Print and Direct Mail Still Drive Integrated Marketing

Direct Mail Works

Just like fashion or the weather, trends in marketing tend to be cyclical – a decade or more ago the old chorus of “Print is Dead” was being sung by many in marketing looking toward the future. The excitement over the power of email, big data, social media, and online advertising worked to diminish an appreciation of the usefulness of paper, printing, and direct mail. And just like the weather, that excitement has been tempered over time with the realization that a mix of all these marketing tools will always be the most effective – and that print/direct mail has unique properties that can drive customer decision-making in ways a phone or laptop screen never will.

The nice part about this for the small business is that this holds true for their local outreach just as much as for the huge corporate players or the tech-savvy, flashy startups with national campaigns.  A recent Vox article explored “Why so many hip startups advertise with snail mail.” They note the cyclical trends of marketing and that print is making a comeback (even among the hip!) due to a combination of rising digital pricing and oversaturation of email/digital ads. The Vox article hesitates to actually praise the time-tested value of print advertising too readily:

“Are mailers more effective than online advertising? That’s certainly up for debate. No company Vox spoke with for this story would share numbers that compared the response rate of mailers to digital advertising.” link


Luckily, we don’t really need them to share that in order to see how a multi-channel approach to marketing harnesses the power of both print and digital (and we can check with the DMA for that data). The exact mix of those two that will prove most cost effective and successful varies based on business size, budget, location, goals, etc.

In the non-profit world direct mail has consistently been a staple to fundraising and survival. Check out these stats:

  • Direct mail increases online donations by 40%.

  • In 2012, US companies generated incremental sales through direct marketing to the tune of $2.2 trillion.

  • Advertisers in the US spend $167 per person on direct mail, earning $2,095 worth of goods sold. That’s a 1,255% return on investment.

  • Non-profits gain 78% of their donations from direct mail.


Yes, direct mail requires an investment upfront that can be larger than digital, but the longevity, focus, and the physical qualities of print reap larger rewards with name retention, response rates and ultimately ROI. The Digital Marketing Association reports that their 2017 research shows:

“Once again, direct mail response rates rank stronger than digital channels, sometimes exponentially: at 5.1% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, mail response rates consistently exceed the 2% response rate of all digital channels combined.”

Rather than seeing an EITHER/OR situation between direct mail and new digital alternatives, embrace the opportunities of mobile marketing, qr codes, email, social media and website e-commerce as a whole new box of tools to get our your message and/or drive sales. To abandon print and it’s proven effectiveness in that transition will prove costly!

Rely on your printer for advice and direction with integrated marketing. They should be able to provide you with everything from encouragement along the way to complete design, layout, copywriting, production, multi-purposing, online implmentation and distribution of your marketing outreach. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.