Death Knell for Direct Mail?

Blog – Social Media Business Strategies – Social Media Connection.

The writing may be on the wall posting for direct mail, according to two recent industry reports.  The ’08 stats are in, and they undeniably reveal that marketers are rapidly and notably turning away from direct mail.

For the first time since direct mail records started in 1945, direct mail volume and, thus, spending dropped in 2008.  And the drop was significant.  A white paper released by the Winterberry Group documents a 2.9% decrease in direct mail spending last year, while Mintel Comperemedia’s ’08 study reveals a 12.1% decrease in volume across “leading vertical industries.”

The Winterberry Group projects this falling trend will continue another 8 – 9% in 2009.

For decades, marketers have found direct mail effective.  They must’ve known direct mail works to continue to send it in increasing volumes since 1945, in spite of our collective complaints about “junk mail.”  Clearly, ’08 brought new and unique challenges in terms of rising costs and the evolving economic crisis, motivating marketers to pull back on direct mail.

Of course, It’s logical to presume that this rampant decrease in direct mail volume and spending means efforts are being diverted to more cost-effective digital alternatives.  The Winterberry survey reports increases in e-mail campaigns and search optimization.

As a marketing and PR consultant by trade, I can certainly confirm these stats as accurate in my corner of the world.  My clients, all of whom are proceeding with caution in 2009, are still investing in their websites, e-blasts and online tactics.  There’s rarely a mention of a direct mail campaign, save for an invitation or two prior to major events.  Even then, the direct mail is done in supplement to the primary, digital campaign (rather than vice versa as was formerly the common tactic).

For small businesses looking to go big time, the evolution to online opens many opportunities.  The playing field can be much more level online, as digital promotional campaigns prove to be cost-effective (no more fretting over postage rate hikes and rising printing costs!), very targeted and immediately altered based on response.

And for business owners who artfully couple these ever-emerging direct, electronic promotions with use of social media, it’s full steam ahead!

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And look for more small biz buzz tomorrow!

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