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Snail Mail Marketing: Is It Worth It?

In a marketing age where everyone wants to reach their customers faster and on a more personal level, is snail mail marketing (forgive me, but the banal term is the most relevant) still a good marketing channel? Some people will tell you that with design costs, printing expenses, list rentals, constantly changing postal requirements and an ever-increasing postage rate, direct mail is just not worth it. I think they’re wrong.

What it comes down to is evaluating your company’s core business and deciding the best strategy. ASPE is a training company. We train professionals in business analysis, project management, marketing, IT, financial investment and more to help them gain certifications, become more efficient and knowledgeable and advance their careers. People want detail if they’re going to pay $1,000+ for a course. Better yet, their employers want justification on why they should shell out money for training.

The next logical question is: How do we reach them? Of course we have an integrated marketing mix; it would be irresponsible for any company not to. Historically direct mail was our bread and butter, and now we’ve integrated it with the electronic side of email, Twitter, search engine optimization, pay per click campaigns and more. Sure, it’s cheap and easy for customers to print out an email or webpage and physically have it in front of them, but first they have to find our company, go to our website, find the right course and then they have their information. A brochure has all the information they want about a class delivered to them (of course you have to profile correctly to get it to that person, but that’s a whole other ballgame).

So, when the question and shock comes, and people say, “You spend HOW MUCH on direct mail?!?” and my answer is that on a busy week, the postage alone is more than my salary, why do we continue to invest in it when the electronic channels are working so well? Here you go:

  • 28% of our registrations in 2010 were directly linked to a direct mail piece compared to the 10% from emails
  • In our business, if 2 of every 1,000 people who receive a brochure register for a class, we break even or make a profit
  • Direct mail is an easy channel to track; you just have to figure out how: “Thanks for signing up for a class. How’d you hear about us?…A brochure, great! Do you mind telling me the code listed next to the mailing label?…Thanks.”
  • You can’t put 8 pages of details and outline in an email and make it look good
  • Extra runoffs make for great collateral for our sales team
  • Even if the intended recipient is no longer at a company, chances are their replacement/superior/coworkers will still be there and look at it
  • You can guarantee the recipient will see the same images you see. Different email providers, software programs and browsers display things differently
  • Shelf life: How long do you keep an email in your inbox? Now how long do you keep a catalog or magazine around the office?

So before you decide to eliminate or significantly cut back your direct mail campaigns, or start one up, think about what your message is, how you want potential customers to view it, and the way you’re going to measure the ROI. Sure, our competitors in the training business have cut back and typically the only mail they send is an annual or bi-annual catalog. GREAT! That means the brochures we send to a potential student could be the only training information lying on their desk. With less in the mail, your piece can have greater impact.

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