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Is Direct Mail Back?

Is Direct Mail Back?

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: June 2, 2016 Updated: June 2, 2016

With email marketing, social media marketing and online marketing grabbing most of the attention in recent years, you might think direct mail marketing is an outdated concept. Think again: Direct mail is enjoying something of a renaissance in both the B2B and B2C worlds, thanks in part to (surprise!) young consumers. Here’s what you need to know to make direct mail work for you.


B2B marketers are planning to incorporate more direct mail into their marketing efforts in the coming year, says a study by Demand Gen Report. Currently, 15 percent of study respondents are using direct mail, and that number is projected to grow. One marketer told Demand Gen that her company’s direct mail efforts enjoy a 10 to 15 percent conversion rate. Overall, the study found, direct mail is a successful conversion driver—in fact, 21 percent of marketers say it’s their most effective conversion tactic.

B2B marketers find direct mail an effective way to stand out from the pack because today’s buyers are so swamped with email they can barely clear their inboxes. But you can’t use yesterday’s direct mail tactics and hope to succeed. To make direct mail work for B2B:

  • Use direct mail later in the sales funnel. Direct mail works best as a nurturing tactic, rather than as a lead generation tool. Use digital methods to drive leads, and then follow up on those leads with direct mail.
  • Tailor the direct mail piece to the prospect’s interests, needs and stage in the sales journey. You can get this information from how they have engaged with your business online, such as what content they’ve viewed or downloaded from your website, how they interact with you on social media and what sites referred them to your website.
  • Consider developing a mix-and-match packet of direct mail pieces that can be combined to suit the needs of different types of prospects at different stages in the game. This will help keep your costs manageable while providing flexibility.


In the B2C environment, direct mail is finding success with a surprising target market: consumers aged 9 to 21. For this age group, physical mail from companies isn’t annoying junk mail, but a rare treat. In fact, a whopping 83 percent of this age group say they “love getting stuff in the mail,” reports new research from Mintel.

Mintel, which dubs this group the iGeneration or iGen, has some theories about why direct mail works so well with them. They love social media, but think of it as a place to connect with others and be entertained, not a place to be marketed to. They also value personal connections; a direct mail piece that feels more personal than a digital missive can help build a connection with your brand.

To make direct mail work for younger consumers:

  • Think visually. This age group is visually oriented—they’re used to communicating with gifs, selfies and emojis. Your mail piece needs to grab attention without using a lot of words. Postcards, colorful mailers and big graphics will spark their interest.
  • Embrace diversity. iGen is a culturally diverse group, so your images should reflect that reality.
  • Honor the personal. Build relationships by sending direct mail around personal anniversaries such as birthdays or the anniversary of a purchase.

For both types of target markets, the biggest key to success: Incorporate direct mail into an integrated marketing approach that includes email, online marketing, social media and (for B2B) phone calls. All of these channels should reinforce each other’s messages to help build lasting customer relationships. 

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades