Firms Hold Fast to Snail Mail Marketing Says WSJ

Despite Prevalence of Digital Media, Entrepreneurs Find Old Fashioned Direct Mailings Still Key to Winning Customers

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal finds that despite the prevalence of digital media, entrepreneurs find that old fashioned direct mail is still the key to winning customers.

The article shares the story of Alicia Settle who thought it would be a good idea to eliminate her company's annual direct mailing. Settle had been spending $20,000 annually on mailings which offered customers discounts on early orders.

But after swapping snail mail for email last year, Ms. Settle saw a 25% drop in early orders compared with the same period the previous year.

"We realized we had made a huge mistake," says Ms. Settle.

The affordability of e-marketing, along with the explosion of social media and the desire to trim costs in the recession, has prompted many small companies to slash traditional direct-mail budgets. However, some entrepreneurs who were quick to write off direct mail as too pricey or passé are finding it's not so easy to dismiss.

Ms. Settle says that at first she blamed the economy for the dropoff, until she "started hearing from customers that they never got their 'reminder' in the mail." Ms. Settle quickly sent a postcard mailing in June, which recouped the 25% loss, she says.

To save money, Peter Taffae, founder of ExecutivePerils, a Los Angeles wholesale insurance broker, stopped his small firm's humorous postcard mailings last year. The colorful marketing pieces showcase the insurance broker's offerings through satirical movie themes, such as "Full Metal Policy," a parody of "Full Metal Jacket" and "Singin' in the Renewal," from the classic film "Singin' in the Rain." About 2,000 current and potential clients received the postcards, which cost the company $4,000 to send out every four to six weeks.

"We would visit some clients and notice they were hanging the postcards on the wall, collecting them," says Mr. Taffae, who says he secured $270,000 from a new client who chose to do business with the firm in late 2008 after receiving the postcards.

"After two or three months [of no postcards], we got a lot of emails and phone calls asking us, 'Did you take me off your list?'" says Mr. Taffae, who restarted the postcard mailings in November.

Business owners are trying to figure out how to integrate Web marketing—such as email campaigns, banner ads and social-networking sites—with direct mail. The introduction of new media has forced business owners to go back and revisit the whole playbook on what's the best way to communicate with customers.

Read the complete article at the Wall Street Journal website.

About The Author

Ryan Atkinson

Ryan Atkinson

Ryan is a proven marketing professional who entered the cycling industry in 1994.