The biggest difference in a direct mail piece versus an email or even online advertising is there is no hard-and-fast opt-in option for your audience. When you advertise online, you know that some part of your copy intrigued someone to click on your ad or link. The same holds true with your own email list—your customers have signed up to receive your news (or opted out if they’re not interested). If you’re thinking then why bother with any of this, we’ve found some staggering stats that might have you changing your tune.

Direct mail marketing


For several years, direct mail and coupons have gotten a bad reputation almost synonymous with junk mail; however, I think they have been unjustly branded and are making a comeback. Everyone gets excited when you receive a free sample of any product with Sunday’s paper—no matter if you are a regular user or not. I think most marketers view direct mail coupons and banner ads as a last resort, but it can be a cost-effective way to test a new product or market without the fear of backlash.


  • According to the Winterberry Group, direct mail marketing is on the rise: $45.8 billion was spent on direct mail in 2011 and it is expected to rise to $46.9 billion this year.
  • Even though direct mail may have a bad reputation, according to The Ballantine Corporation, 79% of marketing professionals considered direct mail to be “effective” or “very effective” in a recent poll.
  • What’s more, direct mail is credited most often by B2C response marketers in generating the strongest ROI for customer contact.

Infographic from, a publication of USPS


Direct mail can be hit or miss, especially with purchased lists. Here are a few tips to make your campaign more successful:

  • Include a strong call to action
  • Design with strong purpose in mind (location change, new store opening, birthday sale discount)
  • Know your target audience
  • Update your contact list every 6 months to a year
  • Keep synergy with your other campaign pieces and brand policies



In the old days, when a new product was launched, the hope was if a consumer received a coupon for a new product they would be willing to try it, but it wasn’t necessarily the case. Just like ordering a new item at your favorite restaurant, trying something new is a risk. What if you don’t like it? If you don’t, then you’ve wasted money and will most likely never try something similar from that company again. Consumers are very brand loyal when it comes to the basic necessities: soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, etc.


  • “In total, $470 billion of coupon value was offered by CPG marketers to U.S. consumers last year – a 26% increase over the pre-recession period of 2007. The last three years represent the highest annual volumes of coupons distributed since the pre-recession period,” according to NCH Marketing Services, a research and solutions company focused on redemption, settlement and analysis of promotional offers.
  • Recession-consumers are even more cost and value-conscious than shoppers of a few years ago. According to a recent study, consumers redeemed $4.6 billion in savings, an increase of 12.2% over the year prior, and 58.6% higher than five years ago.
  • Some areas that saw increased redemption in coupon offers were: health & beauty, first aid, candy & gum, and basic grocery items.


Direct mail used in conjunction with sampling and discounts is a better way to build your brand with positive reinforcement. This way the consumer can try your product, risk free, and determine whether or not they’ll make the switch afterwards. Here are some things to consider when creating your campaign:

  • Geo-target your audience using target niche markets and list serves
  • Track usage and response with QR or promotional codes (which can be tracked online)
  • Invest in coupon bundles such as Valpak®, which offers consistency in a local market, physical coupons, diversity, and credibility

Warning: Don’t overdo it on the coupons. Know the value of your product or service and use coupons sparingly. Your customers will catch on if they know you send coupons every week, month, etc.

Online ads


I would argue online banner and small display ads are great from a branding standpoint, but hardly generate a considerable click-through rate. Investing time and money into search campaigns should be a significant part of your marketing strategy (used simultaneously with SEO and content marketing). As technology becomes more sophisticated, so does advertising.


Here are a few mind-boggling quick (tweetable) stats about various users according to the recent US Digital Media Usage report released by eMarketer:

  • In general internet use, more than ¾ of the United States total population will be online in 2012.
  • Mobile users are significant already, but 94% of Smartphone users will be mobile internet users.
  • As if you needed more support for social media, but nearly 2/3 of web users will use social networks, and more than 90% will be on Facebook.
  • In the rising industry of video advertising, 70.8% of internet users will watch online videos.
  • In ecommerce, 88.1% of US internet users ages 14+ will browse or research products online in 2012.


Yahoo/Bing and Google offer more options for online advertising. You can purchase their banner, display ad network, search, or you can go a step further and set up behavioral or retargeting campaigns. Behavioral campaigns work by using cookies to track which sites, articles and interest sites a user visit, in order to serve more precisely targeted ads based on their surfing habits. Retargeting campaigns will use the same AdSense technology, but will redirect you back to a website, ad or shopping cart if your last surfing session ended unexpectedly. While this might seem scary or invasive to some, users are able to opt-out of their data collection process. All three search engines offer traceable metrics, high ROI, and will offer a pay-per-click (only pay when someone clicks on your ad) or CPM (pay per impression) models.


Overall, just like anything in marketing, if you have a well-thought out strategy before choosing tactics and methods to deploy your message, your mediums should work in your favor. I think before you condemn direct mail, coupons, or online advertising, I would weigh all the pros and cons before making a decision on how to proceed. Gossip, hearsay and previous prejudices should also be checked at the door, as what was considered effective 5 years ago might no longer be applicable to your strategy, demographic or market.

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