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10 Pros and Cons of Direct Mail

Direct mail is one of the traditional marketing efforts that still provides businesses with a certain level of success. A business creates a mailer, choose a zip code to target, and then mails out the marketing materials so that prospects open up their mailbox and have advertising exposure. Not only does this increase brand recognition, but it can also help a business test the effectiveness of an idea to a specific geographic location.

It also means that a direct mail campaign is dependent on having prospects open up their mailbox and look at the mailer. For many households, junk mail is just background noise and it is instantly recycled without giving it a second though. Before designing your own direct mail campaign, here are some other pros and cons of direct mail to consider.

The Pros of Direct Mail

1. You get an advertising message out to multiple people at once.
Not even radio or television advertising can actually guarantee that you’ll be able to put your marketing materials to every household in a community. Direct mail can be put into every mailbox in a zip code. A simple post card mailer can even be designed in-house for a small cost and with bulk mail rates, it is only costs pennies more to ship those mailers out. The value of direct mail cannot be overstated.

2. It provides an opportunity to present a real value proposition.
Prospects become customers because they are intrigued by the value proposition that is being offered. How can a direct mailer provide value? By offering coupons, specific discount codes, or other additional benefits that other customers won’t receive if they make the same transaction that the mailer is offering. Many households are working hard to save money today and a $10 coupon on your mailer is difficult to ignore.

3. You don’t have to do any of the work.
Outsourcing your direct mail marketing is remarkably effective. From start to finish, you can be hands-off on this type of campaign. The postal service delivers your final product and the customers just come to you. This makes direct mail an easy way to enhance other marketing efforts or test out new ideas or products to specific areas within your community. There are no ongoing costs. Once the mailer is delivered, the expense phase of the marketing campaign is done.

4. It allows new households to become aware of who you are and what you do.
You can do more than just target a specific zip code when running a direct mail campaign. You can also target new households that have moved to the area within a specified amount of time, say 6 months or less. You can also target homes that have certain values in some areas, properties in specific conditions [like a property that is 90 days past due on mortgage payments], or even specific neighborhoods. This allows you to test responses within various demographics so you can get a better picture of the impact your brand has.

5. It is highly scalable.
Direct mail campaigns can be as small or as big as you want them to be. If you find success within one targeted demographic, then you can easily expand to an entire zip code. You can mail out materials to multiple zip codes at once. If your budget is large enough, you can even mass market your materials to every address in the country if you want. There aren’t many other marketing opportunities that allow you to put tangible materials into the hands of a prospect in such a scalable way.

The Cons of Direct Mail

1. There is no guarantee of success.
It is entirely possible for an organization to target a neighborhood or population demographic within a zip code and receive no responses to the offer at all. There is no guarantee that a direct mail marketing campaign will result in conversions. The same could be said of other campaigns as well, but not every marketing effort has the costs of designing, printing, and mailing marketing materials either. Even if people see a brand’s value proposition, it could be rejected by everyone and result in zero incoming revenues.

2. It can have a negative impact on your brand reputation.
Direct mail that is too frequent can be something that actually negatively impact your brand’s reputation within a community. A business can be seen as wasting resources. It can just be downright annoying for some households to receive mailers every week, even if there is a value proposition on them. It is important to balance the benefits of new potential customers with the negative reactions that some households are guaranteed to have to get the timing right.

3. Mailers could be sent to inactive addresses.
There are post office boxes and other addresses that are essentially inactive. No one lives there because the property is abandoned or maybe someone doesn’t pick up the mail at that location except for one day per month. Some marketing campaigns can exclude known addresses like this, but there are always variables involved that means a business can be spending money to market to someone that doesn’t exist.

4. There is a lot of competition when it comes to direct mail.
Local businesses have been using direct mail as a marketing effort for generations. Think about your own mail for a minute. There’s a good chance that you receive direct mail marketing from your grocery store, other retail outlets, and a car dealership or two at least once per week. Adding another direct mailer into that mix of materials that is already received may mean your value proposition is never read because the materials are just shredded or thrown in the recycling bin.

5. It can be difficult to communicate the exact value proposition.
Your text must have the proper tone in order to convey the precise value proposition you’re offering to customers. Think about how many people get offended by Facebook or Twitter posts because the intent of the words is taken out of context. That also happens with direct mail marketing campaigns. You can do everything right and even get people to look at your offer, but if they take that offer in a way that is unintended, it can damage a brand’s reputation because there’s no chance to repair the relationship like there is with online marketing efforts.

The pros and cons of direct mail will generally help local businesses be able to increase their brand awareness. With the right value proposition, it is possible to expand business opportunities within certain demographics, but as with any marketing effort, there are certain risks that must be balanced as well. These key points can help any brand do just that.

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