Oct 15 2008

The Failures of Direct Mail: How to Burn Through a Chunk of your Marketing Budget

Category: pay-per-click advertisingJon Davis


As a marketer I am constantly evaluating how companies are attempting to market their products and services as I go throughout my day.  Sometimes I am impressed, more often I am amazed at how basic common sense and simple marketing logic is disregarded by companies.  In these times of increased economic concerns I just don’t understand how these companies don’t see that they could use their marketing budget more effectively.

So-Called “Value” Packs
Let’s look at one example that I recently came across.  The other day in the mail I received one of those Valpaks, which is basically an envelope packed with various coupons for local businesses and restaurants.  While sifting through the coupons I noticed a lot of the coupons are for things like handyman services, house painting, air-duct cleaning services, etc.  I found this strange because I live in a rented property and I have a handyman provided by my landlord that does all these things free of charge.  Then, I thought back to when I was living in a large apartment complex and received the same flyers along with the other hundreds of people who lived in the complex and had free maintenance services provided to them.  It hit me that these companies offering their home maintenance services were paying to be included in these mailings and their coupons were probably being sent to thousands of people who under no circumstance would ever use their services because they already get them for free.  As an internet marketer, naturally, I began to compare the direct mail campaigns to online paid search campaigns.

Failures of Direct Mailing
Successful marketing could be described as reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right message.  These direct mailers are failing these companies on a number of levels.

Are these mailers reaching the right people? According to Valpak’s website the smallest target area that an advertiser can select is 10,000 households.  I am sure that each household in my apartment complex would have been considered a household. So, if we look at the fact that just in my apartment complex alone there are hundreds of households that would absolutely have no need for a handyman’s service and that there were nearly ten apartment complexes of equal size or larger in my immediate area it is feasible to say that thousands of these flyers were being sent to the wrong people.  To me it doesn’t seem like Valpak is living up to their claim on their website that “there’s no wasted coverage with our targeted mailing zones.”

Are these mailers finding people at the right time? Let’s assume some of these mailers actually make it to people who own their own property and could potentially be in need of handyman services.  The chances that they happened to open the Valpak and see a coupon for a handyman at the right time are very slim.  If a person’s shower is broken they don’t just sit around smelling bad for weeks waiting for something to come in the mail that will offer them handyman services.  That person will more than likely go online and search for a handyman in their area that will help them solve the problem.  Sure the person could keep the handyman’s coupon on the fridge just in case they may need their service, but how likely is someone to keep a coupon for something they don’t need, especially if the coupon expires in a month?

Are they using the right message? The mailers also don’t allow the companies using them as a marketing strategy to determine what is the right message to present.  Normally the mailers offer coupons but, what if the person receiving the coupon isn’t concerned about price as much as if the work will be done at the highest level possible.  These mailers are going out to areas where some households are concerned about price and others are more concerned with the actual work and don’t care what it cost.  The flexibility to present the correct message just isn’t there with these mailers.

Paid Search vs. Direct Mail Campaigns
Now, let’s look at how online paid search campaigns reach the right people, at the right time, with the right message.

Are the paid search ads reaching the right people? By geographically targeting your ads your ads only reach the visitors within specific areas that you select.  Also, by creating a map ad and a business listing with Google your ads will also reach searchers who have your geographically location in their search query and may be searching from work or while out of the target area.  With your ads only appearing to people who live and are actively searching for your services.  In our example, the handyman service will only be charged for people who click on the ad and visit the website as opposed to paying for thousands of coupons to be sent to customers who have no interest in their product.

Are the paid search ads finding people at the right time? With paid search, your ads are appearing to searchers who are in need and are actively searching for your services right now.

Are the paid search ads using the right message? The flexibility of paid search allows you to present the right message, if you target certain ads to display with the appropriate keywords.  Using our handyman example again.  You would be able to target the keyword phrase “inexpensive handyman service” and have an ad with the title “Discount Handyman” and a description offering a coupon to appear to these searchers that are motivated by price.  You can also target the phrase “high-quality handyman service” and have an ad appear with the title “Quality Handyman Service” and a description that encourages them to visit the site and see examples of work to appear to these people who are more quality than price motivated.

I believe strongly that the businesses could see a much higher return on investment from a well-constructed online paid search campaign as opposed to their current marketing strategy of direct mailing.

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4 Responses to “The Failures of Direct Mail: How to Burn Through a Chunk of your Marketing Budget”

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  2. Pierre says:

    I think there is an argument both ways. Online marketing and direct mail can work if applied to the right business. As an example many Realtors have a great deal of success with direct mail “Not ValuePak” and I believe it has proven to be a great ROI for this niche. Now I also know of Realtors who are kicking it using Online and PPC. I believe the best approach is designing a strategy based on the business niche, goals and needs by a expert in marketing. applying one or all the techniques that may be effective and tracking results and tweaking and adjusting your approach as you go.
    Pierre recently posted..Comment on Myrtle Beach Handyman and how do you find the right choice? by Dorien MorinMy Profile

  3. Dietrich says:

    Direct mail isn’t like any other advertising medium. If a novice is at the helm of orchestrating a campaign, expect novice results. Same thing applies to PPC.

  4. duct cleaning says:

    I also know that agents start the online application and PPC. I think the best approach is to develop a business strategy based on design