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A Direct Message About 2018

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In the world of media and advertising, it's tempting to cry "Wolf." 

When televisions became popular, the cry was "Radio is dead." When video stores opened on every other corner, it was "Cable TV is dead." And when we all got electronic inboxes (and the countless emails that filled them every day), it was "Direct mail is dead."

Well, in the immortal words of Monty Python ... "Not dead yet."

Yes, as direct marketers we have more options than ever before. Especially in the digital space. But, good, old-fashioned postal mail is still a smart, cost-efficient and — best of all — effective choice.

As you start planning (or more likely, using) your 2018 marketing budget, here are some stats to keep in mind.

After all these years, direct mail still performs. According to the DMA's annual Fact Book, direct mail is not only strong, it's getting stronger!  The current household response rate is 5.1%. That's the kind of result that makes our clients happy. And, it's particularly encouraging when compared to direct marketing response rates for other media. Like a mere .6% for email, .6% for paid search, .4% for social media, and just .2% for online display ads.

And, before we discount direct mail as an old-person medium, take note that it generates an even greater rate of response with millennials. Among people aged 18-21, direct mail achieves a 12.4% response! (At B Direct, we have years of experience working with colleges on student recruitment. This is a solid case for using printed direct mail as well as email for that audience.)

Of course, size does matter — at least for direct mail.

Oversized envelopes are most effective, with a 6.6% response. But, postcards — a great low-cost, high-impact format we use for many clients — are fairly close behind at 5.7%. Letter-sized (#10, for example) envelopes come in at 4.3%. These are good benchmarks to keep in mind when you're weighing the cost and value of different creative.

And, response rates are only a piece of the story. Let's look at ROI. Median household return on investment for direct mail is 29%. Not. Too. Shabby.

So, how is this for a direct marketing resolution? Keep pushing the digital envelope, but don't forget the paper one.

Happy New Year!


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