The Future of Direct Mail
Bob Bly, copywriter: Certainly we'd all RATHER do our marketing online instead of offline if we could—it's so much less costly. But not every offer can be sold effectively with email. In insurance, for instance, direct mail is still the workhorse for marketing and will be for the foreseeable future—people don't like to buy insurance online.
Bob Merrigan, president of fundraising agency Merrigan & Co.: The channel may be forever altered, but it's certainly not dead. Online activity, by virtue of its low outbound cost and staggering growth in results, is getting a lot of attention. The poor, old workhorse, direct mail, tends to get lost in the excitement. As an example, for one of our clients, online giving increased more than 300 percent in 2008; however, it's still less than 15 percent of overall support.
Peggy Greenawalt, president/creative director of direct marketing agency Tomarkin/Greenawalt: The communications universe is experiencing a sea change. I think direct mail will regain some of its lost ground, if the post office doesn't run amok on pricing. It's still a superior way to pinpoint target and deliver messages. However, I am convinced that a portable pocket device for communications and entertainment is the present and the future. I carry the iPhone in my pocket (even in my bathrobe), and I can't understand how anyone can live without it.
Mal Warwick, founder/chairman of fundraising agency Mal Warwick Associates: Ever since I first became involved in direct mail fundraising 30 years ago, the field has been undergoing constant evolution. The dominant trends have been mushrooming competition, rising costs, increasing sophistication and use of technology, increasing personalization, and falling acquisition rates.
I see no reason to believe those trends have ended with the Great Recession or will suddenly disappear when the economy finally recovers some semblance of its former strength. However, I don't believe these trends are cause for pessimism. Over the years, my colleagues and I have learned how to make the most of this evolving reality. Most of our clients are flourishing, despite their heavy dependence on direct mail.
Elaine Tyson, copywriter: I think direct mail will resume its importance to magazine publishers. The economy has taken a toll with many companies reducing volume out of necessity. Many have dropped at least one campaign during 2009. As times improve, publishers who want to thrive will resume subscription campaigns. The companies that were most successful in the past never abandoned direct mail. Those that want to be successful in the future will return to it. The simple fact is you cannot manage a rate base without some level of direct mail.