Many purveyors of social media have declared that traditional marketing is dead. In their minds, direct mail was the first casualty in the battle between viral and old school sales tools. Their rally cry “Stop marketing and start engaging” is gaining traction as companies seek new ways to generate revenue without increasing costs.
The idea of going viral in a social media world is appealing. It’s easy to imagine your company racking up page views on YouTube, tweets on twitter, and posts in blogs around the world. It is only a matter of time before mainstream media picks it up and your shopping carts and cash registers are filled.
I can imagine winning the lottery, too.
While stories of viral marketing entertain, most don’t offer tangible results. You know where I’m going, but I’m going to say it anyway. The purpose of business is to serve customers at a profit. Borrowing a phrase from our viral past, “where’s the beef?”
Social media is a great add-on to a solid marketing plan. When it is done well, companies are humanized and approachable. There isn’t a down side if the plan includes maintaining or enhancing the brand while continuing traditional marketing.
Unlike social media, direct mail is tangible.
You can hold it in your hand; you don’t have to store it in your head. Catalogs can be marked, post-noted, and shared. They have a longer life than a video, tweet, or post.
Direct mail can be personal and convenient.
Admittedly, many companies blast out mailing with little thought to the people opening the mailbox. They target a demographic and send thousands of pieces to uninterested parties. They can do this because it is profitable. A 1-3% response rate usually exceeds the breakeven point. (BTW, for catalogs selling “collectibles”, living in a rural area doesn’t make me interested in knick-knack dust collectors. You can stop mailing me your books.)
Sorry, I needed to get that off my mind. Some companies do it differently. They use direct mail to engage their customers. American Girl is one that immediately comes to mind. My 10-year-old daughter watches the mail daily looking for anything American Girl. She can recognize their catalog and magazine from 100 feet. Their website is bookmarked under her computer login and their books are dog-eared from multiple readings. How can any parent say no to a company that inspires a child to read historical fiction?
Direct mail is measurable from concept to completion.
How many catalogs or postcards does it take to breakeven? When will the return from the mailing peak? How long is the tail? (Some catalogs generate orders years after they were mailed.) Almost any question you have about a mailing and its return on investment can be answered with analysis.
Social media is exciting, fun, intriguing, and should be included in your marketing plan. It is not a replacement for direct mail. Beware anyone who tells you differently.