Direct mail is a silent salesman delivered directly to your client's mailboxArticle added by Thomas Emmerson on July 28, 2011
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Thomas Emmerson

Indianapolis, IN

Joined: June 30, 2011

Direct mail is the only marketing medium that promises to deliver and does. This article discusses its three distinguishing characteristics.

Direct marketing directly targets a consumer through direct mail, e-mail, social media, catalogs, specialized online ads and interactive television through cable or satellite. Direct mail is only a small segment the advertising companies use to reach their targeted audiences. "[Marketing] is what you do when you can't [afford to] go see somebody [in person]." Fairfax Cone, principal of Foote, Cone & Belding, 1963.

In 1967, Lester Wunderman identified, named and defined "direct marketing." According to Wikipedia, Wunderman is considered to be the father of contemporary direct marketing. He is behind the creation of the toll-free 1-800 number and numerous loyalty marketing programs including the Columbia Record Club, the magazine subscription card and the American Express Customer Rewards program.

Direct mail has three distinguishing characteristics. One is that it is targeted directly at the intended audience. Second is that direct mail generally has a call to action that other forms of advertising do not utilize.

When you look at a billboard, there is usually not a phone number for you to call or a website to go to as your next step. The advertisers are using brand recognition, hoping that you will come to know their product. If I were to tell you of a soda can that is blue with a circle on it that has a wave of red and blue, you would likely immediately form a picture of the can in your head and could probably can tell me what I am talking about.

Lastly, direct mail gives essential private time between the seller and the customer. Potential competitors are not aware of your offer, giving you considerable time in the marketplace without time from the competitor to respond. Utilizing the target ability, respond ability and privacy of direct mail marketing, your advertising dollars are being used most efficiently.

What do you think of when someone says "direct mail?" Is it the piles of extra stuff that come in your mailbox? This answer is only partially true. It is anything that is physically mailed to a consumer and is delivered to their door. This could come in any of the three cycle stages of the direct mail process:
  • Prospecting pieces where you are trying to get the consumer to use your goods or services
  • Interacting pieces where the customer is currently doing business with you and you want to continue to interact with them
  • Appreciative pieces truly thanking the customer for their business.
In the three cycle stages, there is a silent salesman. In the prospecting stage, the direct mail piece is the image of the company. In the interacting stage, the direct mail piece is the customer service department of sorts, in trying to continue engaging the customer in the perpetual sales process. Lastly, in the appreciative stage of the life cycle, the direct mail piece speaks to the level of appreciation the customer should feel for purchasing the good or service you provided.
Prospecting pieces are easy to describe because you think of the many advertisements in your mailbox today. Interacting pieces can be anything from a statement you received from your credit card company, to a coupon to purchase your favorite shampoo, to a discount to current banking customers who would also like to refinance their home. All attempt to encourage the customer who is currently doing business with you to continue to do so.

Why is direct mail the way to go for all three cycle stages of the direct mail process? Because it is the only marketing medium that promises to deliver and does.

Billboards can't promise you that anyone will see them as they drive by. Email blasts get lost in spam filters and aside from the fact the consumer has to log on to the medium to retrieve the message, there is no guarantee the message will get delivered.

Mail, on the other hand, has been being delivered since at least 1775 when Benjamin Franklin appointed the first postmaster general by the Continental Congress. People may forgo a landline home phone in lieu of a cell phone but no one says, "take away my mailbox." Where else but direct mail marketing can you get a silent salesman right to someone's door — or at least to the end of their driveway?
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