Close Close

Life Health > Life Insurance

Don’t underestimate ‘old school’ direct mail

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

Social media and web marketing have pushed direct mail to the back burner for some marketers, but a classic direct-mail package — using tactics and techniques tested for generations — can still be a powerful marketing tool.

Here’s why “old school” direct marketing still packs a punch (and some tips for using it in your smart marketing strategy):

Elements of a classic direct-mail package. I began my marketing career as a copywriter at a marketing agency in Washington, DC, which specialized in direct mail. There I learned how to craft a classic direct-mail package. Here’s what a package typically contains:

  • A carrier envelope carefully designed to stand out in the mailbox and engage the reader with teaser copy or design
  • A letter that uses techniques such as handwritten notes in the margin or underscored text to help the reader grasp the key points at a glance
  • A second, shorter letter with a second call to action (called a “lift letter” because it can lift a response)
  • A descriptive brochure or insert, usually not personalized
  • A personalized response form
  • A business reply envelope

Classic direct mail offers a great deal, a deal so good the reader can’t resist saying yes, such as a free trial, bonus gift, special discount or a volume deal on the product (such as two for one or 15 months for the price of 12). And classic direct mail is packed with information on all the ways the reader will benefit by saying yes.

Why old school techniques still work. Despite the impact of the Internet on marketing, the proven principles of direct mail are still true today:

Copy focused on the interests of the reader and the benefits of the product is still the most effective message to produce sales

A great offer, well stated and prominently, repeatedly promoted, can still make people say yes

Creative approaches and engagement techniques that have stood the test of time still work

So the next time a marketing consultant gives you advice about reaching prospects, don’t overlook direct-mail marketing. Even in a world of electronic media, direct mail can be a high-impact way to deliver a compelling message to an individual customer or prospect and a powerful tool in your smart marketing strategy.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at