The Triumph of Snail Mail?


ExecutivePerils postcards


Although I write a lot about e-newsletters and social media communications I’m always on the lookout for merging them with old school direct mail. I was prepared to skip this WSJ article on direct mail because at first glance it pertained to retailers.  Then the article told of an insurance broker using humorous postcards (including the one above) to great effect and I stopped skimming. The broker told the WSJ that when he stopped sending postcards clients complained — many of them collected the cards  as “cubical art.” When he resumed his postcard campaign, he scored a $270,000 new account.

This reminds me of the days when computers replaced handwritten correspondence and press-on labels—I opened the printed envelopes first. But now the novelty of a handwritten address gets my attention. Same with email—the novelty has worn off and most of us are filtering, unsubscribing and otherwise purging senders from our busy lives.

The article offered this as best practice for snail mail:

The idea is to send something that’s more appealing than “junk” mail and potentially more noticeable than an email message, says Eric Anderson, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. That allows business owners “to offer a personal touch the larger firms may not be able to have,” he says.

How well do you know your tribe?

I’m all for using whatever works for your audience, your tribe. I recently read Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk, known to many as the Wine Library TV guy. He’s crushing it on social media, especially video, and shares both his philosophy and tactics in the book. I picked up a thing or two from Gary myself (once I slim down I might even try some video!).

On the other end of the spectrum, one of my clients’ tribe is not web savvy, so she takes extra pains to label hot spots on her website (“click here”) instead of relying on them to mouse over without a prompt.  She recently discontinued her printed newsletter, started a blog and sends an email with each blog post.  I, on the other hand, don’t want to clog my subscribers’ inboxes with each blog update — a monthly newsletter with links to the past month’s posts works for my tribe.

Let’s start a productive conversation. I shared my content recycling strategy here — what’s yours? Here’s a little something on email’s dominance over social media — is this the case for your business? Please share your experience combining any and all forms of business communications/channels/media.

About Tamela M. Rich

From Charlotte, NC, Tamela writes books, articles, speeches and presentations for business professionals. From "the road" she writes about the people, places and experiences she discovers and the life lessons she learns from them. Invite her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event!

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  1. Tamela, I agree that direct mail can be an excellent way to zig while others are zagging. Most marketers are putting all their eggs into digital baskets. But a well conceived direct mail campaign, even if it is just handwritten notes to customers, can pay off in a huge way. I wrote a piece about how to plan out your next direct mail campaign, in case you are interested:

  2. Very good point, Tamela – when I was a rookie broker, I used to experiment with a lot of mass mail. Handwritten addresses get opened, but are extremely costly. Now they even have computers that can replicate the handwriting – but a keen eye can tell that it’s not real. I found that the clear avery labels with a font that looks like the address was typed directly on the envelope “pulled” much higher than cheap paper labels. Mass mail success is part art, part science. Just remember – if you are getting junk mail it is because the campaign is working, because it is so expensive and time-consuming that they would not do it otherwise.

    I totally agree that email is now maybe considered even more annoying than paper junk mail. If I was still marketing financial services, I would do a mail campaign now – a creative one could really pull given the fact that everyone has shifted to email!

  3. Way too much talk is dedicated to pressuring entrepreneurs and companies to “follow the herd” and do whatever the latest and greatest may be. Sure, email marketing is all the rage and can be effective. But for some companies, snail mail is still the most effective way to reach an audience. The number one in marketing is still to find out the best way to motivate a buying behavior among your target audience. The right way may not always be the popular way.

    John Sternal

  4. Thanks, John. C’mon back to the comments section if you have any great cases to highlight.

  5. Thanks for weighing in, Harry. The emphasis your post placed on PLANNING is too often overlooked in the rush to EXECUTE. Great stuff.

  6. Financial services is such a difficult sector to market, Dasan, particularly post-meltdown.Since financial services companies have the advantage of their customers’ physical addresses, I think you’re right about giving direct mail another try. I’d suggest snail mail to supplement whatever e-campaigns are underway and then compare ROI on each and go with the momentum.

    Of course, this assumes senders are willing to track results (sales folks not being as hard wired for analysis as marketers tend to be, this is a stretch for many). I wrote about this quoting a study that even 18% of marketers admitted they were NOT tracking campaign performance.

    Thanks for weighing in.


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