There's a reason why more than 300,000 American small businesses depend on paper products like direct mail to reach their customers and prospects. And it's the same reason why larger businesses rely on it for 35% of their marketing budgets, printing direct mail pieces that 81% of consumers still read every day. After hundreds of years and countless innovations — from postcards, magazines and catalogs to email marketing and social media — paper still works. And according to the numbers, it's working harder than ever.
Paper is not only sustainable and personal — it's purposeful.
And it's getting even better. With technological innovations like variable data printing and targeted mailing, direct mail allows businesses and organizations to communicate personally, effectively and efficiently with a very precise group of customers. Paper is flexible, measurable, and economical, and that's why it's still growing — even in the digital age.
Paper is effective.
If you print it, they will come. There's something about the printed page that people can't ignore — simply put, paper still works because people still pay attention to it. While junk e-mails are often sent straight to spam filters, 81% of consumers still read or skim their advertising mail — and business owners are taking notice of the trend. According to a Pitney Bowes survey, 85% of businesses were pleased with their direct mail response rates. Maybe that's because they were even higher in 2009 than in the previous year.
Paper is efficient.
Small costs. Big results. Direct mail is a very efficient marketing medium — and it shows in its response rates, which are typically measured in whole, single or even double-digit figures. In contrast, response rates for other media types are usually measured in the hundredths or thousands of a single percentage point of the total audience reached.
Paper is targeted.
Point, aim, shoot — and if necessary, re-aim. While billboards and broadcast advertising cast a large net on a largely disinterested audience, paper lets you market your message to only the customers you choose, and deliver that message directly to their door. It's a more personal way of connecting with people based on their interests; and with variable data printing, you can even address them by name. Once you get the word out to your targeted audience, you can easily test, measure and track responses, and make adjustments as needed.
Paper is measurable.
By sending your message on paper, you can directly measure its response, and gain valuable information about how well it works. Then, you can use this information to track inquiries and orders, and direct your target marketing for future campaigns. Businesses or organizations may choose to print a small run of a direct mail piece, magazine, or catalog, and send it to a test group first — then expand or revise their mailer depending on the initial response.
Paper is flexible.
Everyone likes a (pleasant) surprise. Paper is the only medium that gives you the flexibility to reach out to your customers and give them something they can touch, feel and hold in their hands. From magazines to postcards to mailers, to extras like sample products, scented panels, CDs, and more, paper has the power to touch users — and let them touch back.
Paper is comfortable.
Reading a magazine at the kitchen table over morning coffee. Browsing a catalog from the comfort of an armchair. Clipping out coupons on a Sunday afternoon. Paper gives consumers the choice to respond to advertising on their own time, and in their own way. It doesn’t yell. It doesn’t flash. It just sits, patiently, and waits to be read. Maybe that’s why, most of the time, it is.
Paper is central to economic growth.
Paper is critical to helping small businesses grow. Direct mail is less expensive than broadcast or other media, and helps them compete with larger companies. Paper also helps the economy on a larger scale. In 2008, advertising mail contributed more than $702 billion in increased sales to the U.S. economy. Nonprofit organizations also depend on it, to help them raise billions for charitable causes.
Paper works with other media.
Using paper along with other types of media can increase the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Catalogs can encourage website purchases, direct mail pieces can lead to phone calls or store visits, and magazines can reinforce brand connections across many mediums.
Paper creates a stronger connection.
Paper and communication have evolved together — so it makes sense that people still feel a connection to it. In a Neuromarketing study conducted by Royal Mail through Millward Brown, it was reported that direct mail triggered more activity in the parietal cortex, which is associated with the integration of visual and spatial information. This suggests that print-based material may be more easily integrated into the brain. Because we can see and touch paper, it’s seen as more concrete, and can act as a cue for memory. Subjects also formed more connections between the printed material and their own memories and personal experiences. In contrast, online materials elicited responses in the temporoparietal junction, which has been associated with filtering out irrelevant information.
Jakob Nielsen, Web-usability expert, has also commented on a 'filtering' through studies in which he monitored the eye movements of people reading web pages. "The online medium lends itself to a more superficial processing of information. You’re just surfing the information. It’s not deep learning," Neilsen notes.
1 Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 2009
2 Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 2009
3 Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 2006
4 Printing Industries of America
* Print’s Strong Suit – Dr. Joe Webb