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Blog posts tagged direct mail

Is print dead?

February 05, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Is print dead?/letterbox with a red door background{{}}With the popularity of online advertising and email as marketing channels, the low cost of delivery has made the allure of e-media powerful. But it’s leaving many marketers asking, is print dead?

We get a staggering amount of digital communication each day, and every message is easily replaced by the next tweet, email or status update.

Print, however, is tangible, high-impact and high-ROI — and it stands out in today’s increasingly cluttered online universe. Direct mail provides a tactile response that stimulates the senses, creating more positive brand associations and making the communication more memorable. And it’s impervious to spam filters.

But it’s not about abandoning one for the other. By merging the digital world with the world of print, the success of both increases.   

Print marketing: the secrets of success

In order to get the best return on your investment, your print marketing should contain these three elements: 

  1. A targeted message: You need to know your audience. It won’t matter how well-designed or creative the direct mail piece is if the message isn’t targeted and appropriate for the audience. Using the customer’s name to customise each piece of mail is a good start, but don’t stop there. Use search and purchase history to customise images based on the individual’s interests, gender, occupation, and point in the buying cycle. For instance, if you know a person has already made a purchase, follow up with a personalised piece that directly refers to her recent behavior.
  2. A compelling message: You need to understand your customer’s needs and present a compelling solution and reason to act. How does your message help your customer or prospect? It needs to be extremely clear why and how she should contact you. This correlates with the personalised message we just talked about. In any follow-up correspondence thanking the customer for her purchase, you could include an offer to refer a friend, a reminder to purchase a complementary item or flag up an upcoming sale.
  3. An interesting or interactive format: Your print piece needs to engage the customer with images and messaging that demand interaction. This can be achieved through innovative folds, personalised messaging and attention-getting post-press finishing, such as foil stamping, die cutting, embossing, UV coating, metallic inks, scratch-off and dimensional mailers. For instance, Kohl’s has had success by sending postcards with scratch-off coupons and Staples distributed a back-to-school piece that featured a die cut stapler that doubled as a coupon.

The companies that are the most successful at integrating print into their marketing mixes are masters at crafting a cohesive campaign across all marketing channels with personal, relevant materials.

Andrew Field is the ceo of

A little learning is a wonderful thing

July 19, 2010 by Drayton Bird

I am amazed how little people study in this business. It’s very hard to pick it up as you go along. More to the point, why spend years learning by painful trial and error when you can get guidance over a weekend from someone ten times as smart as you, who spent years finding out what works?

So if you agree that a little learning is better than no learning at all, here are some of the books I have learned from most. They are not all about marketing or advertising. If you learn about nothing but these two subjects your vision will be very narrow, your development as a human being stunted and you’ll have nothing to think about when you get old.

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. This convinced me that you probably can’t actually know anything, but you can explain even the most complex thoughts clearly if you learn to write well. It also helped me think a little more logically – though not enough.

How To Write A Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab. He was a partner in one of the first specialist mail order agencies. Well-written, practical – with a list of 100 good headlines that I’ve often used as a starting point when looking for ideas. You will find many of them copied or adapted by internet marketers.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. Almost as amusing as Confessions of an Advertising Man by the same author, but more informative. If you work in this business and haven’t read it, you’re really making things hard for yourself. It reminds me of something important every time I pick it up.

My Years With General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan. His approach is no longer in fashion, but few people had more impact not just on business but on the 20th century than the man who built up General Motors.

How To Make Your Advertising Make Money by John Caples. Caples explains better than anyone what works, what doesn’t, and why, because he conducted more tests than anyone. Ogilvy once told me he learned everything he knew from Caples.

The 100 Best Advertisements edited by Julian Watkins. We learn best from example. This is the best selection I know – many described by their creators.

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. Judges who should know – like Ogilvy – consider him the most able advertising man ever. In his day that encompassed marketing. This very short book, written in 1924, is near-perfect. You can download it free at

There are quite a few more books I like, listed at, but that little lot will keep you busy. More to the point, they’ll give you a priceless competitive edge.

Drayton Bird is a renowned direct marketing teacher, speaker and author. Find out more about him on his profile. 

Tell us about the books that have inspired, informed and entertained you.

A load of old junk?

April 27, 2010 by Clare Bullock

The front pages, the billboards, the TV debates… as the election race heats up, it’s become almost impossible to avoid thinking about where your vote might go on 6 May. As in all the best marketing campaigns, each political party is employing different tactics over a broad range of media to get their message to the electorate. Can we learn anything from the way the politicians and the party marketing machines are doing things?

The major voter engagement tactic being used by one of the parties in my area is direct mail. Unfortunately for them, it's not really engaging this voter. Every evening I come home and sort through the post piled up on the table in the entrance hall. Every evening I feel a glimmer of excitement at discovering several envelopes addressed to me.

With the post under one arm and fumbling with my keys, I manage to get the door of the flat unlocked, race into the kitchen, tear open the envelopes, and… it’s yet another letter from this particular candidate. And it's probably about potholes or ‘unacceptable’ engineering work on the Northern Line. Some evenings I'm even lucky enough to have a ‘personal’ letter from the head of the party. What’s personal about a mass mailing that happens to bear my name?

The mysterious thing is that none of the other parties locally appear to be using direct mail – or if they have, their leaflets and letters have been swallowed by the vast amount sent by their opponent. One of the parties has encouraged local businesses to put up posters, while the other main party is barely to be seen. Apparently the seat is a critical one, which could explain the sheer quantity of letters I've received, but it would be interesting to see all three major parties using a wider range of methods to get voters' attention.

Why? Because the direct mail campaign just isn’t working. There’s too much of it, for a start, so any pertinent message is crowded out by so many other ‘important’ things I need to know. And it’s badly designed, badly written and just…annoying. The sheer volume of wasted paper also makes me wonder whether this party has any kind of environmental policy – something that could, actually, influence my vote.

The biggest shame, though, is that when used effectively, direct mail is a powerful marketing tool. I was recently handed an excellent flyer for a new café that has opened nearby. It was eye-catching, well designed and briefly identified what it offers that none of the other local cafes do, such as a quiz night and acoustic music at the weekends. The people handing out the flyers were friendly and were only planning to be campaigning like this for two days – they were there simply to raise awareness about the recently-opened café, not to remind passers-by about it every day for the next six weeks. Compared to the political leaflets, which are repetitive, lengthy and visually unappealing, the café flyer wins hands-down.

When I get home this evening, no doubt one of the first things I'll do is put some more of the leaflets in the recycling. Once a week would have been interesting and informative. Letters once, or even twice, a day is getting tiresome.

Direct marketing matters

April 08, 2009 by Georgina Harris

Cheap and effective, direct marketing is the art of contacting your customers in person with the right message at the right time. Ideal for small businesses, because it can produce a lot of bang for your buck, the best-known types include:

direct mail

as well as phone and SMS marketing.

With briefs, factsheets and expert contributions covering questions large and small, the Marketing Donut shows you how to plan and run your own direct marketing campaign.

And, crucially our experts show you what to do after your campaign – you will learn how to measure your results so you can improve your sales, spend your limited funds only on what works, and build up a mailing list that is marketing gold dust.

Our experts include the legendary Drayton Bird, the direct marketing revolutionary who is lauded by everyone from the CIM and IDM to Campaign, and a team of hand-picked experts from Royal Mail including Tim Lees and Andrew Miller. As well as getting insider expertise on how to run your firm’s own direct marketing, you’ll also find some of the sharpest (and occasionally, funniest) writing on the web. Site launches on 20 April.

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