Commentary

Paper Mail On New Trail: SMBs Use It With Email, Other Channels

Dear old direct mail — it lives on despite being largely shoved aside by online channels. A study by The Manifest shows 28% of small business owners use so-called snail mail, and 5% rely on it totally.

It’s not clear whether these people are backward in terms of technology or if they have discovered something that has eluded the other respondents. But it shows that direct mail retains a place “in a digital world where people have short attention spans online,” says Jose Villa, president of Sensis Agency, according to the report.

Granted, online channels dominate among SMBs — 69% rely on them totally. Social media is the most widely used channel, cited by 67%. And 57% send email. Another 47% utilize websites/blogs. 

But 23% of all SMBs combine direct mail with email, social, text and other online channels. For example, Strut Bridal Salon, a store for plus-size brides, deploys:

  • Text messages
  • Emails (both automated and personalized)
  • Social media 
  • Google My Business
  • Yelp 
  • Google PPC ads
  • A blog and website
  • Local event calendars 
  • Direct mail 

“It feels like so much,” says co-owner Ann Campeau, according to the report. “It's like a pyramid, where the bigger the event, the more methods of communication we pile on.”

Then there’s STRIDE Media Group, a Tampa, Florida-based PR agency.

“We use digital outreach for nearly everything, except ‘thank yous,’” states co-founder Danielle Bayard Jackson, the report continues. “There is something powerful and incredibly memorable about receiving a physical thank-you card that was specifically addressed and mailed to you.” 

Moreover, there are the technical advances that have brought direct mail into the digital age. Gone are the days when brands had no choice but to print thousands of identical pieces for a bulk mailing. 

For instance, PFL is offering a tool called Tactile Marketing Automation that allows brands to send personalized physical mail from their CRM or marketing automation platform. And earlier this year, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. launched a service for integrating email and other digital channels with direct mail, using Salesforce Marketing Cloud. 

What’s more, direct mail appears to be especially popular with young people. A 2018 study by Fluent showed that 44% of millennials rank direct mail as the least annoying medium, versus 31% for email. 

But don’t give up on email. The Manifest notes that it still produces the highest ROI, and is useful for a variety of communications.. For example, Agustin Drubi, a Miami orthodontist, sends an email to patients who are about to start treatment, answering common questions, according to the report. 

So how does a small brand combine email and postal mail? Here are some long-cherished ideas: 

  • The first email should hit a week after the postal mailing piece arrives. It should reference the direct mail piece. 
  • Email should be continued at regular intervals.
  • Send two emails for every printed direct mail piece. 

Here’s the main lesson: It’s not either/or.

The Manifest surveyed 529 small business owners and managers in the U.S.

1 comment about "Paper Mail On New Trail: SMBs Use It With Email, Other Channels".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, June 10, 2019 at 5:20 p.m.

    For those marketing to a well defined and relatively small market niche of consumers, it is hard to imagine anything being more effective and cost efficient in targeting prospects than direct mail. 

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