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Direct Mail isn’t dead.

10 reasons why direct mail should be alive and kicking in your 2020 campaigns.

Now we are into 2020, you may well be thinking about your campaigns for the year ahead. The last 10 -20 years brought us an explosion of digital marketing and advertising that super-charged response rates as charities and businesses could contact people quicker than ever before.

Since then, the rise of email marketing, digital advertising and viral campaigns have taken prominence. With a move to using less paper and shifting everything online and mobile, what has this all meant for direct mail? Has it had its day, suffering a slow and painful death-by-internet?

Quite the contrary, direct mail remains a legitimate and effective method of marketing to new, present and past donors that charities would be foolish to ignore. Even the introduction of GDPR legislation in May 2018 has not stalled or hindered the effectiveness of direct mail marketing as a way of contacting potential new supporters.

So what exactly is direct mail?

The term direct mail covers all manner of print materials that charities, organisations and businesses can then send out via post to households. This may include brochures, annual reviews, feedback and update materials, leaflets and flyers, letters, sponsorship requests, emergency appeals, direct debit requests and a whole heap more.

For some organisations, direct mail can be a little off-putting: time spent writing, designing and printing contributes to long lead-in times as well as taking account for the delay as it is delivered to the recipient. Then there is the obvious danger of ‘The Bin’ – and the hope that your materials aren’t simply labelled ‘junk mail’ destined for the trash. A drive to be ‘greener’ can also lead to the temptation to ditch direct mail for a more environmentally-friendly approach.

Despite the lure of email, social and online advertising as a quicker alternative, direct mail still holds power. And the costs can remain broadly level with digital marketing but with the perhaps surprising added bonus of a higher ROI (£3.22 vs £3.12. Source: Royal Mail)

If print marketing is something that you have neglected in the last few years, here’s 10 handy tips and reminders to help you fall back in love with direct mail.

1. Easy on the eye.

Printed materials are easier on the eye – literally. Reading and absorbing printed words are much easier for the human eye to process, than the harsh realities of computer or mobile screen. How many of us still print off the documents we need to read and digest, instead of reading the online pdf version? Multiple studies have shown that paper materials are easier to read for the majority of people.

2. Tangible – hold it and feel it for more emotional response.

Direct mail looks good – from the envelope, to the soft, personalised letter, to the glossy, sharp brochure. It also feels good. Holding printed materials invokes an extra sense that online marketing just can’t deliver. This extra sensory experience can help to create a more emotional and memorable response. A study by Royal Mail showed that 60% of respondents said that direct mail made it easier to recall a message due to the physical nature.

3. Easier to share.

Speaking of memorable – direct mail is not only easier to recall but also easier to share. Printed materials often stay within a household and are viewed by more people than emails which often only have one viewer. Printed, posted materials are more likely to be stored and shared, with 27% of direct mail still visible within a household in the first 28 days of it being received. (source: DMA)

4. Catch your reader unaware – the passive approach.

Direct mail is great at the stealth approach. Catching a past donor by surprise with posted mail is useful for reconnecting them with past donations, delivering feedback and renewing the relationship. Branding the envelope is crucial for this – your campaign strapline needs to be obvious and enticing for that first look and temptation to open and read more.

5. Personalised.

Personalising your direct mail letter is easy with the use of mail merge and CRMs. Dividing your donor base into repeat donors, one-time donors, major giving and other sectors can mean you can really develop groups of supporters and deliver a more personalised approach specific to them not only by name but also by experience. Not only that but of course you have the benefit of recipient’s name and address - this can tell you a whole lot more about them than just an email or IP address. By knowing the region they live in and title they use, you can gather data on your donor demographic and giving patterns.

6. GDPR compliant.

Speaking of data – storing names and addresses requires your donors to have opted in to print/mail communications. Make sure you have got your opt-in boxes set to untick by default at the point of donation to be GDPR compliant. This will decrease your chances of being considered junk mail as people will have to give their consent to be contacted by post. And if you want to target new donors with a direct mail campaign - you can. Simply ensure that your communications are addressed to ‘The Occupier’ with enticing copy and clear GDPR compliant options on any return material. As long as you can prove that your communications are of legitimate interest, you are GDPR compliant for approaching potential new donors.

7. More inclusive.

Sending posted materials is more inclusive. When studying your demographic, you will probably notice a pattern that younger donors tend to use online donation platforms and social media more than older donors. Direct mail is inclusive in reaching out to all age groups and backgrounds – including those who may otherwise shy away from social platforms or be wary of giving online.

8. Opportunity to be creative.

Yes – creative! I can see the designers and copywriters beaming. Direct mail is your chance to be creative and make your campaign really stand out with some originality. You don’t have to stick to the boring A4 letter with paragraph upon paragraph of black and white text. Nor do you have to do a regular brochure or flyer. To really grab attention, think outside the box a little and consider your design options and how these can make your copy really pop off the page. Texture and shape can really come into play in a way that flat on-screen communications can’t. You can also include merchandised material that will be retained – pens, fridge magnets, calendars – think useful items that will be retained. And if you are concerned about your approach to recycling, I’ve written a bit about being greener with direct mail just here.

9. It’s more effective! Like REALLY more effective.

Despite the danger of ‘The Bin’, direct mail has been proven to be up to 4 times more effective in gathering response and invoking reader action. A recent DMA study showed that direct mail has a response rate typically of 4.4% response rate vs 0.2% email. Overall, it is 10 to 30 times higher than any digital marketing. That is huge!

10. Trackable – set it up, sit back and watch.

Last but not least, direct mail is pretty easy to track. Simply use a specific email address, postal address or set up a separate phone number as your point of contact and call to action on your printed materials. This will enable you to track accurately your response rates and calculate your Return on Investment (ROI). Unlike online, where a reader’s attention span is far shorter and where there are often multiple routes to donation and multiple distractions along the way, measuring and monitoring your direct mail response can be a lot simpler and more reliable.

So there you have it – direct mail is far from dead. Like your trusted sidekick it can still be relied upon to deliver great response rates in an ever-changing world. That being said, online marketing has it’s obvious plus points too and there are two sides to every (donation) coin. The best approach is a double-edged content and comms strategy across your appeals and donor engagement campaigns. By working these two areas together with consistent messaging, tone of voice and branding, you can deliver a really effective campaign.

If you would like to discuss direct mail with me, get in touch and we can chat about the power of print over a cup of tea. Email

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