In a column for Deliver Magazine titled “Power in the Mailbox” author Steve Cuno, told about a friend who received a personal note from the president of her bank, just to check up and make sure the bank was treating her well. Thanks (perhaps ironically) to e-mail and the Internet, direct mail may now be much more powerful than ever.
A number of unique factors work in direct mail’s favor. One is called “willing suspension of disbelief,” our ability to set aside reality and lose ourselves in a story. When a direct mail letter shows up in a personally addressed, stamped envelope, part of us wants to believe that someone took a moment to compose, print, address and post it, just for us. All the better if the letter calls us by name and bears a signature in fountain pen–evoking blue. A good writer can make an e-mail blast sound personal, but there is no electronic substitute for the look and feel of a signed letter in a stamped, addressed envelope.
Willing suspension of disbelief knows no demographic limitations. Had the friend mentioned above paused to analyze, she would easily have seen that the letter in her hand was direct mail. But — and this is the point — she chose not to pause and analyze.
Whether or not your direct mail includes an envelope or sales letter, it appears that the public would rather receive advertising mail in a mailbox than on a computer. Higher response rates provide one indicator. The near-overnight appearance of spam laws and filters provides another. No sooner had e-mail blasts arrived than the public demanded laws restricting them, servers blocking them, and junk filters dispatching them.
By contrast, laws governing physical mail are far less restrictive, despite more than 200 years of opportunity to enact them — and for good reason. While it remains disturbingly fashionable for legislators to tilt against direct mail windmills, Congress was quick to recognize spam as a problem and take immediate action.
Besides indicating a market preference, the absence of such controls offers a practical advantage. Everyone must look through their physical mail in order to decide what to read and what to chuck. Not so with e-mail. There, one click and your beautiful offer is gone forever.
People have always looked forward to getting their mail, and still do. Most people can tell you what time their mail arrives. Most bring it in daily and eagerly dig through it. They’re not looking for bills. They’re looking for letters — and, increasingly, relevant advertising mail.
This is why we and others find that intelligent, well-targeted direct mail continues to perform as well as, and often better than, ever. Your offer can be the one that people willingly open, read — and act upon.
E-mail and other online media are useful and powerful in their own right. We appreciate that you are reading this post online. But when planning a direct response media mix, it’s important to remember that there are some things that a mailbox can deliver that a monitor just can’t.