Written by: Bruna Martinuzzi , Presentation Skills Training, Author, Columnist AMEX OPEN, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.

Is direct mail marketing outdated? Not so, according to research. Find out why you may want to make direct mail part of your overall marketing strategy.

With the proliferation of online marketing strategies in today's digital age, you may think that direct mail marketing is too old school and may no longer be effective. But direct mail marketing is alive and well and can be an important component of your marketing strategy.

What Recent Studies Reveal About Direct Mail Marketing

That direct mail marketing can play a powerful role in a connected world is reinforced by quite a few studies.  A 2015 study commissioned by the Canada Post involved a sample of 270 participants who were exposed to direct mail and digital media offers.  The research shows that direct mail marketing is easier to understand than digital media marketing, requiring 21 percent less cognitive effort to process, and resulting in a much higher brand recall.

When asked to name the company of an advertisement they had just seen, participants' recall was 75 percent if they were exposed to a direct mail piece compared to only 44 percent for those exposed to a digital version.  
The U.S. Postal Service also commissioned a neuromarketing study to show how our brains react differently to printed material than to digital media. Their 2016 study shows that even digital native millennials spend more time with physical ads, have a stronger emotional response to such ads and remember them better.

There's something tangible about a piece of paper we receive in the mail that might make us want to look at it before discarding it, unlike a promotional email, which we may quickly delete without opening.  Add to all of this the fact that the most trusted marketing avenues seem to be the more traditional marketing channels. This is the finding from a 2016 MarketingSherpa study that looked at the generational differences in perception of marketing and advertising channel trust.

Instead of a mass market mailing mentality, think of your marketing piece as a one-on-one communication.  The survey included 2,400 U.S. consumers and revealed that direct mail marketing (ads and catalogs received in the mail, print ads in newspapers and magazines) as well as TV ads are the most trusted by every generation.

According to the survey, 83 percent of the oldest Americans (those born between 1925 and 1945) are most likely to trust direct mail when making a purchasing decision. And 70 percent of the youngest Americans say they trust direct mail when making a purchase decision.

Types of Direct Mail Marketing
Which type of direct mail marketing you choose will depend, in large part, on the various costs involved, including design, printing and distribution.  Learning about the different types of direct marketing available to you can help you decide which ones you want to include in your marketing mix. Here is a list of the more common types:

Envelope Mailers: These are letter-sized or oversized envelopes (addressed and unaddressed) that contain a promotional letter or other information.

Self-Mailer: This is a direct mail marketing piece that doesn't require an envelope. The recipient's address and postage appear directly on the mailer. It usually consists of a single sheet of card stock or durable paper that is folded into double or triple panels and secured with adhesive tape.

Dimensional Mailers: (e.g. a box, a bag, or a tube) Also known as lumpy mail, these more expensive options may produce a higher response rate as recipients are more likely to open and examine them.

Other Marketing Collateral: Catalogs, flyers, brochures, circulars, coupons, postcards, newsletters and the like fall under this category.

Shock-and-Awe Package: This is for a targeted list of high potential prospects who have asked for information about your product or service. You can send them something that is so impressive that they might be more likely to want to engage further with you. The shock-and-awe package can include free samples of your product, educational material or other useful, related promotional items.

Keeping Your Direct Mail Marketing Out of the Junk Pile
No matter which form of direct mail marketing you choose, consider these seven tips that can help your offer stand out from the junk mail a prospect may receive:

1. Be authentic.
You can avoid "salesy" messages that people can spot a mile away by gracefully and truthfully describing your offer.

2. Focus on the "why."
Use more of the available space to make it clear why your product or service will make the prospects' life better, whether it's adding beauty to their life or giving them the convenience or quality they want. What do your prospective customers want?

3. Provide information in nuggets.
Avoid dense paragraphs that may discourage reading.

4. Use plain, everyday language.
Instead of a mass market mailing mentality, think of your marketing piece as a one-on-one communication.  Think about crafting your content in straightforward language (i.e. the way people talk). You can write your script as though you are one person talking to another. This may make your marketing piece more easily accessible and give it a feel of transparency.

5. Think about design.
It's never really just a paper flyer or newsletter. Everything you put out is a reflection of your brand.

With that in mind, you can support your content with beautiful design that can help boost your credibility and engage the prospects' attention to your company.  If you don't have a budget to hire a professional designer, consider one of the many do-it-yourself options available today. To start you off, you can check out Canva's free online brochure, newsletter or coupon templates, as well as DesignBold and Fotojet's to name a few.

6. Make it personal.
If feasible, personalize your prospecting or promotional letter. Addressing your prospect by name may help you attract their attention. It also shows that you went the extra mile. In a "one-size-fits-all" world, personal touches can stand out.

7. Establish your credibility.
There's an old adage that we buy from people we trust. You can reinforce your credibility by adding personal touches such as:

your photo,
pictures of your team members,
testimonials and a brief success story or two and
logos or photos of satisfied clients. (You should get their permission to do so first.)
In short, let people know who the people behind the business are.

In our increasingly digitized world, direct mail marketing seems to have staying power. It may help your business to include this form of marketing as part of your well-rounded marketing approach.