Don’t Write Off Direct Mail
It’s trending up, not down.
I recently attended a parent’s meeting at my church to discuss future activities for my teenage son’s youth group. Now stick with me -- this actually addresses an important issue for all fundraisers.
The youth minister in charge of the group was outlining what would be happening and casually said, “The kids want the annual calendar and notices about events sent to them by (snail) mail. So please look out for any church envelopes addressed to your son or daughter, and please pass them on.”
I, the bored parent who was struggling to keep my eyes open, was instantly awakened by the direct marketer within that usually tries not to think about such matters on the weekend.
“Whoa!” I said to the group. “You mean these text message-crazy Internet addicts want to use old-fashioned mail? Why?”
“Because they fear the messages will be lost in the mass of information they receive,” he said. “And they want a hard copy of the schedule.”
“Wow!” I thought. I didn’t think that kids today knew what “hard copy” means.
This tidbit of information had a profound effect on me. I had been hearing all of the predictions that the new technology of the Internet will replace the older technology of snail mail. But then I witnessed an example of the newest generation — which is incredibly Web-savvy and greatly dependent upon it for communication and information — actually backsliding into the use of the centuries-old medium of mail.
With so many cynics preaching about the end of direct mail, while advocating Internet-exclusive strategies, we need to take notice of what is actually happening out in the world around us.
If you look around, not just at my son’s youth group but also at what the major commercial marketers are doing, you quickly will learn that the two mediums of direct mail and the Internet actually complement one another. Instead of clashing in a life-or-death struggle, the Internet and direct mail are actually proving to be quite chummy bedfellows.
As a case in point, in recent years, one of the top mailers in the nation also is our nation’s largest Internet provider, America Online, which mails hundreds of millions of its disks annually.
USA TODAY recently quoted respected advertising forecaster Robert Coen’s estimate that marketers’ spending on direct mail will increase by 7.5 percent in 2007, after growing by 8.5 percent in 2006. This compares to a growth of only 4.8 percent for all forms of ad spending.
The United States Postal Service, while reporting decreases in First Class mail in fiscal year 2006, also estimated that the quantity of Standard mail (which is chiefly used for commercial and marketing purposes) increased by almost 3 percent. They also are predicting further growth for the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years … despite higher postage rates.
So what does this information tell fundraisers that use direct marketing? It tells us that the commercial world has rejected a “one or the other” attitude about the Internet and direct mail. It has learned through the past decade of experience that the best marketing strategies mix the two mediums.
And the same rule applies to fundraisers. Just as any fundraiser today is crazy to think about fundraising efforts without the use of the Internet, you’d be just as crazy to consider fundraising efforts without the use of direct mail.
Jim Hussey is president of Adams Hussey & Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.