9 Reasons Why Direct Mail Helps You Win Customers

9 Reasons Why Direct Mail Helps You Win Customers

(Updated March 7, 2019)

Marketers like you have a tough job when it comes to customer acquisition. With so much competition for prospects' attention, it can be difficult to start a relationship with them. And with the dizzying array of marketing channels and technology available, selecting the right ones for your marketing mix poses a daunting challenge.

So, what should you do?

In a world where 74% of people feel overwhelmed by email and they distrust pop-up ads, you can set yourself apart by capitalizing on direct mail's uniqueness and effectiveness.

We like digital marketing as well, but we also know it's not the only way to win customers.

If you're unsure about whether direct mail can help you win customers, here are nine reasons why it will.

1. It Gets a Better Response Than Other Channels

The Response Rates for direct mail are better than other direct marketing media and have improved over time. In 2017 the DMA reported that direct mail's Response Rate was 2.9% for Prospect Lists and 5.1% for House Lists. Back in 2015 the Response Rates prospect and house lists were 1.0% and 3.7%, respectively. (Source: DMA Response Rate Report 2017)

As you can see from the chart below, direct mail clearly outperforms other media in terms of response. If you can pull a greater response, you have more opportunities to win customers.

2. It Enables You to Target Effectively

Direct Mail Marketing offers incredible targeting capability. In fact, the ability to target your audience accurately with a mailing list is arguably the most important part of direct mail.

As the direct marketing success rule of 40/40/20 states, 40% of your campaign's success is due to the mailing list, 40% due to the offer, and 20% due to the creative. Some experts believe the list accounts for as much as 60% of your campaign's success.

Direct Marketing Success Rule

40% of your campaign's success depends on the mailing list.


With oftentimes over 400 different characteristics to choose from, you can target your ideal prospect with pinpoint accuracy--down to the household- or individual-level.

You can target using:

  • age

  • income

  • gender

  • geography

  • home value

  • property features

  • vehicle type

  • marital status

  • occupation

  • hobbies

  • interests and much more.

So, if you want to reach affluent Millennial homeowners in New York or working mothers who drive luxury cars in LA, you can reach them with direct mail.

Part of what makes this data so effective is how reliable it is since many of the characteristics come from self-reported sources such as surveys and buying activity.

...you can target your ideal prospect with pinpoint accuracy...


Targeting to this degree of precision is possible with email if you have the right data, but businesses typically lack this type of information on their customers. Many other channels either lack targeting or use relatively weak source data (e.g. social media page "likes" as opposed to actual buying activity or response data).

Why it matters:

If you're targeting the prospects who fit your ideal customer profile, you're much more likely to convert them.

3. Direct Mail Is More Trusted

When you send a direct mail piece to someone, they are more likely to trust your message. This may seem intuitive to some, but it's been proven as well.

When MarketingSherpa asked 1,200 consumers which channels they trust more when making a purchasing decision, a whopping 76% said they trusted direct mail. Perhaps even more interesting, consumers appeared to trust traditional advertising channels over digital channels when making a purchase. 

A cynic may say that younger people don't trust direct mail, but they'd be wrong. In the same survey, MarketingSherpa found that though older people trust it more, 70% of Millennials trust direct mail.  

People do business with those they like and trust. If you can get your prospects to trust you, then you've made significant progress to building a relationship with them.

4. It's More Persuasive

Another reason direct mail helps you win customers is that it's persuasive--even more so than other channels. 

In one recent study, the Canada Post partnered with True Impact Marketing, a neuromarketing research and strategy firm, and found direct mail's "motivation response is 20% higher" than digital media's. In other words, direct mail more effectively persuades readers than digital does.

How much better is 20%?

According to comments from True Impact Marketing's founder, Diana Lucaci, "...we usually consider a 2% to 5% positive difference to be a predictive indicator of future behavioural change."

Clearly, direct mail's 20% advantage makes it significantly more persuasive than digital.

5. Direct Mail is More Memorable

Getting your message remembered by your audience is difficult.

Time is a valuable commodity and everyone is busy. Memory of your message can slip from your prospect's mind like grains of sand through your fingers.

What's more, your audience is inundated by so many messages on a daily basis that they feel compelled to ignore many of them. As marketing expert and speaker, Jay Baer, recently stated, "Today, we’re living in an environment where it’s delete first, ask questions later." 

But there's good news:

Studies prove that direct mail is memorable. In fact, it's more memorable than digital media.

In the aforementioned study, they found direct mail "required 21% less cognitive effort to process" than digital media. They also found it "elicits a much higher brand recall." To put it in simpler terms, direct mail is both easier to understand and more memorable.

And the best part?

When you combine this with the previous point on persuasiveness, you have a powerful combination. As stated in the study, "An effective advertisement – that is, an advertisement that drives behaviour – is both persuasive (high motivation) and easy to understand (low cognitive load)."

But there's more.

A neuroscience study out of the UK also had similar findings:

  • The tangible aspect of direct mail leaves "a deeper footprint in the brain."

  • Direct mail "involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations."

  • Mail generated "more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater 'internalization' of the ads"

Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service® Office of Inspector General (OIG) partnered with Temple University for a neuroscience study where they measured the effectiveness of postcards and emails in achieving nine advertising goals. Postcards were the clear winner overall.

Data Source: Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response, USPS® OIG, Table 2.

Email won in focusing a reader's attention, but direct mail won in five categories--including memory. They tied in the other three.

Postcards outperformed emails for engagement time, emotional reaction, building a subconscious desire, valuation, and memory.

So, if you want to have a lasting, memorable impact on your prospects or customers, direct mail is the way to go.

6. Limitless Creativity Allows You to Engage Your Audience's Senses in Unique Ways

When it comes to creativity in direct mail, the sky is the limit.

Multiple formats abound in direct marketing. From regular postcards to extra-large or thick postcards, from large letters to 3D formats, your choices are virtually endless.

The package and your message within the mail piece can do more than simply catch your recipient's attention. It can capture their imagination and engage multiple senses in more meaningful and unique ways. And since it's tangible, it often sticks around the home or office. 

. . .the mail piece can do more than simply catch your recipient’s attention. It can capture their imagination. . .

A creative mail piece from laundry service, LavOnline, went beyond pretty pictures. It got the recipient actively involved in the mail piece.

The small package unfolds to transform into a t-shirt target and reveals a toy tomato. The recipient throws this tomato at the target and watches it "splat," then reform into its original shape. The target appears to be a stained t-shirt where the stain is removed before your eyes.

You can check out the video here.

Compelling emails, gifs, video, and interactive infographics are all great. You can use them all. But none of those can match the level of engagement that you can create with a direct mail piece like this one.

7. You Can Focus on Likely Buyers by Using Predictive Modeling

Another reason why direct mail helps you win customers is it allows you can focus solely on people most likely to buy from you. We're talking about more than simple selection criteria based on your ideal customer profile, though.

When you use predictive modeling for your direct mail campaigns, you can improve your results significantly. 


Because instead of an educated guess at who you should mail to, you use a scientific approach to identify the attributes that are predictive indicators that someone is likely to buy from you based on your current customers or respondents from a previous mailing.

Then, these attributes, or variables, are not simply used as selection criteria. Rather, they each have their own level of importance, or weight, within an algorithm. Some get combined with another attribute to form a new attribute and they together have their own weight.

Predictive marketing is emerging as the best strategy to embrace data analytics to guide decisions and increase the visibility of markets.
— 2015 Forbes Insights Study

The resulting algorithm is then used to score each individual. From there, you can focus on only the best opportunities and ignore those individuals unlikely to become customers.

That's predictive precision.

According to a Forbes Insights study, “Predictive marketing is emerging as the best strategy to embrace data analytics to guide decisions and increase the visibility of markets.”

In the study, executives were asked to name the top benefits of predictive marketing. 46% stated it was to identify better market opportunities. 

So, when you incorporate predictive modeling, you can focus your direct mail program better, boost response rate, and improve ROI.

8. It Allows You to Reach All Age Groups

Direct mail also allows you to reach all age groups. Unlike social media, direct mail is not limited to the young.

The vast majority of seniors do not use social media.

According to the Pew Research Center, only around 1/3 of seniors use social media. In fact, only around 2/3 even have internet. 

So how do you get to the older demographic?

You use direct mail. 

According to a MarketingCharts study, direct mail was found to be the top purchase influencer among Baby Boomers. It even beat out recommendations from friends and family.

And remember:

Many people ignore much of their inbox, but almost everyone checks their mail daily. In fact, 41% of people look forward to checking the mail each day.

As digital marketer Neil Patel has said, "If you’re trying to reach all demographics, or at least a larger portion of people, direct mail is the solution." 

9. You Can Combine Direct Mail with Digital for a Powerful Multichannel Effect

And finally, for the ninth point, direct mail combined with digital makes for a powerful combination. One common approach is to combine direct mail and email marketing.

For example, you can send your audience an email introducing your offer, then send a mail piece that more thoroughly explains your offer and long format, then follow-up again with an email. 

You can also combine direct mail with digital display where you continuously display an ad over the course of several weeks while sending one or two mail pieces during that same period. 

How effective is this?

According to a Canadian study, brand recall was over 40% higher when direct mail followed email. Additionally, arousal was 26% higher when direct mail followed digital display.

Undoubtedly, direct mail helps improve the effectiveness of digital marketing. Combine them to get more impressions and increase the chance of acquiring a new customer.


So it all adds up to this:

Direct Mail works and it helps you win customers. 

Whether you look at the incredible response rates or the trust factor, the targeting or the persuasiveness, direct mail is an effective way to gain more customers.

In fact, the power and effectiveness of direct mail is undeniable. That's why some digital marketing power players now write about direct mail and even advocate for it.

In other words, you should add direct mail to your marketing mix if you haven't already because it will help you win more customers as outlined in the nine reasons above.

Now make it happen.


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