Is it smart to use direct mail for online sales?

direct mail for online salesI won’t keep you in suspense. The answer is “Yes!” It is indeed smart to use direct mail for online sales.

There was a time not that many years ago when the “World Wide Web” was a mysterious and magical place. Gurus proclaimed that everything would soon change.

Other media, including direct mail and nearly anything in print, would die a rapid death. We were destined to live in a “paperless” world. “Brick and mortar” stores would transform into “virtual” businesses.

Well, like most idealistic visions, this scenario hasn’t played out as expected. The Web has not killed real-world stores. We shuffle more paper than ever before. And direct mail, while certainly affected by the rise of online media, isn’t even close to death. In many ways, it’s stronger and more effective than ever.

People are so annoyed and suspicious of unsolicited email, they now consider direct mail to be a relatively trustworthy medium. And while SEO, social marketing, pay-per-click, and other online strategies are powerful tools, they tend to reach only those actively searching for a product like yours.

This is why smart online entrepreneurs understand that the medium is not the business. The bigger you want your business to be, the more media you must use to expand your reach. And there is no other medium that gives you more reach than good old fashioned direct mail.

If a prospect has money to spend, they have an address. And if they have an address, you can reach them with direct mail.

So how can you use direct mail to build your online business?

Advertise specials and sales. GoDaddy is a good example. They use all the available online marketing media to draw more business for their hosting and domain services, but also use direct mail to push a constant stream of time-limited offers.

Build your relationship with customers. Online relationships are fragile, often fickle. But direct mail exists in the real world. You can hold it in your hand and bring it into your home. It can make your business more tangible and personal.

Reach a wider circle of prospects. Not everyone is glued to their computer. Direct mail helps you speak to people who want your products and services but live outside your core online audience.

Send samples. It’s hard to judge the quality of coffee online. But you can mail a sample for people to smell and taste. If they like it, and assuming it’s not available at the grocery store, they’re happy to buy it online. They may buy it online even if it is available at the local grocery if you give them a good reason, such as special savings or automatic shipping.

Use email to support direct mail and vice versa. If you’re sending a direct mail piece, use your email list to give people a timely heads up. Or you can use direct mail to encourage people to opt in to quickly build your online list. Media integration builds synergy, helping your media do more together than they might do if used separately.

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11 Responses to “Is it smart to use direct mail for online sales?”

  1. Murlu on October 12th, 2010 12:00 pm

    I was actually thinking of this recently with a small course I wanted to put together aimed at small business owners.

    The original intent was to create a small audio guide that talked about small business websites. Of course, they would have to find it online first and with so many people busy these days, what’s the likelihood that it’ll be found without a ton of SEO and promotion.

    Then it hit me: re-purpose the audio guide into a CD and send that through regular mail.

    The thought was that if I could craft it short enough that someone could listen to it in the car it may have more impact and once they get to the office they’d be in “business mode” which could help with the chances of them contacting me.

    Overall, I completely agree with you. Direct mail still has a powerful place when promoting online sales – nearly 30% of the sales at where I work (even though we’re 100% online) are done directly over the phone. Other sales also come from business cards, mailers and other direct mail items we occasionally send out. So yeah, you don’t have to be restricted to just online marketing to bring in online sales.

  2. Christina Pappas on October 13th, 2010 4:19 pm

    A combination of offline and online marketing is best. People consume content in different ways and in order to reach everyone, you need to be in the mailbox and their email bin.

    I like the suggestion Murlu came up with in regards to the CD. In a previous position, we would send a letter with some kind of gift (pen) on Friday to the entire call list for the next week. The sales team would start calling into the list on Monday and the list would also receive an email on Tuesday or Wednesday. Meanwhile, the direct mailer we sent out Friday was hitting their desk. 3 different types of touches in 1 week. We had a great conversion since people would remember who we were when sales called or when they got the email.

    Curious what other tactics marketers or sales have come up with that worked…

  3. Murlu on October 13th, 2010 7:38 pm

    Hey Christina,

    Wanted to throw in another example since you’ve added yours; this is fun :)

    One thing we’ve also been using is a CRM (Salesforce) in combination with post cards. After a customer orders, we call them to confirm and thank them. Then we do a follow up 3 days later to ensure their package has arrived and later we’d send out (when we experimented with it) with another follow up but this time it was a post card.

    You can get on-demand post cards for something like 50c mailed. It’s one of those little things that hits home because they not only had the phone calls but a little physical thank you as well – would be great to be able to write out a thank you on them; I’ll have to run that by my boss.

  4. James on October 15th, 2010 1:50 pm

    We have been doing this for a while and we have found it has great results. Off line – online if you get the right mix. Every body is so focused on online that its a great time too take advantage.
    It helps that we are a CD manufacturer/Fulfillment house and can get this out the door pretty cheaply as well

    If the Copy is good direct marketing is great. But again poor design/structure/copy is still what you generally get with direct marketing.

  5. Dean Rieck on October 15th, 2010 1:54 pm

    James: What matters is that your marketing works. It doesn’t matter whether it’s online, offline, or both. As for poor design or copy in direct marketing, I think you could say that about general advertising as well. As Ogilvy said, it’s only creative if it works.

  6. James on October 15th, 2010 2:49 pm

    Dean: As my Dear friend easy E would say ” True Dat player”

  7. Nataliya on October 18th, 2010 4:39 am

    I successfully apply direct mail to attraction of visitors on a site to form subscription email sheet

  8. Cynthia on October 18th, 2010 4:00 pm

    You can use ANYTHING to drive traffic to a website … tv, print, billboards, sidewalk graffiti, yogurt lid, cereal boxes, you name it.

  9. Dean Rieck on October 18th, 2010 4:06 pm

    Cynthia: True. But mail works better than some of those media you list.

  10. Direct marketing companies on November 24th, 2010 5:55 am

    Nice Tips ! Direct Mail is a strategic tool that can be used to achieve almost any business objective. You can start your direct mail program with something as simple as a letter to your best customers. 

  11. Oleg on February 6th, 2011 5:35 pm

    Not always an e-mail is the shortest method sale, on this time people also very actively use skayp and Icq, important to think .

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