February 14, 2024

The Impact of Direct Mail: Past, Present, and Future


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Suppose you’re prospecting a lead at a company you’d like to do business with. After researching your prospect a bit more, you find out a couple facts: He is expecting a baby soon and owns a bulldog.

What if you could give him the perfect gift that is sure to keep the conversation going? Direct mail complemented by technology is the answer to that perfect gift:

Source: Snapshot of actual direct mail results, Sendoso.

After a decade of declining popularity, marketers are rediscovering the value and effectiveness of direct mail in a highly digital world. With features such as tech stack integrations, global warehouses and analytics, direct mail is now better (and easier!) than it’s ever been.

Let’s take a look at the evolution of direct mail marketing and how that ties into a successful account-based marketing (ABM) program …

The History of Direct Mail

Direct mail is a form of marketing that involves sending traditional, physical mail, complete with postage stamps, envelopes, boxes and mail carriers. It can be sent to existing customers, prospects or industry contacts.

Before the 15th century (yes, we’re going all the way back), advertisers relied on signage, town criers and trademarks, with evidence of their efforts dating back to ancient times.

Then, in the 1400s, one Johannes Gutenberg invented a revolutionary method of printing. In the centuries that followed, printed materials became increasingly common and were no longer exclusive to the upper class.

Direct mail first caught on in North America with the help of William Penn, a prolific 17th century printer who convinced Europeans to move to Pennsylvania with the help of some exceptionally persuasive pamphlets.

Since then, direct mail has enjoyed many decades of popularity. That is, until the arrival of the World Wide Web in 1989. The disruption was almost immediate—by the early 2000s, news outlets were already reporting that email was officially more popular than “snail mail.”

With email being convenient, quick and cheap, it’s not hard to see why it quickly became more commonly used than direct mail. As is the case with many new innovations, however, there came a point when people started to realize that an email just doesn’t make the same impact as a thoughtful package or letter.

That brings us to where we are today: Email may be used more frequently than direct mail, but smart companies strive to leverage the lasting impression that direct mail leaves.

Direct Mail and Account-Based Marketing: A Match Made in Heaven

Account-based marketing as a way to treat each account as its own “market” has been gaining popularity in recent years. FlipMyFunnel’s 2017 “State of Account-Based Marketing Survey” found that 81 percent of B2B marketers currently practice ABM.

This isn’t just a fad, either: a study from Evergage found that 56 percent of marketers say personalization has a strong impact on advancing customer relationships.

Given that ABM is all about creating a stronger connection with each account, it’s not surprising that direct mail is a key aspect of a successful ABM program. After all, direct mail is more memorable than email, and generates significantly higher response rates. The following graphic shows just how much more memorable direct mail can be:

Plus, direct mail has evolved well beyond generic printed letters. From wine and gift cards to welcome kits and handwritten notes, today’s direct mail is more personalized than ever, and it’s paying off:

Fifty-six percent of consumers find direct mail to be the most trustworthy media channel. Direct mail has a 4.4 percent response rate, compared to a response rate of only 0.12 percent from email. Seventy-nine percent of consumers will act on direct mail immediately, compared to 45 percent who will act on email immediately. Among U.S. consumers, 73 percent say they prefer direct mail for brand communications. With direct mail, U.S. advertisers enjoy an impressive ROI of 27 percent.

The numbers don’t lie—direct mail and ABM go hand-in-hand, and together they can dramatically improve the outcome of companies’ sales and marketing efforts.

Let’s take a closer look at how one company used direct mail to make an impact on their sales pipeline.

Case Study: Building a Multi-Million-Dollar Sales Pipeline

Procore creates cloud-based applications for the construction industry. After running a dozen direct mail campaigns over a six-month period, Procore saw:

A 20 percent increase in demo show rate. Over $2 million in the sales pipeline. A 20 percent higher chance of closing deals.

Their direct mail campaigns included personalized gifts such as:

Footballs with handwritten notes at the start of football season. Paper shredders with fold-out infographic posters illustrating document digitalization. Branded beanies and hockey pucks for their Canadian software launch. Coffee vouchers.

When combined with cutting-edge innovations like AI-powered technology, integrations and real-time tracking, direct mail can convert leads and foster brand loyalty more easily and effectively than ever before. Given that it boasts numerous benefits and few drawbacks, direct mail will likely see even more growth in coming years.


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