Is direct mail putting the USPS out of business?

For the first time since tracking of direct mail began back in 1945, spending and volume has declined. Now bear in mind, marketers are still spending for direct mail to the tune of $56.7 billion in 2008, but now we have to wonder if the slow decline in magazine, catalog, postcard, and brochure use is the reason why the U.S. Post Office is considering a cutback in mail delivery from six days to five. According to a study from the Winterberry Group, direct mail spending fell nearly three percent last year and they expect it to fall this year as well. So here’s my glass half full take on this decline. If you’re a savvy VAR who utilizes a diverse marketing mix that includes (but is not limited to) direct mail pieces, you now actually have the opportunity to break through some clutter. Long known as junk mail in the consumer’s eye, direct mail has always been the old faithful piece for marketers. I believe it still is – the difference is now you must truly craft your message to connect with other marketing tools, like using a postcard to announce a promotion, but the postcard teases the recipient to your website. Or a new flyer may announce your new product line and the first 100 customers to sign up for your e-newsletter online receive a free white paper. Direct mail decline just might be a bit of a silver lining for you if you continue to partner its use with other creative ways to reach your customers and prospects. Make sure your target lists are more qualified than the traditional “saturation mailing” and go easy on quantity. Shoot for a higher rate of return from each piece based on your incentives and direct mail will still remain a viable component of your new world marketing mix.

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