• Team TouchPoints

Why Direct Mail is Still Important (and the Secret Sauce to Success)



Last month, the Co-President of Nordstrom shared the news about the company’s weaker-than-expected Q1 performance. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily surprising, given the fact that retailers across the board are struggling just to stay afloat, let alone remain profitable. It’s the reason behind that dip in sales that may be a bit eye-opening.


According to Nordstrom, their dismal results were due in part to their decision to stop using direct mail as a tool to stay in touch with customers. Specifically, Nordstrom stated:


“As part of our decision to move to a digital-first program, we eliminated paper notes but later discovered that a segment of our customer base relies on receiving these notes by mail.”

As a result, the retail giant experienced a measurable reduction in foot traffic that ultimately impacted its bottom line.


And they’re not alone. Retailer J.Jill also reported similarly disappointing Q1 results. During their recent quarterly earnings call, company President and CEO Linda Heasley reported as follows:


“Going into the quarter, we planned some shift from direct mail to alternative media options, primarily digital. In hindsight, we moved too much too soon. We made adjustments quickly when we saw the results, and we were able to add back some direct mail touch points along with some changes in digital to better support our promotional activities. That restored traffic to planned levels albeit belatedly.”


What this all boils down to – for retailers and just about every other business in every other industry – is simple: print is not dead. In fact, according to the Association of National Advertisers, direct mail generates a higher response than any digital direct marketing medium, with a rate of about five to nine times greater than email, paid search, or social media.


Source: 2018 ANA/DMA Response Rate Report

Clearly, direct mail is still a worthwhile investment for businesses – including non-profit organizations, but it’s not as simple as just mailing out a bunch of postcards. There are certain best practices that should be followed in order to achieve optimal results. Here are three keys to success.


Start with quality data. The best campaign in the world isn’t going to accomplish anything if it’s not reaching the right audience. Before you even begin with a direct mail strategy, you’ll want to lay a foundation of quality data. Working with a data analytics company like TouchPoints can save you tremendous time and provide you with the most current, relevant and accurate information available.


Make your message compelling. You only get a precious few seconds to catch the attention of your prospective donors and convince them to act. Make sure you’re making the most of that time by personalizing your messages, being clear and concise, and including powerful imagery as well as coercive calls to action.


Be persistent but flexible. Research indicates that one-and-done direct mail campaigns simply aren’t effective enough to produce the desired results. Successful campaigns typically involve multiple mailings, so be persistent in your efforts. Likewise, be willing to pivot if necessary. Utilize A/B testing to determine which strategies work best and then adapt your approach as needed.


A recent neuroscientific study revealed that direct mail involves more emotional processing. If you want to make more meaningful connections with your target audience, as well you should, print must become an integral part of your strategy. Follow the three tips listed above and you’ll be in an even better position for success.

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