By Ray Schultz, Mediapost.com

June 2, 2021

Here’s a channel that some digital marketers might not have considered, but should — the one that dates back to Ben Franklin, the one delivered to the mailbox: Direct mail.


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“Email and direct mail go hand in hand,” says Rachel Schulties, chief operating officer of Marketsmith, a New Jersey-based agency owned entirely by women. “In a loyalty or retention program, coupling both will almost always yield a high ROI.”

Direct mail coupled with digital media increases conversions by 10% or 25%, Schulties says, based on her firm’s analysis. And it works for all digital channels — from programmatic to social to email.

And direct mail has a boomerang effect when used in retargeting. Sure, a brand can run a banner ad online, but a direct mail piece with beautiful colorful photography can be even more effective.

And thanks to on-demand printing, direct mail can be sent in “onesies and twosies,” and is useful in such typical email functions as trying to recapture abandoned carts, Schulties argues.

What about that old ‘junk mail’ epithet — can that hurt response?

Hardly. “The riskier area is in email if people unsubscribe, Schulties answers. Going overboard on email “really tarnishes your brand.”

But not when utilized in balance in a joint campaign, or with other digital channels such as social and programmatic.

Direct mail is especially useful at the nurturing stage.

What’s the right sequence?

Typically, a brand might have two mail drops, and three emails, alternate between an email, then a direct-mail drop, then another email and a direct piece, and finally an email.

If the goal is to drive a quick sale, they should be run “tightly together,” Schulties says. “You want to make sure they connect.” But “the data will drive the strategy,” she adds. “You have to understand the open rates on email and figure out the timing.”

Testing is critical not only in helping brands weed out losing tactics, but also in finding new directions.

Case in point: Marketsmith has a client in the utility business. It had been sending postcards, or self-mailers, usually a highly effective format when used in tandem with email. Then it tested something new — a letter in a traditional envelope.

The letter outperformed everything because it lent credibility, Schulties reports.

But how does one sent direct mail to an digital visitor? “If someone visits your web site, you can triangulate data through their IP address and determine who they are, then send postcard or catalog,” Schulties says.

How is this done?

“There are hundreds of third-party data sources,” Schulties answers. “Google knows my email and phone number. Another third party data provider might be able to lead the way to the postal address.

But wait: aren’t boomers more likely to respond to direct mail?

Actually, younger people also like it, especially when the creative is right. One client that sells construction equipment has “a very deep catalog with thousands off SKUs. It skews older–millennial want a quick-hit.”

On the other hand, “my six year-old loves the American Girl catalog,” Schulties laughs.

Then there’s Lovesac, a retailer of sectional couches. Customers tend to skew younger, so when sending direct mail, the brand has to be quick and to the point and highlight the product. The goal is to get them into the store.”

As for Marketsmith, it specializes in launching products that grow brands from startup.

Summing up, Schulties stresses that data is the most important thing in all types of marketing. And she reminds marketers that direct mail is an intimate experience. “People enjoy direct mail,” she says. “And it makes them happy.”




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