In 1923, advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins wrote the perennial bestseller “Scientific Advertising,” putting forth the radical concept that advertising should be measured and evaluated with facts, mathematics, and reason over emotion and opinions.
This is the very foundation of all the marketing and sales strategies I teach: The ultimate measure of success for any campaign is based on sales generated and the ROI, not on fans, followers, likes, hashtags, SEO rankings, clicks, or what is cheap and easy. I always have been, and will continue to be, media-agnostic and believe you actually need a combination of both online and offline strategies to get the highest and best response and results.
So, when I start talking about direct mail, I know a lot of ears flop over. It doesn’t work in my area, with my clients. It’s too expensive. It’s too slow, too difficult. But if you’re a serious student and a “scientific” advertiser, you’d be foolish to not incorporate it into your marketing arsenal. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Direct mail is the only opt-OUT media. This is a very important point, given that most MSPs do not have a good list of qualified prospects when they first seek out our advice on marketing. Unlike email and text messages, you can freely and legally mail someone until they tell you to stop. Yes, many of you ignore this and spam people anyway, but that rarely leads to happy, productive new clients, and it usually does more damage than good. In addition to this, most people aren’t as grumpy about getting an advertiser’s postcard or letter as they are about getting a text message or email that’s trying to sell them something when they haven’t given direct permission.
2. You can direct 100% of your efforts and marketing dollars to only the prospects you truly want to get access to. When I send a letter, I can decide in advance who I want as a client, then send a message directly to them. If I run a radio ad, invest in SEO, pay-per-click, trade shows, or generic social media advertising (not custom audiences), I cannot always control who sees my message; therefore, a lot of my advertising dollars are wasted on people who are not qualified.
3. Getting someone’s accurate mailing address is far easier than getting their email address. Yes, privacy is dead and there are countless nefarious ways to get someone’s personal email and cellphone number. But most companies have their mailing address directly displayed on their websites, making it easy to find.
4. Studies from the Direct Marketing Institute and the Direct Mail Association all point to direct mail delivering more qualified leads and higher ROI than digital lead generation marketing. I believe that’s for a few reasons. First, anyone doing direct mail consistently is paying far more attention to copy, offers, and list segmentation because of the cost. For this reason, direct mail marketers are far more careful about what they put in the mail than what they put in an email. Second, it’s more “difficult” to respond to direct mail than it is to click on a link. Because of that, the person tends to be a more serious buyer. Yes, you may get fewer leads, but those you get will be more qualified, allowing you to avoid the work of sifting and sorting through a bunch of semi- to non-qualified leads to find the one that is good.
5. Direct mail lives on far longer than email or other digital campaigns. It’s very common for a prospect to tell me they kept one of my mail pieces on their desk for a few months (even years!) before they called. This is also a common situation for my MSP clients who send out the unusual direct mail campaigns I give them in our toolkit. I have not had that happen with an email or a Facebook post.
6. Direct mail is more memorable and has a greater impact than digital marketing. Online media is overwhelming, from a dumpster-size load of emails to thousands of sites, apps, and communications. Standing out in all of that digital noise causes it to be extremely difficult to make an impression. However, if I mail you a letter with a real dollar bill stapled to the top (one of our control pieces) or some other “lumpy” or “object” mail, like a rubber duck in a box (another one of our campaigns for selling cybersecurity), you’ll take note and remember it. If you then follow up with a phone call, the person is far more likely to recall the “duck in a box” you sent when your sales rep calls. They most likely will not remember an email or LinkedIn message you sent, even if the message and offer is exactly the same.
7. You can reach nearly 100% of your audience with direct mail. When selling IT services, most MSPs will tell you their sweet-spot client is a CEO of a successful, profitable company with 20 or more employees; they can afford IT services and have enough employees that professional IT is a necessity. Those CEOs tend to skew older (45-plus years old) and are not as technologically savvy as the younger CEOs. These CEOs are not always glued to Facebook and LinkedIn, and many don’t use any type of social media at all (the marketing team of their company might, but they don’t have personal accounts they actively use). Even in our company, where our audience is very technologically savvy, we can only match 65% of our clients to Facebook and 87% to LinkedIn. Therefore, if I only used social media, I’d be missing out on a big chunk of our potential market that is not actively on those sites.
8. Direct mail is a more trusted media. I don’t need to tell you how most people are suspicious of emails coming from people they don’t know. Many are hesitant to respond to or click on an email from someone they don’t know. (Yes, clearly not enough or you all wouldn’t exist!) However, if someone takes time to mail a letter, prospects are far more likely to trust them to be an honest, real company instead of a hacker.
9. Direct mail is a way to build your email list. I often hear people saying they don’t use direct mail because they use email. But the question is this: How do you get someone to be on your email list (legitimately) if they have not subscribed or opted in? If you don’t have permission to email or text someone, using direct mail can help you build that permission-based list, as will other offline marketing campaigns, such as trade shows, canvassing, networking events, telemarketing, etc.
10. It’s a way to stay in touch with prospects and clients who have opted out of your email list. The majority of messages sent via email are blocked, bounced, or ignored (unopened). A 20% open rate is considered a success — but that means 80% of the people you emailed never saw your communication. Over time, you will have clients and prospects opt out of your email broadcasts, so how do you communicate with them then? Direct mail has a higher delivery rate than email. Think about that for a minute. Yes, email is faster. Yes, email is cheaper, and you can measure it. But if only 20% of your list is getting the message, you have to send out five times the total number to get the same message delivery as direct mail.
Here’s the point: I recently consulted with a client who is getting poor and rapidly declining response rates from his email marketing campaigns. He wanted me to give him some ideas for changing his approach so he could get the response (appointments, leads) he wanted. I offered a few suggestions and recommended that he incorporate direct mail and telemarketing to the mix to reach the unresponsive prospects on the list and/or those who opted out. He said, “I can’t. It’s too expensive.” I asked him what he was comparing that too. He replied, “Well, to sending out emails.” My response was simple. I asked him if he meant the email that was failing to produce any results?
I sent him packing with this advice: 1) Learn to think in terms of ROI, not just the expense or cost. There are hundreds of companies that use direct mail very successfully, including many of the MSPs in our community. Of course, as with any media, you have to do it right to make it work, but it absolutely can deliver a fantastic ROI. 2) If it truly is too expensive (and I doubt it if you’re selling IT services), find a way to make the economics work by raising your rates, offering an “A/B” option with “B” being a higher-priced, more profitable option (usually 10%–20% will take that option if packed and presented properly), or implementing upsells and making every client worth more by selling additional services (cross-selling). If restaurants with tiny margins and small, single sales can make direct mail deliver an ROI, an IT services company should be able to do it all day long.