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Commentary & Analysis

Another Great Reason to Use Direct Mail

How direct mail serves a need that digital channels cannot—alerting customers to products and categories they may not be searching for and, in fact, may not even know exist.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: February 10, 2017

Did you know? One of the reasons marketers are so invested in digital channels is, on the flip side, the same reason marketers can find hidden value in direct mail? Search!

Increasingly, marketers understand the power of online content marketing. The statistics vary from 67%, to 74%, to even higher, but regardless of the number or the source, the consensus is the same. Most people have already most of their research before they contact a salesperson. It’s one of the reasons content marketing is growing by leaps and bounds. Marketers must get their information out there in the digital space to draw people into the funnel and be sure they are included in the research mix. Then they need to be ready if and when shoppers decide to contact them as one of the final contenders.

But what marketers may not realize is that this is also one of the reasons direct mail is so important. What if people don’t realize there is a product or service like yours out there? As one MSP put it on its blog, “If I [the customer] don’t know about the category, I can’t search for it.” Or, “I didn't realize there was a product/service that had that benefit over what I'm using now.”

As an example, the impossibility of cleaning hydro tanks comes to mind. When my husband goes trail running, he likes to mix half Gatorade and half water in his hydration tank so he can continue to ingest fluids during the run. At the end of the run, the tank needs to be cleaned out. Have you ever tried to clean one of those things? It’s nearly impossible. You can buy those long scrubby things on the end of a wire, but they are a real pain. The joy of the run is offset by the need to spend an hour scrubbing out the tank at the end.

Imagine our joy to discover a product that cleans hydro tanks with a simple capsule. Fill the tank with water, drop in the capsule, wait, and then drain the water out. Genius! But we didn’t go searching for a solution to our problem. We didn’t even know there was a solution out there. If it hadn’t been put in front of us, we wouldn’t have thought to go looking for it.

In this case, the product came to us another way (thank you, Shark Tank!), but it is one of the values of direct mail. If customers are satisfied with the product they are currently using, why would they go looking for something else? What if you are offering a product in a category they don’t know much about? This is where direct mail has so much power.

Mead Johnson capitalizes on this phenomenon. It drops direct mailers with coupons and information booklets on its Enfamil infant formula in front of new mothers, who are often busy with their new bundles of joy that they may not have time to research the product category, understand the different formulas, or do comparison shopping. The booklet arrives on their doorstep, along with a coupon, and Mead Johnson has a captive audience. If they are struggling with a competitor’s formula and are exposed to facts about the options provided by Enfamil, so much the better.

TMR Direct, a direct mail and inbound marketing company, puts it this way: “People tend to search to solve an immediate problem. But what about smaller problems, or problems you may not know you have, or things you've just never spent much time thinking about?”

These are great questions—and great reasons for your customers to continue using direct mail.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

 

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