Those who know me understand I’m rarely at a loss for words, but after reviewing the direct mail response rates cited in the recently released 2018 DMA Response Rate Report (DMA membership required, fees apply), I was left a little speechless. Even though we’ve historically seen direct mail lead the pack when it comes to response rates, the numbers were staggering. So staggering in fact, I was reminded of the small type on Jenny Craig ads that reads, “Results not typical.”
According to the 2018 DMA Response Rate Report, direct mail response rates come in at 9% to a house list and 5% to a prospect list. The 2017 report showed a response rate of 5.1% to a house list and 2.9% to a prospect list, and the average between 2003 and 2015 was 3.6% to a house list and 1.6% to a prospect list. It also runs laps around any other channel, even if you combined the response rates of all of them. For comparison, email has a 1% response rate to a house list and 1% to a prospect list. Social media and paid search achieved a 1% response rate, followed by online display at 0.30%. However, the survey does make it clear that the sample size for these results was small. We feel compelled to add, “and not typical.”
Here are some other key takeaways that relate specifically to direct mail response:
- Letter-sized direct mail performed best for lead generation with 15.1% response rate.
- The industries using direct mail the most were Travel or Hospitality (80%), Nonprofit (75%), Publishing or Media (71%), Financial Services-Banks/Credit (67%), and Healthcare (63%). Surprisingly, only 50% of Insurance respondents claimed to be using direct mail.
- The most popular methods of measuring response rates include online tracking (53%), code or coupon (45%), and call center or telephone (41%).
Again, while the report states that the numbers are based on a low sample size and should be used for information purposes only, the data seems clear: direct mail needs to be part of any direct marketing strategy.
What Accounts for this Huge Increase in Direct Mail Response Rates?
While the 2018 DMA Response Rate Report isn’t designed to provide that level of insight, we know from our experience it’s likely a combination of factors, including:
- Marketers are becoming smarter about sending mail to people who appreciate receiving it.
- Better data and sophisticated modeling is allowing marketers to send more tailored offers.
- An increased use of digital production inkjet equipment can produce more targeted offers at higher mail volumes.
Marketers Want to Know What Works
The tremendous success and use of direct mail was part of the reason why so many of us in the industry pressed the DMA to form the new Council for Print in the Digital Age after it seemed to ignore the role of print in recent years. As much as marketers want to know what’s on the horizon in terms of marketing trends, what they really need to know is what works. As the 2018 DMA Response Rate Report clearly shows, direct mail is extremely powerful for generating a response to your offer.
A Strategic Approach is Still Necessary
None of that is to say direct mail should be the beginning and end of any direct marketing strategy. The Response Rate Report indicated that email still has the strongest ROI and lowest cost per acquistion. Marketers continue to find value in social media. As Alan Sherman pointed out, we’re finding ways to tie email and social interactions into cues that are making direct mail even more effective. And paid search is still an important avenue for getting a product or service in front of people actively seeking information.
Response rate data alone won’t help you determine the best approach to creating customers, or how to create personalized offers that drive action. If you need help developing a strategy that will identify the right people to reach, and the right offer to present them with, get in touch with our direct marketing experts.
Subscribe to SpeakingDIRECT to have new articles delivered to your inbox as they post. We promise to keep it fresh and interesting.