Direct Mail Dead?

by Tim Francis on September 26, 2013

I’ve landed a good amount of business already through direct mail.

With all the push towards online and electronic marketing such as Google Adwords, SEO, email marketing, and social media, you might think direct mail dead.

But in this episode, I’ll explain how just the opposite is true: direct mail is probably more potent than ever, and I’ll share a few tips on how to take advantage of it.

Read below or listen to the podcast episode…

In my experience I’ve landed a good amount of business already through direct mail.

There are a handful of reasons why direct mail is better than ever: probably the most vibrant of all?

Online and electronic marketing.

You might think the push towards websites, social media, SEO, Google Adwords, and email marketing would render direct mail obsolete – gone the way of the telegraph.

But just the opposite is true. With so many big companies focusing their marketing and advertising dollars online, there’s less and less competition in the mailbox of your target recipient. All they get in the mail these days are bills, statements, and credit card offers. And this is the #1 hurdle with any marketing message – how do you stand out from the clutter?

Well, one of the easiest ways is to use a marketing medium that doesn’t have very much clutter!

Another reason your market’s mailbox is free of clutter is because direct mail marketing actually costs money. Yes – that’s right – it isn’t “free” like email marketing, or “free” like SEO. Make no mistake, neither email marketing or SEO is genuinely “free”, but because that’s the perception, businesses flock towards it.

But if you’re willing to spend just a few bucks – and judging by the number of businesses that indiscriminately throw money at crappy ads in mass media, there’s a good chance you *do* have a few bucks to invest – direct mail can be a total winner.

How I’ve Used Direct Mail for Myself

For awhile now I’ve been running my 1000% Marketing Club. Included in that is a monthly ink-and-paper newsletter that gets mailed to my members mailboxes.

There are a few bigger-name marketers and marketing agencies in the U.S. I’ve been fortunate to get to know. We’re talking about some of the biggest, most world-renowned names in direct response marketing for small businesses, and other marketing companies overseeing big-time Adspend online – usually over $1MM/month on Adwords alone.

So each month I’ll print off a few extra copies of my newsletter and send it off to these heavy hitters. In some cases I’d have a really tough time getting a meeting with these guys. But – lo and behold – my marketing newsletter cuts through the clutter and lands on their desk.

How do I know this is true?

To my great surprise, this appeared in my mailbox one day:


In case you’re having a tough time reading this, it says:


Super congrats on your great newsletter and consulting success. It is a privilege to watch at a distance, you growing through all your struggles. This is how men are made.


Perry Marshall

And I also know my mail is getting through because my bank balance is bigger. For competitive reasons I won’t share the new clients or marketing pieces I’ve developed for them, but it’s nice to see both kinds of feedback: a pat on the back from a respected mentor, as well as a bigger bank balance.

Tips for Direct Mail

The first thing you need to realize is what you’re up against.

This is what the typical mailbox looks like:

EGA - Junk Mail - Sept 9 2013

So understand your first goal isn’t to sell something, nor is it to get read, nor is it to get opened.

Nope. In fact, your first goal is just to avoid getting thrown out!

(Think of Gary Halbert’s famous “A-pile” / “B-pile” story.)

So you’ve got one of two ways to avoid getting thrown out:

1) Be a little loud and super catchy or quirky

2) Appear just like a personal letter, possibly with some kind of bumpy content

And provided you win that battle, and you actually get kept, the next goal is to get opened. The same elements that will keep you out of the wastebasket will also get you opened.

Here’s so examples of each:

Personal Letter:

photo copy

Quirky, Loud, Outrageous:

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

Direct Mail Mistakes to Avoid

I’m far from being the godfather of Direct Mail, but I’ve already encountered these realizations. Take note and you’ll save a bundle of cash:

1) Direct Mail Costs Money
Because of this, WHO you send to is probably more important than WHAT you send.

A so-so postcard sent to your top customers has a good chance of raking in some sales.

An outstanding and expensive package sent to a bunch of disinterested and/or cold contacts will probably do nothing.

Be wise about WHO you send to. Keep in mind “RFM” and the 80/20 Rule.

2) Don’t Self-Indulge: Remember You’re Here to Sell
It’s very tempting to see the design and layout of your new marketing piece and be so proud of it. It’s so pretty! It’s so progressive! It’s so clever! It’s so funny! It’s so sleek and mysterious!

…or whatever.

Make no mistake this piece is NOTHING if it doesn’t sell. Keep your focus keenly on winning the only battle that matters: selling.

3) Don’t over-estimate your reader or yourself
You might be tempted to think: “Oh, well my readers are smart enough to read my stuff… they would never throw me out.” Or, “my customers love me, there’s no way they’d put me in the junk mail pile!”. Or worse of all: “I’m a big deal. I’m not vulnerable to the same pitfalls as ‘other’ companies doing direct mail.”


You need to respect the medium (direct mail) and respect your customer (and the limited attention span they’ve got when scanning their mailbox) and compete to win every time. Certainly there are exceptions. But always ask yourself: “The person I’m sending this to…. what would have to happen for this mail to seem so irresistible they make it a top priority to read, and maybe even stop what they’re doing to read my piece right away?”

Sometimes that’s an outrageous, quirky or lumpy piece of mail.

Sometimes that’s a highly personal, covert piece.

And then from there, once it’s opened, what combination of headline plus opener will get them hooked for the rest of the piece?

At the end of the day, it’s actually not about direct mail at all. Or PPC, SEO, social media, email marketing about anything else.

It’s about your reader, their needs and wants, and solving their problems.

Onwards and Upwards,

Tim :)

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