Conventional marketing knowledge seems to have forgotten all about direct mail — unless, that is, you look at the numbers. Direct mail CPL (cost per lead) still maintains the highest ratio out of any advertising forms because of the relatively low up-front investment and the favorably high response rate.
While direct mail may not get the trade publication coverage that social media or other flavor-of-the-month marketing channels receive, physical mail nonetheless gets work done behind the scenes. Direct mail’s stalwart place in our society has remained fixed since Benjamin Franklin served as the first U.S. Postmaster in 1775. In fact, the highest volume of U.S. mail handled in any year happened in 2006.
As far as marketing is concerned, direct mail remains a powerful channel that maintains a unique physical presence in our increasingly digital society. Digital campaigns that get drowned out in all the competing online noise grab attention and actual consumer responses in physical mail form. Existing offers get more attention, and marketing materials used elsewhere in out-of-home display or digital display find new life on slips of paper recipients can hold in their hand. Direct mail’s power is undeniable, unmistakable and a critical part of any serious marketing campaign.
E-mail May Be Virtual, But Has Real Costs
Those who balk at the supposed high printing costs of direct mail should see what is going on in the email marketing department sometime. Direct mail receives a low but favorable 4.4 percent response rate. By contrast, email has a miniscule 0.12 percent response rate, lower than many digital display “banner” ads.
The creativity of direct mail’s physical display format is relatively fixed, leaving printing and mailing costs as the main overhead. As opposed to email marketing, where a single campaign is comprised of dozens if not hundreds of different emails sent out over months, direct mail has a much longer shelf life. One campaign can take weeks of scheduled mailing to fulfill. Recipients may also respond even after “burying” their direct mail material and rediscovering it weeks later. These traits allow direct mail to have lower implementation, strategic planning and creative costs in the long run than other marketing channels.
Is direct mail effective?
Direct mail is surprisingly effective. Its CPL (cost per lead) still maintains the highest ratio out of any advertising forms because of the relatively low up-front investment and the favorably high response rate. In cross-channel and omnichannel marketing strategies, direct mail has retained a niche appeal as the only tangible channel among digital options.
Direct Mail CPL Is Favorably Low
So what do the numbers come out as in the wash for cost per lead?
- Direct Mail CPL = $51.40
- Email CPL = $55.24
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) CPL = $52.80
- Print Display Advertising CPL = $60.50
- Telemarketing CPL = $190.49
As you can see, the most favorable comparison to direct mail in terms of pure CPL are PPC campaigns. These campaigns often require more up-front management and back-end measurement, but real-time bidding costs for many industries means that PPC is effective at generating leads with low cost. At the same time, hundreds of PPC approaches will be used, whereas direct mail campaigns can use variable data printing to send out thousands of personalized messages using just a few creative approaches. E-mail’s higher CPL runs directly against conventional wisdom and shows that even virtual marketing products can have very real costs.
The best approach is typically to rely on all of these marketing channels to get your message heard so that each medium plays to its respective strength while repeating the value propositions seen in other formats.
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