Direct Mail Marketing: Is It Dead?

Susan-Says imprinted penThe other day I got a big envelope in the mail. I knew it was a direct mail marketing piece of some kind. Although I usually toss these immediately, I opened this one up.

Inside was a sample of a 39-cent pen with my company’s name imprinted on the side. It’s not exactly the way I promote my business, but it did start me thinking about the state of direct mail marketing. Can it still be useful for small businesses or would you be better off attaching your business cards to the legs of passenger pigeons?

Out of curiosity I looked at the Twitter frequency of two hashtags. #Emailmarketing is used about 90 times an hour. When I checked #directmailmarketing, I found that it hadn’t been used in five days. However, given that hashtags and email both live in the electronic, virtual world, I don’t think it was a totally fair comparison.

In fact, before you think that I’m totally negative on direct mail, I need to point out that tech giants like Google and Apple often make excellent use of direct mail pieces. If you have a Google AdWords account and haven’t run a campaign in a while, there’s a good chance you’ve received some snail mail from Google. Usually it’s a succinctly written postcard prompting you to contact them for advice.

Go local or go home

In recent years, I’ve published many articles on the importance of local marketing initiatives. Further, Internet marketing has increasingly targeted the local market. If your business depends on local customers, have you tried gathering all their email addresses? There’s really no good way to do an email blast to everyone living within five miles of your business, is there?

However, you can easily target a direct market mailing to the geographic area that best represents your customer base. A well designed direct mail piece to your local area can be an excellent tool for your marketing efforts.

If you want to expand your business, or announce new products of services, a good brochure or postcard can be very effective.


I believe that the company that sent me the imprinted pen missed the target a bit. However, some premiums sent via direct mail can do a great job helping you brand your business in your local area.

I would bet that more than half of the people who read this have one or more imprinted magnets for local businesses holding up a drawing or some other important notice on their refrigerator doors right now. (I certainly do.) We see those business names and logos every day for years.

Apple, by the way, has used direct mail campaigns to distribute slick posters that feature its products. These posters are so well done that they are often plastered to the walls of tech writers and other industry influencers.

Finally, as much as I believe in smart email marketing campaigns, so far I haven’t received any email enclosures that will stick to my refrigerator or are beautiful enough to post on the office bulletin board.

Direct mail marketing may still be very useful for your business. Give it some thought.

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