How Direct Mail Has Changed

How Direct Mail Has Changed

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  1. Do you remember when your mailbox was filled with what was scornfully called “junk mail?”  You’d get two or three magazine promotions, a credit card solicitation, and at least three catalogs in each day’s mail. 

    No more.  While there is still such a thing as direct mail, it has become too expensive to mail a package as often as it once was, with as many parts as it used to regularly contain.

    • Mailings were sent out several times a year, in sizable numbers. 
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    • Many of those mailings were “tests.”  It was believed you had to continually test a package to find your control — the package that pulled the most responses. 
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    • Once you had a control, you had to continually test new packages against it to see if it held up.  If not, the package that did best became the new control. And then you rolled it out, in large numbers, sometimes in the millions.

    The Classic Direct Mail Package

    A complete “package,” in direct mail terms, is the mailing envelope and everything it contains inside.  Besides the outer envelope, it traditionally also included a letter, a personalized order card, a business reply envelope (for the return portion of the order card,) and a broadside or brochure.  In addition, sometimes there was a publisher’s note or lift letter that often began, “Frankly, I’m puzzled.”  The puzzlement was because the recipient had not returned the order card yet. 

    these package components were often personalized, in full color and mailed in a #12 envelope (9×12) or #6 envelope (6×9).  The budget priced #10 envelope looked budget priced and didn’t pull as well as the larger envelopes.  

    More Economies and Tighter Budgets

    According to a top company offering direct marketing creative and production services,  many companies have not only reduced their direct marketing budgets but have also reduced their in-house staff.  This has resulted in the outsourcing of direct marketing activities. DMNews, the industry newspaper, reports that list marketing saw a downturn in 2009 as companies reduced the number and scope of their mailings.  However, “Instead of mailing 100,000 names, they now mail the top 2,000 or 5,000 highest-performing customers,” says DMNews.

    The trend is for email marketing to continue to be extremely popular because of its much lower cost than direct mail, even though it is not as efficient.  The current economy has given an added boost to email marketing as companies find their marketing budgets being slashed.  At the same time, social media, like Facebook and twitter messages, are breathing new life into email marketing.     

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