Direct mail works. It’s always worked.


The latest Data & Marketing Association (DMA) report mentions up to a nine percent response rate depending on to whom you are mailing. Digital advertising can’t even touch it. It’s rare for a digital campaign to get even one percent engagement with the best offers. So then why isn’t everyone doing it? Simple answer: It’s expensive. Postage and printing aren’t cheap. But that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. Even the biggest and most successful marketers have had to eat crow and learn this the hard way.


Case in point was in May of 2019. In a conference call with stockholders, the CEO of Nordstrom, Erik Nordstrom himself, blamed his disappointing earnings on dropping their direct mail campaign of their coupons. And you know what their reason for stopping was? To get their coupon program online “to reach customers faster.” My guess is the real reason was to save some money! To say the least, they are restarting the coupon mailings.


Nordstrom is not the first and they won’t be the last, but the company is definitely one of the few to admit that mistake. Obviously, direct mail alone without a target or plan is not guaranteed to be a success. Nordstrom’s campaign was a long-standing, well thought out campaign approaching their best customers with loyalty coupons. Those coupons brought customers back to the stores where they spent the coupon’s value and then some and kept them coming back.


So why do you think giving the same offer digitally didn’t work? The call to action is the same. The target audience was the same. Yet, the customers didn’t come in. According to Nordstrom, they felt the use would be quicker and customers would come in sooner due to not having the delay of printing and mailing. And yet, there was obviously a drop in sales, not an uptick! Why?


The reason is the tactile nature of the printed piece. You get an email of a coupon online or a link to a coupon online, and it’s easily forgotten or perhaps never printed. As the old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Your printer is out of ink, paper, or just doesn’t work, which is all too common with home printers. It’s simply not the same experience. You get that big printed coupon in the mail that says $20 off, and you’re saving that thing for your next retail trip! You put it in your purse or wallet and see it all the time, and you make it a point to go to that store.


So, the printed piece has to be relevant and possess a call to action that is going to motivate and almost sear itself into the mind of the receiver (especially if it’s just a one-time offer). Those of us selling print or mail need to be the experts on this. Educate our clients on what works and what doesn’t. Teach them how you can enhance you print offer with an omni channel synergistic and simultaneous digital campaign to get the best of both worlds and ensure success.


Remember, this is not a print vs digital world. It’s a print and digital together world that brings the best results, without question!


Brad Kugler is CEO, DirectMail2.0.

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