OK be honest - when someone mentions something about direct mail, your thoughts may often drift off to sleepy images somewhere between snails on envelopes, mailboxes with cobwebs, or dying dinosaurs. Given the ongoing buzz about the wonders of digital marketing, one may wonder if direct mail even has a place in the marketer’s toolbox anymore.

But fear not and forget about the hype, what many don’t realize is that the demise of direct mail has been greatly exaggerated.  In fact, direct mail continues to be heavily used and remains a very productive and cost effective response channel. Recent industry studies have found that direct mail is still a very popular vehicle with marketers and customers alike and continues to lead other channels in terms of response rate and cost-per-acquisition. 

[DMA Direct Mail Volumes 2015] In its 2015 Response Rate report, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that the overall response from direct mail has actually increased slightly in recent years. In 2014 it was 3.73%, higher than noted in the two previous DMA studies - 3.4% in 2012 and 3.42% in 2010.  The full DMA report is available for purchase atwww.thedma.org/bookstore/.

Even more compelling results from the study showed that the overall response rate for direct mail was 600% higher than that of all digital channels combined. Mobile, paid search, social media, email, and internet display were all considered in the study.  

The return on investment (ROI) of direct mail also continued to compare very favorably to other types of media. Overall, the ROI of direct mail was strong - equivalent to that of social media but higher than mobile, internet display, and paid search.  In addition, the cost per acquisition (CPA) for direct mail sent to house lists, especially for letter and postcard formats, remains very competitive at $19.

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As businesses continue to expand their use of multi-channel marketing, direct mail is still also a very popular tool with marketers - those that employed three or more channels most often utilized direct mail along with email and social media.  

Looking toward the future, 82% of the DMA’s survey respondents said that they expected to use the same or more amount of direct mail in the coming year.

So as marketers, what do we take away from this study? Clearly, direct mail is still a very productive and popular way to reach customers.  With the buzz around digital marketing, there is a temptation to set direct mail aside as a means of reducing marketing spend. However in reality, the best results come from the intelligent application and convergence of digital and traditional channels giving customers more and more ways to interact with your brand. Direct mail has been shown to be a key component of multi-channel marketing campaigns. Used in a thoughtful and strategic way, direct mail will provide the return on marketing investment that you’re looking for.