By Angela Nino

The Internet rules marketing now. Everyone knows that.

Except that’s not right. The tried and true methods still work. In fact, they can make you stand out. Direct mail marketing is more effective than ever.

Advertisers have moved onto the Internet in spades, and that means that they’re neglecting traditional methods. Some old school marketing tactics are rightfully on their way out, but others are just as useful as they ever were — perhaps more.

Why Direct Mail Is Effective

Direct mail has advantages that Internet marketing can’t match. The main advantage is pretty straightforward: People like getting mail. According to a study commissioned by UK Royal Mail, 57 percent of Britons feel more valued when they receive mail.

Of course, direct mail isn’t the same as a long letter from an old friend. You might even think of direct mail as a more polite term for junk mail. Everyone gets a huge pile of circulars from grocery, drug, and auto parts stores — and for most people, it goes straight into the trash.

I certainly throw out most of the coupon books that I get in the mail. Some circulars aren’t even addressed to me. They have the names of several different people who used to live in my house. That’s why you need to make your direct mail worth getting. Part of that value is in targeting. The other is design. More on those points in a minute.

Before I get to those points, though, let me quote some data from that Royal Mail study that will help alleviate your “junk mail” skepticism:

  • People value something they can see and touch 24% more highly than something they can only see.
  • 38% of respondents say that the physical properties of mail influence how they feel about the sender. The production values of a mail piece can reinforce your brand values in a deep and intuitive way.
  • Over half of respondents (60%) say that the best mail advertising helps keep a sender’s brand top of mind. It activates areas of the brain responsible for long-term memory encoding more strongly than other media, and has a lasting effect that means recall will be more readily triggered later on.

Other surveys have revealed strong evidence that direct mail has a higher response rate than email. Plus, the overall volume of direct mail is down, even though direct mail as a percentage of overall mail went up. Basically, there’s less junk mail and more thoughtful direct mailers: It’s easier to stand out than ever.

How the Internet Makes Direct Mail Better

The Internet and direct mail aren’t in competition. In fact, Internet marketing and direct mail work best in synergy. Direct mail is a strong tool to entice someone who is part way down the sales pipeline. If a prospect has shown interest in your product online, then you can show your interest in their business by sending them a mailer.

That’s not the only way that you can leverage the Internet to make your direct mail campaign better. Internet data profiling has made the most effective, data-driven marketing tools affordable for businesses of any size. Now, Facebook sells personal data that any entrepreneur can afford.

Credit report companies like Experian are another useful resource. Credit agencies have data on just about everyone who has applied for a financial product like a mortgage or car loan. Their direct mail lists are detailed and can be sorted by personal interests, demographic data, and location.

But data targeting isn’t what has revolutionized direct mail. It’s been around for a while, after all. Data is just more affordable and effective than it ever has been. The real innovation in direct mail is social media engagement. Your social platforms are an excellent way to build genuine relationships with your customers. A mailer can include your social media handles and incentives to follow them. For example, you could include examples of promotions and sales that you announce and advertise via your social platforms.

How To Do Direct Mail Right

The short answer is make your direct mail good. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But every effective direct mail campaign has the following elements.

Effective Targeting

Data, data, data. Use those affordable internet mailing list options to make sure that the right people get the mailer that you’ve invested in.

Compelling Design

Think outside the postcard. A strong direct mailer should have something eye-catching to it — I love the way this detergent company invited you to remove a tomato stain from a postcard, for example. Here are a few dozen more good examples.

Professional Layout and Graphics

This is very important; graphic designers are better at their job than you are. It’s funny to put it that way, but a lot of people think that their rudimentary PowerPoint and InDesign skills can stand in for years of training and experience.

A poorly-designed mailer will go straight in the trash bin. (You know this to be true.) It’s true that you’ll save money by doing this yourself, but that savings will actually cost you: You’ll spend real money on a mailer campaign that nobody reads.

In the end, that’s the biggest risk of direct mail — or any advertising campaign. But direct mail has this signal virtue; in a time when the internet and smartphones have overstimulated everyone, a piece of direct mail can feel honest, straightforward, and refreshing.

Photo credit: Getting mail from a mailbox from Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock