It seems that at every turn, marketers are greeted with one message: It’s the Digital Age. There’s no doubt that social media and email have grown in popularity — and for good reason, especially among educators — but what about direct mail? Should you drop it completely from your marketing mix?
The short answer is no, though there are understandable reasons for considering it. Direct mail takes a considerable amount of time to create, deploy and track compared to email marketing. The cost of mailing direct mail is high, though the USPS does offset expenses with incentives. The cost per acquisition of direct mail also is more expensive than email — $19 compared to $15, according to the Data and Marketing Association (DMA). Finally, the DMA reports that direct mail volumes have seen a 1.9 percent decline year-over-year since 2005.
However, direct mail response rates still outperform digital marketing. DMA data reveals that the average direct mail response rate for house lists is 5.3 percent and 2.9 percent for prospects. To put those numbers into perspective, no other channel even reaches 1 percent.
Direct mail is very much alive and well, and it can serve as an effective tactic when marketing your products and services to educators. Here’s why:
Your direct mail campaigns shouldn’t stand on their own; they should be a part of an integrated strategy that leverages multiple print and digital channels. Direct mail is an effective way to familiarize educators with your brand. Research shows that after receiving a piece of direct mail, consumers are more likely to go to your website or search for you online. If you introduce yourself through direct mail first, educators may be more likely to open your emails or visit your social platforms, too. Think about how you can use direct mail in conjunction with your digital marketing efforts to expand your reach and brand presence and drive greater response.
As more and more education vendors rely on email to engage with educators, there becomes greater competition within educators’ inboxes. Combine that with consumers’ seconds-long attention spans online, and it becomes even more difficult to make a real impact. Fewer marketers are sending direct mail, so you’ll have an easier time getting noticed. Plus, educators are likely to spend more time with the direct mail pieces they receive compared to emails.
Banner ads are gone the minute a consumer leaves a web page. Emails can be quickly deleted as educators try to clear out their cluttered inboxes. Direct mail, on the other hand, demands physical interaction. If educators don’t have time to devote to a mailing right away, it can be saved for later. Once an educator has reviewed the piece, they can then easily share it with their colleagues or file it in a folder for future reference.
As you know, education purchasing requires input from multiple parties in schools and districts, and materials often are reviewed across classrooms and departments. Teachers highly value recommendations from their peers when researching things like supplemental materials, classroom supplies and professional development materials. In fact, Agile and SheerID data reveals that 73 percent of teachers rate word-of-mouth as a trusted resource when determining how to spend money on their classrooms and students. Catalogs, brochures, flyers, and other direct mail pieces all have a pass-along readership that educators value.
Often, direct mail can impact an educator’s perception of your company more effectively than digital marketing. Direct mail is tangible. It’s something that a teacher or administrator can touch and hold in their hands. Direct mail doesn’t carry with it the threat of a computer virus or hacker — a common worry with emails sent from unknown or unfamiliar sources. And the type of direct mail you send — its paper quality, ink choice, die cuts or folding methods, and more — can all shape an educator’s opinion or perception about your brand.
Direct mail can be used to deliver important information to educators when they’re seeking it, and to influence their decisions at every stage in the cycle. From August through December, build awareness and familiarity by sending helpful materials that get your name front-and-center inside schools, offices and classrooms such as hallway posters and banners and notepads and calendars. During the Consideration and Trial phase from January through April, use your catalog to inform educators as they get more serious about the purchases they’ll make in the summer. And in May through July, when educators have made their purchases and start planning for the next school year, send direct mail that keeps you top of mind and positions you as a thought leader in your industry, such as helpful articles.
While educators respond well to digital marketing, they still highly value the personal approach of traditional marketing techniques such as direct mail. One of the best forms of direct mail to send to schools and districts are catalogs. According to Agile data, 55 percent of educators say that they use catalogs to research supplemental materials and 47 percent say that they purchase these products from catalogs; 61 percent report using catalogs to research classroom supplies, while 48 percent say that they actually buy from them.
The key to developing successful direct mail campaigns is targeting. You can offset the high cost of direct mail by getting it into the right hands. And once it’s in them, research tells us that educators will spend time with your pieces and often act on them. Target and personalize your direct mail campaigns to educators using Agile’s comprehensive data and our more than 150 data variables. Let’s talk about how Agile can help you strengthen your direct mail with targeted data, and about how we can help you integrate direct mail into your marketing mix.