Visual Basics: If No One Reads Anymore, Why is There More Direct Mail Than Ever?

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.

With the Internet, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the fax machine, our in-box and electronic documents, even the most conscientious or inquisitive among us can be overwhelmed. Many of us are secretly (or not so secretly) giving up and just not reading all we should.

Certainly, unsolicited direct mail is the first to be tossed into the wastebasket. So why then is there more direct mail than ever?

Nobody ever mails anything twice that didn’t pay for itself once. Direct marketers are trained to mail up to the point of financial break even that occurs when the value from responses does not cover the cost of mailing more pieces.

I don’t accept this explanation alone. Given the explosive growth of e-mail a nd the Web (with its substantial cost advantage), and the ever-increasing cost of “snail mail,” there are great alternatives to “ink on paper.” Direct mail should be declining in use as a marketing tactic. But it is not.

So why is direct mail still such a critical and successful tool for so many marketers?

First, because successful business marketers focus on the key components of direct marketing. They know that the greater the percentage of response, the more successful the mailing can be. Their choice of mailing list will determine some 40 percent of response, the offer they make another 40 percent and the creative approach, the final 20 percent. Business marketers know they will achieve success if they make intelligent decisions and execute them effectively.

Second, the needs of the business-to-business sector are growing. The goals of finding, keeping and growing customers are creating countless problems for which direct mail is the perfect solution. These include prospecting, lead qualification, closing, keep-sold, win-back, referral development and customer satisfaction measurements. The flexibility of direct mail, from its creation to its measurability, continues to be a highly predictable and practical solution.

Third, industry advances continue to add new value to using direct mail. For example:

  • The quality and specificity of lists, along with ever-better database software, allows for smarter targeting.
  • The high ticket value of business products and services lets marketers make really valuable and compelling offers to prompt prospects into self-qualifying themselves.
  • The ability of direct mail to generate awareness and build traffic for a company’s Web site is often more effective than using search engines.
  • The creative use of impact, dimensional, oversize and colorful mailings will always provoke attention.
  • Our confidence and ability to work with the USPS, reliably execute better programs and accurately track results is higher than ever.

The usage and applications of direct marketing in finding, keeping and growing customers seem to be as broad and as pervasive as ever.

So, if no one reads any more, how come we still get so much direct mail? Because it works.

Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at (412) 973-2080 , by email at, or on the web at

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