The rise of email marketing during the 21st century has somewhat eclipsed the importance of direct mail. However, direct mail remains a key marketing strategy, offering some significant advantages over its newer challenger.

Email is transitory. People scroll through crowded inboxes very quickly, deciding to open or delete within seconds. It's a challenge just being seen. In fact, a study of the email analytics revealed that 51% of emails are deleted within two seconds.

Of course, direct mail letters can be easily discarded too, but they are more likely to be opened and retained. Research by the Royal Mail shows that people keep direct mail they find useful, such as door drops, for an average of 38 days. And, even if not fully read, the message may register. In a recent survey by Proactive Marketing, only 44% people could remember a brand straight after seeing a digital ad while 75% of people could recall the brand after receiving direct mail. 

The Royal Mail also reports that more than 92% of direct mail was opened and 48% of UK adults took action after receiving direct mail last year:

  • 14.2m bought something
  • 10.5m used a voucher or coupon
  • 2.8m tried a new product or service
  • 3m made an enquiry by phone

However, badly written and poorly targeted direct mail will fail just as spectacularly as email marketing. To succeed, it must be well executed, on brand and clearly targeted.  So what is the key to creating effective direct mail? 

Tips for successful direct mail

  • Think like the customer. Identify a real and specific problem and offer a solution. Create the feeling that you are communicating directly with the recipient in their language about their problem.
  • Always have a reason for writing. Are you offering a new service or product? Is it a special offer or available for a limited time? Include an incentive to respond such as a money-off coupon or free trial - and always have a strong call to action.
  • Make the headlines. The headline can be the most difficult part to get right - and the most critical. It must grab attention, be clear and benefit-driven. Create at least 10 different headlines before choosing one that really sums up your message.
  • Speak their language. Write in a clear and concise style using short, punchy sentences. Use subheadings to break up the text and always use a PS at the end of your letter.
  • Timing is (almost) everything. The day your letter arrives is key so ensure it is sent out on the right day. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best arrival days.
  • First impressions count. It's worth getting your letter professionally designed to create the right impact, catch the eye and look professional.
  • Use the right data. Segmenting data will enable you to target direct mail appropriately. For example, at FastAnt we offer a free data health check to ensure clients aren't wasting time, money and goodwill contacting the wrong people.

Direct mail doesn't always gain high responses first time around so it's important to test different ways of mailing. Experiment with the variables from headlines to offers to design. If you have a good product or service and there is a market for it, direct mail will work for you - it's just a matter of finding the key to unlocking the door.  

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