The direct mail piece from Google.

I had a telling conversation with a prospect this week. We were talking about ideas marketing for his business. It was the second time I mentioned direct mail, and he interrupted me. He reminded me that his business was an online business, so why did I keep mentioning direct mail? His tone made it clear that he thought I was either not paying attention, or that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Obviously, I had not done a good job providing context for my comments. However, the validity of my suggestion is supported by the largest internet company in the world—Google. Google - the company that writes the rules for internet marketing, and the company that has the closest thing to infinite resources a company can have. Google uses direct mail.

I know this because on a regular basis they send me a marketing letter (see photo) shilling one of their products. In this case, the pitch is for Google Ad words. Last summer it was for free web site hosting and Google Apps.

If you think that maybe they have so much money that they are willing to waste it on something that doesn’t work, consider these other examples.

1. Internet marketing conferences use direct mail to boost attendance

2. Microsoft has used direct mail to increase sales

Yes, but why?

According to a survey by Millward Brown something we touch and feel leaves a deeper impression in the brain. Other surveys have shown that all age demographics, even the 18-to-34 year olds, prefer old fashioned mail for learning about marketing offers. 

Overall, the biggest mistake of all is thinking that you need to choose one strategy over the other—online or offline. Many other surveys - and our experience - says that campaigns invariabley see a boost in response rates when offline (something like direct mail) is combined with online marketing.

Why Don’t More Use Direct Mail?

My experience says that the main reason why more companies don’t use direct marketing (e.g. direct mail) is because as I have heard many times “we tried that and it doesn’t work.” I usually find three reasons for this:

1. Campaigns were poorly designed.

2. They were not integrated into their online activities.

3. Was not tested at a small scale before blowing the budget.

Direct Marketing And Testing

One of the biggest advantages of direct mail is that it can be finely targeted which allows you to run small scale tests to confirm your assumptions before you scale up your campaign. Do you have an offer that moves your target segments? A well-executed direct mail can definitively answer that question and still leave you with budget left to do something about it depending on the results.

Direct mail may not be the only part of your marketing tool kit, but in the right situation it can be very effective—just ask Google.