw cost of a campaign isn’t the true test of success. Cost per lead is. The DMA reports that the cost per lead of direct mail is in line with print and pay-per-click, and significantly less than telemarketing (See Table 1). Direct mail production costs are somewhat more than email, but not enough to make email the holy grail of direct marketing.

Cost Per Lead Comparison


Source: DMA, 2012 Response Rate Report.

With a higher conversion rate than any other medium, the Print on Demand Institute (PODI) found that low cost direct mail out-pulled all other channels tested in terms of conversion rates, both for lead-generating “free” offers and one-step “buy now” offers. Direct mail’s edge becomes even more dramatic when it is optimized with personalization and other factors, and combined with personalized landing pages. Try adding your existing landing page URL to direct mail. Some buyers really prefer to respond online, and this may bring in more business at zero additional cost.

This becomes even more effective when you use a personalized vanity URL that is easy to remember and to type— makes it simple for customers to use even though they can’t cut and paste. Direct mail also enjoys longer “shelf life” than email. It might be profitable to evaluate your existing landing pages and offers to see what can be repurposed to offer through direct mail. If you do, remember that people may access it weeks after the mailing.  Be sure that the pages and offers are still good—or put a firm deadline on response time.

Make the most of the of your marketing dollars by promoting with low cost direct mail at every opportunity.