Time to Modernize Direct Mail to Boost Multi-Channel Marketing Success

Survey Says: Modernize Direct Mail to Boost Marketing Success — Offline and Online

PFL LogoIn a world where Internet marvels are commonplace and “digital fatigue” is soaring, brands struggle to differentiate their marketing. To break through the noise, new research suggests that the technique with unique potential to boost ROI across channels isn’t the latest trending social network, but a tried-and-true workhorse: direct mail.

Sending postcards, letters, and even swag — branded promotional merchandise — to build deeper brand connections is nothing new. But now direct mail has new potential, thanks to modern capabilities for targeting and integration with multichannel campaigns.

Indeed, more than half of the 600 marketers surveyed recently by PFL and Demand Metric include direct mail in their multichannel campaigns, and 80% of them report that direct mail improves multichannel performance. But success isn’t merely a matter of sending mass postcard mailings; the degree of integration with other channels is a crucial factor.

When direct mail is tightly integrated into the channel mix and campaign technology, response rates are 41% higher than mailings sent without the benefit of integration — and ROI jumps 62.7%, the survey found. Overall, more than 8 in 10 marketers in the survey reported good or very good ROI from direct mail that’s highly integrated into multi-channel campaigns.

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Direct mail has the potential to make such a dramatic impact because:

Tactile experiences resonate deeply

Buyers are inundated with online marketing, to the tune of around 10,000 advertising messages per day, according to the American Marketing Association. As a result, tactics for blocking or tuning out the noise are on the rise: B2B email click-through rates are an abysmal 3.2%,  and one in four Internet users (70 million people) use ad blocking technology.

By contrast, objects that can be touched and held trigger emotional processing and leave a much deeper footprint in the brain than digital messages viewed on a screen, research from Millward Brown found. A physical item is more likely to be remembered, have a positive brand association and ultimately aid motivation.

This resonance helps explain why dimensional mail — pieces that are not flat and are often sent in boxes or tubes —  scored high for effectiveness in the PFL/Demand Metric survey, with 89% of marketers saying such mailings represent brands very well. By contrast, postcards are ranked as effective by 60% of marketers, 32% lower than dimensional mail. The potential to differentiate with dimensional mail is significant, as just 4 in 10 marketers use it, whereas more than half of marketers report sending postcards and letters.

Personalization stands out

Buyers now expect companies to offer content and products relevant to their needs, with 9 in 10 saying they’re more likely to patronize brands that recognize and remember them, according to Accenture. Aptly targeted direct mail is an opportunity to demonstrate relevance; when direct mail is personalized and tightly integrated into the channel mix, 89% of marketers in the PFL/Demand Metric survey reported a moderate to major improvement to response rates.

Yet the survey data shows a majority of marketers are not fully integrating direct mail efforts into marketing campaign technology. Only 16% of respondents have completely integrated direct mail so that sending capabilities and results tracking are managed through core marketing technology. When it comes to personalization, only 4 in 10 marketers are significantly personalizing direct mail — and just 12% report delivering “complete” personalization.

Invoca, a provider of AI-powered call tracking and analytics, seized on the differentiation potential of personalized, integrated direct mail to drive significant results. Using PFL, Invoca sent a branded package to top prospects with personalized marketing information and a gift card; each time a package was delivered, the Invoca sales rep assigned to the account would receive a notification and could follow up in a timely manner. Response rates jumped, resulting in a staggering 15x ROI from the campaign.

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Mail is effective with decision makers

Thanks to its tactile nature and potential for personal relevance, direct mail is effective when it comes to influencing key stakeholders. Nearly 8 in 10 marketers in the survey ranked integrated, branded, personalized direct mail as the second most effective channel for reaching their target audiences, behind only face-to-face events. And for financial executives or purchasing agents, direct mail was named the top marketing channel bar none.

By contrast, social media placed last on the list of channels for effectiveness overall; just 6% of marketers said it influences C-suite decision makers, and 12% said it’s effective with finance and purchasing executives.

Direct mail can also spur conversation about companies within entire prospect teams. A SaaS-based sales application company sent footballs autographed by Steve Young to executives – and then sent smaller replica footballs to the broader purchasing team. The company was able to successfully secure meetings and obtain an overall 15x ROI after the campaign.


Modern direct mail is more than a postcard drop. With a targeted approach and thoughtful selection of mailing materials, integrated with other online and offline messaging, tactile marketing can help make brands memorable and produce significant results.

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