The Evidence That Direct Mail Marketing Works

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 18 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

Even in the midst of millions of businesses investing in digital marketing and paperless strategies, direct mail still occupies an important niche of the business word. If anyone needs evidence, they need look no further than a direct mail mainstay that is over a century old and still kicking: the catalog.

Catalogs as a Modern Day Direct Mail Success Story

Printing and mailing catalogs is more expensive than crafting an email and hitting “send.” Yet, thousands of the biggest brands have held on to their catalog mailing campaigns. The reason? Mailing catalogs works.

“It’s still a very, very important part of our marketing mix,” says Williams-Sonoma chief marketing officer Pat Connolly. While many customers can simply learn about products online, a catalog holds a unique power of expanding their horizons. Connolly claims that customers often “look through it to get ideas and inspiration. And if we do a good job, they get ideas for things they didn’t even know they wanted before they got there.”

Some brands report a surge in item sales simply because there was a great full-spread photo of an item or outfit on one of the pages. Upscale clothing line Bonobo once saw an increase in the ordering of two items at once after running a full-body shot of a model wearing both the jeans and the shirt.

This potential for direct mail to capture the attention and imagination of recipients has caused the popularity of catalogs to remain. In 2013, there was actually an uptick in the quantity of catalogs mailed. Recipients are more apt to sit down and browse the catalog as a pastime than they are to actively seek out a brand website. “We have them out on our coffee table,” says one recipient. “The cutest ones go in the living room.”

Even brands like IKEA, known for aggressively cutting costs like selling unassembled furniture, designing it with the flat box first in mind and printing instructions without words, still invest in a catalog every year. Evidently, the tactile sensation of holding the piece of paper in your hands and turning the page helps get sales better than most electronic strategies.

IKEA even released a cheeky commercial mocking companies like Apple for overthinking something that should be simple. While IKEA understands that customers can learn and research products they want on their website, the catalog helps kick start their desire to buy.

Using This Strategy for Your Direct Mail Marketing

A catalog is a great piece of direct mail marketing because it is colorful, beautiful and can come in a package-sized envelope that begs to be opened. Some catalog printers even include stickers or fun extras to encourage more customers to look at the catalog longer.

You can use these ideas to help get your own effective direct mail campaign off the ground. Realize the power for physical mail to invoke a sense of ownership or curiosity. Potential leads may barely read the first line of your e-mail before hitting “delete” or your banner ad before scrolling past.

With a piece of mail, you have not only given them something real, you also have their attention for that one crucial moment. Make it count by having your piece of direct mail be as intriguing as possible. Custom printing allows you to decorate your envelope or speak to a wonderful offer inside in a way that entices.

Giving people something nice like a well-printed catalog also feels more like a favor than a marketing tactic. A beautiful custom printed envelope on the outside just feels like wrapping on the present. So visit Letter Jacket today and take a cue from people who understand the power that direct mail still has.

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