The phrase “direct mail” is most commonly used to describe a type of advertising in which marketers send printed ads, letters, or other solicitations through the postal mail to large groups of consumers at once. Several different types of advertisements fall into this category, and there are a number of reasons why corporations use this sort of scheme. Direct mailers usually use targeted mailing lists based on demographics and geographic location to maximize effectiveness, and in most cases they can make use of bulk mail and other special postage rates to make the process more cost-effective. In certain settings these sorts of advertising tactics are used between businesses, too. Some of this sort of activity has been augmented or replaced by the Internet, but many advertisers continue using print to very directly reach out to people.
This type of advertising is used in many different situations, limited in most cases only by the imagination of the advertiser. Almost any sort of company or advertiser can use it, to. Stores typically send direct mail to advertise new products or to distribute coupons, while charities may find that it’s a good way to raise money or recruit volunteers. Almost any sales pitch can be made through this sort of publication.
In the Business World
A number of businesses also use mailings to advertise their products and services to other businesses. Business to business (B2B) mailing is a particularly lucrative segment of the market, and it allows marketers to target their messages to precisely those recipients who are likely to become customers. In the end, direct mailings allow companies to isolate their marketing dollars to high-probability prospects and avoid wasting money on those that are likely to be uninterested.
Mailings of this variety are usually organized into what is known as “campaigns.” Within each campaign, coordinators are usually looking to target certain specific people for certain specific products. The first step is usually to create an ad that will appeal to this group generally. Then, people within this group are actually identified. Sometimes this identification is really specialized, such as age, education level, or ages of children; other times it is broader, like geographic location, gender, or socioeconomic background.
Advertisers often find direct mail appealing for a number of reasons. It takes their message directly to the consumer, for one thing; while consumers might walk away from a television commercial or flip past a newspaper ad, they will almost always eventually open their mailbox. These sorts of mailings put the advertiser's message in the hands of the consumer at a time when the consumer might be likely to read and absorb it. Advertisers also like that they can direct their message as narrowly or broadly as they want using bulk mailing rates. These rates tend to be a lot less expensive than regular postage, and as a result the biggest expense is often printing.
As beneficial as this sort of campaigning can be, it also has its problems. Over the years, mailed ads have also become known by another name in many places: junk mail. Some consumers become irritated by the numerous solicitations they receive each day, and many simply throw away or recycle the suspected junk without really reading it.
Marketers often try to combat consumer frustration with a variety of techniques designed to ensure that people open each envelope. Some go to great lengths to make the envelope and mailing appear personal, even using special computer fonts that look like handwriting or making the deals and offers very apparent from the outside.
Role of Internet and Technology
Advertisers often look to apply the same sorts of strategies to reach clients online. Certain companies make it a habit to send emails with ads to large groups of consumers. They may also target potential clients over social networks. Advertisers in these settings take advantage of the relatively low cost of obtaining email address lists. Perhaps not surprisingly, many computer users reacted by deleting what they perceive as "junk email,” and many mail servers are capable of filtering out these sorts of bulk messages.