New Media Notes

notes on news, advertising and social media shared by ben smith

The Future of Direct Mail

Posted by benasmith on October 10, 2008

Many advertisers still consider direct mail a “premium” means of distributing information. Direct delivery to a consumers mailbox has an appeal, of course. But it’s time to move on. If an advertiser wants direct distribution to a targeted consumer why not look at one of the many opt-in email opportunities. “Opt-In” is the key phrase. So much quicker, cost effective, and targeted. Surely it makes more sense for an advertiser to reach 500 people that have requested to receive information about specific categories of products or services than even 5,000 that haven’t requested anything and likely don’t want junk clogging up their mailbox.

Interesting article in Newsweek: http://tinyurl.com/3nvee4

It’s amazing to read that direct mailings now constitute some 52% of mail volume, up from 38% in 1990. Yet at the same time the consumer polls referred to in the article state that some 89% of consumers say they would prefer not to receive direct mail and some 44% of direct mail is never even opened.

Working in the newspaper industry, I see this as a great opportunity for newspapers in particular. Despite trends in circulation decline, newspaper is still a highly effective media. Especially at a suburban / community level where newspapers provide unique hyper-local news and advertising, less so in metros where they traditionally provide information that’s now available on countless websites and cable TV. Where newspaper have traditionally lost a certain amount of advertising revenue to direct mail, it’s a great time to go after those advertisers. Use readers to build targeted email lists. Build lists that can be targeted by zip code, that have opt-ins for different categories of information. Seek email sign-ups at every opportunity. Run reader contests that prompt for email sign-up when they enter, make it part of the subscription or renewal process. Keep building the email lists and make sure when advertisers use them to send information they include decent offers, coupons or promotions. Make the emails something people want to receive – strong offers, limited to the categories of information they have requested and relevant to the local market. Don’t abuse their trust in your product by sending information they didn’t request. Soon people will want to be part of the list and sign-ups will keep growing. It’s a great opportunity for any newspaper and thanks to services such as Constant Contact it’s easy to deal with spam regulations and to send quality HTML email without any technical knowledge required.

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