Back to the Future with Direct Mail Marketing

the resurgence of direct mail, stitchcraft marketingEverything old is new again. Ten years ago, you may have been sending a physical catalog or newsletter to your customers four times a year, highlighting your new products. Now you send them an email newsletter every couple of weeks or so. It’s so much easier – no sorting by ZIP codes, no trip to the post office, no physical tasks associated with email marketing at all. The problem is, every enterprise with which your customer audience does business has also transitioned over to email marketing. People’s inboxes are inundated with email; if they haven’t added your newsletter to their subscription lists, your beautifully composed and written newsletter ends up in their Junk Mail folder and they never see your marketing message.

How can you stand out from the thousands of messages in their inboxes and reach the right audience for your products? It may be time to complement your digital marketing efforts with direct mail as well. For the millennial customers who are moving into their peak buying years, physical mail is fresh and exciting. It’s more personal to them than a mass email: it’s an object with greater permanence to which they can refer back as they consider how they want to spend their discretionary income. Let’s look at some of the advantages that adding a direct mail campaign can bring to your marketing budget.

Less Crowded Field

As we noted, most of us have an email backlog of hundreds, if not thousands, of unread messages. When you say “junk mail”  or “spam” now, the immediate association is digital, not physical mail. As the infographic notes, people’s physical mailboxes are much less crowded than their digital mailboxes: the average household receives 16 pieces of physical mail each week, where the average consumer receives over 100 emails. It’s much easier for your message to stand out in that smaller crowd.

Marketing messages are transactional. You send them to sell your products; you hope customers respond to them and buy your products. The ephemeral quality of email, however, makes it easy for your customers to glance at the subject line and quickly swipe your message into Trash; if it’s not on their mind RIGHT NOW, they’re not going to remember it and scroll back through their messages to find it again. Contrast that with a printed message that presents your products along with engaging content in the manner of a lifestyle magazine. It takes up space in your customer’s home or office; every time their eyes fall on it, it’s a reminder of their favorite hobby and the projects they want to create with your materials.

Portability and Retainability

With the decline of printed media in general, households are less cluttered with reading material. Sitting down with a catalog or newsletter has now become a leisure activity, a break from the plugged-in world of our daily lives. Print material can move from room to room with your customer. They can easily refer back to it, taking inspiration anew each time they read through it. All the interactivity of a digital message can feel like work; clicking and scrolling can get a customer lost in too many options. Static pictures and text with the right message feels like an invitation to respond at the customer’s pace; it’s a return to a measured response and a thoughtful consideration of the material presented. The transaction takes place when the recipient accepts your invitation; they can shop on your website or your retailers’ websites knowing exactly what they want and having an easy reference next to them, not three clicks back on their browser button.

Response Rate

The bar graph at the end of the infographic tells a compelling conversion rate story. Right now, direct mail is reaching customers far better than email, mobile and social display ads – especially paid search. It may cost more to produce, but the ROI based on the response rate shows that it’s worth it. Direct mail also satisfies different segments of your customer base. Your younger customers find it novel and exciting; your older customers find it comfortable and respond to its familiarity. It’s another effective tool to add to your marketing kit.

The Elements of an Effective Direct Mail Campaign

Think of all the ways you get news in your daily life. You may get an email briefing from a trusted news source, have a news program on the TV or radio as you drink your coffee, scan headlines on Facebook, or even sit down with a newspaper over your morning toast. Each medium gives you a different angle on the same facts, and together, you have a full picture of what’s going on in the world.

Adding direct mail to your overall marketing strategy helps your customers get that fuller picture of your company and your products. Print complements the other media you’re using, reinforcing your message at a different pace through a different channel.

The digital revolution is here to stay, but it has changed the printing industry as well as the advertising industry. You can use its power to personalize and segment a printed marketing campaign just as you can a digital marketing campaign. You don’t have to commit to a giant run of the same material, because it can be changed up easily on the computer. Direct mail works with your digital marketing to help you reach your intended customers.You can track how your customers respond to different versions of a digital message and customize a direct mail campaign based on that feedback.

As you put together your direct mail campaign, think of your customer avatars. You want to design a message that not only gives them information about your products, but tells a story. A curated collection of your products presented through text and pictures invites that customer to imagine herself in the story, engaging her with the print material. Change the collection and the story to reach a different customer.

Approach the content and design of your direct mail campaign by thinking of it as pleasure reading for your customer similar to a book or magazine. Present information as part of the narrative, rather than a utilitarian list of products and prices. Extend an invitation to your website or to your retail outlets to complete the transaction; the new direct mail doesn’t have to include an order form or a toll-free number. Putting together these elements should result in an effective outreach to your customers; one that finds them in a new venue and a fresh medium. Direct mail may be a classic marketing technique, but it has been updated for today’s audiences.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a direct mail campaign, but don’t even know where to start, contact We can help you craft a message to reach the customers you want for your craft-based business.

the resurgence of direct mail, stitchcraft marketing

Laura Cameron
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