I went to a seminar last week on how to market to your customers. Besides tips on messaging, the speaker stated definitively how to connect with your prospects: exclusively through email and social media. The presenter pronounced that these are the only two media that are effective for reaching today’s busy CEO (or whomever you are targeting in your marketing efforts).
The problem is that when marketing gurus become dogmatic, they are setting themselves up to be proven wrong, and based on our clients’ experience, as well as that of my own company, the presenter’s opinion is untrue.
Over the past few years I’ve questioned if my openness to using traditional print for marketing today is generational. Is it because I started in advertising nearly 30 years ago, before the Internet was used by anyone except a few universities and government agencies?
To clarify, I am not a tech-curmudgeon. I fully embrace all the digital and analytical tools available to connect people with brands. Currently my company has over 600 followers on Facebook, and we are active in over a dozen social media sites, some of which you’d recognize and others that are unique to the advertising industry.
My point is this: as advertising professionals, let’s keep our minds and options open to as broad a toolbox as possible because people access information in different ways. Here are a few facts that help present the case that direct mail is still alive (from a 2009 survey by the US Postal Service):
• Over 14 billion dollars were invested in direct mail in 2009, followed by an increase in 2010.
• 79% of direct mail recipients either read or scan their mail, which is higher than for electronic mail.
• Only 19% of retail catalogs are discarded without being read.
• 2.3: the number of weekly advertising mail pieces that affluent households (those earning $150,000-plus) intend to respond to.
Other factoids are also compelling; for instance, the belief that going interactive is the greener solution. In order for our digital world to exist, we consume huge amounts of electricity driven by power plants and massive data centers running 24/7, requiring the burning of enormous amounts of fossil fuels. And electronic consumption is increasing by roughly 24% per year. In contrast, paper producers are among the greenest industry in the world. Trees are renewable. Paper and forest industries plant about 1.5 million seedlings a day (much more than they harvest) and nearly all municipalities in the US have effective recycling programs.
Another myth is that young people aged 18 to 34 (an important demographic for advertisers) want all their information and transactions to occur online. Not so, says a recent Epsilon report. They found that 43% of the young people surveyed preferred receiving insurance information in the mail compared to 21% desiring digital delivery.
Still need convincing?
• A United States Postal Service press release points out that a market study by comScore shows that among visitors to retail websites, twice as many catalog recipients made a purchase as those who did not receive a print catalog—more than doubling the online conversion rate. A revenue increase of 163% resulted from a comparison of purchases and money spent by catalog recipients versus those who did not receive a catalog in the comScore study, and catalog recipients ordered 28% more items.
• Magazine ads? Who needs them? Well, that depends. One of our clients is in a specialized market with only several hundred prospective customers in the entire country. But all of the CEOs and managers of the companies they need to reach subscribe to a single trade publication. So the print ads we create appear prominently and regularly in the magazine—often with multiple ads in a single publication. This has been one of their major and most successful marketing media and we are happy to report that our client has not only weathered the recession during a time of rapid change within their industry, but has grown their market in the US as well as developed overseas sales (for which we have also created print ads).
• My own company walks the walk and talks the talk we advocate to our clients. Even though we are on the first page of Google for the keyword terms we have targeted, we continue a robust direct mail campaign. And our proof of success lies in the fact that our most predominant keywords remain our company’s name (with plenty of variations—hile, hile design, hile design ann arbor, dave hile, and even hill design), which indicates that people are responding to our direct mail appeal to visit our website. I know because I track the campaigns through Google Analytics and measure the increased traffic after each of our mailings.
Of course, websites, social media, digital marketing and search engine optimization are essential to growing your business and defining your brand, but let’s keep all our options open—which includes print promotions. Print creates an emotional connection with customers that digital doesn’t. Consumers hold it, view it and engage with it in a manner different from their online experiences.
Finally, since I receive over 100 emails a day, going to our mailbox to collect the mail has become a treat. As a matter of fact, I daily have to attempt to outsmart Lindsey, our Production Designer, since she also enjoys collecting the mail. And with the overall decrease in direct mail over the last several years, the print mail I receive actually gets my attention. Perhaps snail-mail is the NEW, “old” advertising medium!