Are We in a Direct Mail Renaissance?

Direct mail is having a resurgence and could help your association compete for new members, conference registrants, and more.

By Candice Warltier

Direct Mail Ren

I recently met with Dean Petrulakis, SVP of Sales at LCP, a company that partners with organizations to deliver their messages via high impact print products, digital print on demand, web to print programs and more. It has been years since I was in a “printing company” and had to approve material before going to print. Let me tell you: things have changed.

The direct mail advertising market is a booming industry projected to grow to $72.67 billion in 2022 and there’s no sign it is changing. The industry has faced many obstacles over the years from being one of the only ways of reaching people in the early 2000s to coming under fire with the advent of the digital age, Google and social media advertising. And the state of the economy has a major impact. According to Petrulakis, major events like 9/11 and the pandemic made people run from print.

“The reality is that when combined with digital communications, direct mail amplifies and improves ROI. I knew it would get a rebirth when everyone went digital, and now direct mail is booming and we expect it to continue,” he added.

While higher education and retail top the list with the use of direct mail in their marketing strategies, associations are finding a place and using it to reach very segmented audiences.

Here are a few reasons why association executives should consider adding print to their marketing campaigns.

It’s trackable

A common myth is that you can’t measure your success with direct mail.  And while it’s not instantaneous like email, it is trackable.

Savvy marketers are incorporating QR codes that drive people to a website or social media platform. Others are incorporating customized URLs that allow them to track conversions.

The National Association of Realtors incorporated direct mail into their marketing campaign to drive attendance to their national conference. The mail piece included a customized URL that people had to use to register for the conference. This allowed them to track the efficacy of campaigns driving people to register for the event.

Print campaigns can also include complementary digital offers and promo codes that drive people to a specific webpage.

It’s as good as your data

Print is trackable and it is relevant, timely and customized if you use the data you have.

Just like a target ad on Instagram, if you have good data, you can customize a print campaign to ensure it’s relevant for that audience. “This goes way beyond just putting someone’s name on the piece. If you have detailed information about a customer, you can create a campaign that resonates with your audience. For example, if your data indicates that your members clicked on certain association products, you can use direct mail to promote those products they expressed interest in.

“It’s important that the CRM teams are managing the data and keeping it current. If you have good data, you could segment your audiences and create a print piece with messaging that is very different for people who haven’t gone to conference in a while vs. those who register each year,” said Petrulakis.

According to Petrulaks, his client partner, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, created a direct mail campaign that incorporated very different messages for those members who had never attended a conference vs. those who register each year.

Print is recyclable.

Print faces criticism because people assume it is contributing to the destruction of forests.  However, according to Petrulakis, the print and paper industry is one of the most sustainable industries. “Paper mills are held to very high standards. They are harvesting, planting and regrowing trees. And many are running on wind power and using water that is filtered and put back into the environment.”

According to Select Mailing, 91 percent of the trees consumed in the United States to make paper come from privately owned forests, which give private landowners a financial incentive to grow trees rather than sell off their land for other uses.

You can partner with a specialist

While direct mail can be an effective way to reach your audience, it doesn’t come without a price. It’s important to find a printer partner that is experienced, educated and qualified in mail logistics. The right partner will collaborate with you developing a piece that is effective and within your budget. They consult on strategy and work with you to segment audiences and develop metrics so you can track success.  Postage can be handled strategically if you work with a printer who knows direct mail. A preferred postal partner works with a logistics partner to determine the best way to get a direct mail piece from one place to the other. They work together by sorting lists and minimizing the number of steps it takes to get to the final location, which gets to the destination faster and can save thousands of dollars.

When you invest in direct mail pieces it legitimizes your brand and shows a level of care that email and social media can’t replicate. Direct mail connects you with an audience in a different way.

About the Author

Candice Warltier is CEO at <a href="">CS-Effect</a>. She also volunteers on Association Forum's Content Working Group.

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