A fresh look at Direct Mail

I have completely lost my sense of coherency in regard to what I thought I knew about direct marketing.  Only thirty days ago, I would head out to the mailbox, and while on autopilot, rifle through my daily mail. While folks in the direct mail marketing industry call this the “mail moment,” I still think this describes an activity more consciously engaged than I practiced.  After shredding my monthly airline miles credit card offers, the wife and I would work our way through the rest of the mail.  Off the top of my head, we’ve found several excellent restaurants, our furnace inspection and repair company, and after judging the condition of my lawn this fall, our lawn care service for 2010.  I’ve been convinced to visit my favorite technology and hardware discount stores when I’ve not needed anything, and taken advantage of a myriad of other coupons and offers.  However, if you had asked me a month ago, I would have said something to the effect of, “I don’t really look at my junk mail.”  Evidently, I now realize this has never been true and I’ve learned not to call it junk mail.

That change happened after I joined the Lorton Data team in September.  In a month, I have received an intensive crash course in direct marketing and contact data management.  This has been enlightening after leaving an industry focused on brand awareness, long PowerPoint presentations, and complex rebate plans to drive sales.  Most importantly, I’ve also learned that direct mail is not dead.  While there has been a decline in the total annual volume of direct mail, a unique space has opened up for well thought out direct mail campaigns.  In other words, a good direct mail piece can get more attention with less mailbox competition.

As part of my training, I’ve been encouraged to read as much industry and marketing news as I can handle.  I came across an interesting discussion from January of this year: “A Message for the Post Office: Direct Mail Is Dying.” I call this a discussion rather than a post since the most engaging part is the commentary.  HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Team argues their marketing competition, direct mail, is dead and urges the USPS to get out of the direct mail business.  What is really interesting is the well thought out discussion in the comments section.  There are a lot of companies engaged in social media and internet marketing that aren’t ready to kick direct mail out of their marketing tool box.  Each aspect of marketing to your customers should be considered when planning a campaign.

As I continue to gain experience and knowledge of the direct marketing industry, I hope to provide actual insight on how to improve direct marketing experiences.  Or, at minimum, provide some entertainment as I struggle to develop coherence in a new-to-me method of marketing.

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