Is Direct Mail Dying?

For years, the most common question I was asked involved the death of telemarketing. Time and time again, everyone from my bosses to board members to clients (and even folks I just met on the street) would remark that they hate telemarketing and ask ‘Isn’t Telemarketing dead?’ I always made some flippant comment and responded that telemarketing is not dead, but for many it might be a bit under the weather.  I think each was a little disappointed they weren’t able to cancel their CallerID that very day.

An interesting article at BRANDWEEK notes that the Direct Marketing Association projects a 10% drop in direct mail. 10% isn’t a number to sneeze at, but it’s also hardly the death of direct mail.

Why is mail diminishing? Well, many reasons really, including:

  • Postage has gone up, continues to increase, and likely will again in the future;
  • Printing has gone up, continues to increase, and likely will again in the future;
  • Production has gone up, continues to increase, and likely will again in the future;
  • Other channels, including e-mail and the flavor-of-the-month Twitter have been developed;
  • We’re making BETTER DECISIONS about who we mail to and how we mail, allowing us to deliver the same results with less mail;
  • The economy doesn’t help either.

Even with all of those factors, direct mail isn’t dead.  Electronic mail doesn’t replace the USPS any more than telemarketing replaced personal visits.  Each of our communications vehicles have particular strengths and weaknesses, and are all part of a comprehensive annual giving program.  No single channel can do it all.

It never will.

We may have to give up Saturday delivery someday soon, and we may be paying more for stamps in the future, but there will always be a mailbox at the end of the driveway just waiting for someone to peek inside.  Our job is to make sure they peek and then actually OPEN that envelope we so kindly delivered them.  If only we could project the death of the ‘circular file’ so more people would read our mail before they pitch it!

2 thoughts on “Is Direct Mail Dying?

  1. A great question. I think we should all be aware of our impact on the environment, but some use of natural resources is a necessity in any endeavor. Even the 'Save the Trees' groups have to use a tree or two in their photocopier!

    Do your best to use recycled materials when possible, consider alternative ways to share your message when appropriate (i.e. phone, email, etc.) and reduce waste as practical – but don't eliminate the use of mail simply because of environmental concerns.

    If email or other channels were practical replacements for direct mail and the paper used to create it, I might argue the opposite. But as long as direct mail is necessary to maintain the good work that so many nonprofits do, I consider that a great tradeoff and a better use of those trees than many other things I see printed these days!

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