The Internet and Direct Mail: Buddies for Life

You never meant for your eye to wander. But now, looking back, was there really any way you could have avoided noticing when this sexy newcomer batted an eye? Suddenly, the one who’d been faithful to you for all those years began to look old. You found yourself thinking about moving on…

Don’t do anything rash. Jilting direct mail for the Internet is both unnecessary and unwise. A solid interactive marketing strategy has plenty of room — and plenty of need — for both. Combined, direct mail and the Internet make for unbeatable impact. Go with either one alone, and you risk missing out.

True, the Internet has qualities sure to touch a jealous nerve in the most self-secure direct mail package. It’s fast. It’s cheap. It’s targeted. Interaction is instant. It lets you create a message with text, sound, moving picture, or any combination. You can revise on the fly. Testing multiple variables is a breeze. And it’s so much fun to work with, the Internet can make you feel as if you’re playing, not working.

Yet the Internet doesn’t reach everyone. Not every household has a computer. Not everyone who owns a cell phone uses it for Internet access. And not everyone with Internet access conducts transactions online.

Moreover, reaching people who are online is getting harder. SPAM and junk filters consign emails to oblivion unseen and unopened. Banners work, but only to a point; since people log on looking for content, banners are easily ignored. Pop-ups, pop-unders and commercials that precede content work, too, but they also annoy.
Nor does the Internet command undivided attention. There’s no assurance that users are actually watching your commercial while awaiting requested content. They may use that time to Tweet, talk on the phone, leaf through a magazine, groom, strum a guitar, what-have-you.

Enter direct mail. Everyone has a mailbox, so, unlike the Internet, the mail reaches everyone. And people look forward to receiving it. Surveys show that, even in today’s online world, people rate “getting the mail” as a favorite on their list of daily activities.
Many people who are leery of responding online are quite comfortable using the mail. And those who choose to respond in person or by phone needn’t go to the trouble of printing a coupon, because your mail piece is already in-hand.

Since mailboxes don’t have SPAM and junk filters, every person on your mailing list must at least look at your mail. That means that, if you’re good at writing headlines, your direct mail will always convey a message.

Since people collect their mail only when they’re in the mood for it, unlike online messages, direct mail doesn’t get in the way of other things they were intent on doing. Moreover, when direct mail is well-targeted and well-executed, recipients willingly set distractions aside to read. Since that’s not something they can do while texting or playing a guitar, direct mail gives you their full attention.
But earlier I said that you needn’t choose between direct mail and the Internet, and I meant it. So let’s talk about how well the Internet and direct mail work together.

Combining direct mail with the Internet improves your reach. People you may miss with one you may pick up with the other. But on a deeper level, you can use one to enhance the power of the other. Many marketers have dramatically increased direct mail results by sending an advance email advising people to watch their mail for a special offer. The opposite works, too. Direct mail is a powerful way to direct people to a website they might otherwise never have found.

When direct mail sends people to the Internet, or the Internet turns their attention to their direct mail, you create involvement. If you can get someone involved enough to take a small step — like checking their mailbox because an email told them to — you make it easier for them to take a larger step, such as inquiring or placing an order. It’s all about overcoming psychological inertia.

Torn between the Internet and direct mail? Don’t be. This is one of those rare instances in which you really can have your cake and eat it too. Don’t waste it.

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