Every form of advertising media has its pros and cons. Direct mail is no different. But because too many still persist with outdated notions like ‘direct mail is dead’ and ‘nobody reads long copy anymore,’ it’s worth taking some time to remind you of the advantages of direct mail, as well as its disadvantages.direct mail pros cons

Because if you’ve gone all digital and aren’t using print media like direct mail or its even more effective cousin — door hangers — you’re missing out on better customer engagement and wildly impressive ROIs.

In addition, when we talk about the pros and cons of direct mail, we must also have something to compare it with. Digital is one choice, an even closer (and better) comparison is to front door marketing, also known as door hangers and sometimes by its more flimsy second cousin, flyers. We’ll compare these two print media options throughout the article as well as touch on how direct mail stacks up to digital marketing.

The pros of direct mail marketing

Let’s start with the good stuff. Here are a few things that fall in direct mail’s favor:

No interference from big tech

One thing that’s probably nearly universal among marketing execs:

Not one of them likes Gmail’s silly ‘promotions tab’ idea. What a disaster, taking away the opportunity for people to decide for themselves which emails they consider valuable and useful.

But changes by big tech are common. And they’re completely out of your control.

Facebook constantly changes the kinds of content allowed in ads. Image sizes and formats are restricted. Algorithms shift without warning. Spam filters block your emails from getting delivered. Costs change on a whim. There’s little you can do about any of these things except try to keep up.

With direct mail, there’s no promotions tab in the mailbox. Your marketing shows up right next to everything else, and the recipient gets to decide what to do with it.

In digital-speak, you would say it like this:

The impressions for direct mail are nearly 100% — at least for the outside of the envelope.

Quick, standardized distribution

Most direct mail gets delivered by the US Postal Service. And they know a thing or two about delivering mail. They’ve only been doing it since before the automobile was invented.

Your direct mail campaign can be prepared and mailed to a mass audience in just a few days, using a reliable and functioning system operated by people you don’t have to hire. There are whole companies devoted just to email deliverability, and you have to pay them. For direct mail, the USPS is it, and they get it done (most of the time) for pennies (or dimes) per mailing.

USPS truck on a street

Familiar and trusted by target audience

Whether you’re purchasing targeted mailing lists or mailing to your in-house lists, your audience is familiar with direct mail, and generally trusts it. Compared to digital marketing, direct mail is trusted much more by everyone, especially younger people.

You can also send direct mail in a variety of formats, all of which are familiar to most people.

This includes penny inserts, Valpak and other coupon mailers, and postcards, in addition to envelopes of all sizes and colors. For extra attention, you can send ‘lumpy’ mail with little objects inserted to increase open rates, or other unusual packaging.

All of this is great stuff and can be very effective in engaging your audience.

Less costly – in some cases

While direct mail costs more than some types of advertising, particularly email, it’s not necessarily more expensive than certain forms of digital advertising. This is especially true when you factor in ROI, which can be painfully low if you don’t use social media and paid search advertising smartly. You can throw gobs of money at paid digital media and have nothing to show for it.

But in the world of print advertising, direct mail is about as cheap as it gets compared to more impactful alternatives such as door hangers, as well as things like newspaper or magazine ads.

Tactile and real

From a consumer’s perspective, when compared to digital media, direct mail is like finding buried treasure in your mailbox. You didn’t have to wade through 50 emails or endless social media scrolls. You didn’t have to click on tons of links. It just showed up, and within seconds you can usually tell if it might be worth your time to look at.

It has substance. You can hold it. You can look at it. You can touch it.

In a digital world, consumers of all ages appreciate things that are real, and that your company took the time to create an actual ‘thing’ to send them in the mail.

Audience targeting options

Direct mail offers a variety of audience targeting options. You can mail to zip codes, use Every Door Direct Mail, purchase targeted lists based on various demographic and purchasing history data, and use various other methods to decide where to mail your campaigns.

It’s easier to effectively target using direct mail than it is using social media, SEO, cold email, or paid digital advertising.

Offers multimedia marketing opportunities

With direct mail, you can bolster the effectiveness of your various digital marketing tools and strategies and reach a wider audience. When people see the same messages in more than one form of media, their chances of responding to it increase.

So if you use TV or radio, direct mail, and digital marketing all for the same campaign, you’ll likely make a bigger impression and earn a greater reward. Direct mail is a terrific way to add another form of media onto an existing campaign.

The cons of direct mail marketing

After seeing so many advantages of direct mail, you may have just about sold yourself on it. But before you go calling up a list broker, consider the cons of direct mail, too.

Part of the clutter

The mailbox beats the inbox, but it’s still a cluttered environment. And many people pick up their mail in the midst of stress like haggling with kids, making dinner, and meeting deadlines. So they toss it aside and ‘plan to look at it later,’ but then never do until they re-discover it months later during a housecleaning day.

Yes, your impressions in direct mail are high, but it’s still pretty easy to ignore. And your envelopes can be tossed in the trash without even being opened. Mail beats digital, but it’s still a pretty normal part of most people’s worlds. No one calls up their friends to tell them about a piece of mail from your company.

Can’t track or verify delivery

This is a big one.

Yes, the USPS rocks at delivering the mail. But they also are one of the biggest recyclers, and some of what they recycle includes undelivered direct mail campaigns.

Because you can’t track or verify the delivery of direct mail, you have no way of knowing for sure that your campaign got delivered to all the correct addresses. This is even more problematic with Every Door Direct Mail.
Can’t specify delivery times

Timing is critical in marketing. You have an offer with a deadline, or an event, or a contest, and the marketing needs to go out before a particular date.

With direct mail, there’s really no way to do this with any real specificity. There’s no exact date and time option for delivering direct mail with the postal service.

Plus, now that they’re in cost-cutting mode, not only are they considering doing away with Saturday delivery, but they’re also batching delivery days, delivering mail to certain households on certain days and holding it back on others so the drivers don’t have to stop at every mailbox every day.

This makes it harder to get the best possible response from your marketing, because if you try to counter this problem by sending it out too early, you risk running into a relevance problem. If the thing you’re advertising is time-sensitive, a person who gets it too early might think, “I can get to this next week.” But then, they forget.

two people reviewing numbers

Negative association with bills

What else comes in the mail? Bills.

A marketing piece sandwiched between a notice from a debt collector and a medical bill might feel like a needle in a haystack, or just one more reason to be in a bad mood. “Everyone just wants my money.” It kind of depends on the mood of the recipient at that moment.

If most of the stuff coming in the mailbox is bad news, it’s hard to dissociate yourself from the pack.

Feels impersonal

No matter how well you dress up an envelope or personalize the address label, mail still feels like it comes from some corporate office hundreds of miles away, unless it’s a local company.

Recipients feel like they’re just a number in a database.

How to overcome the disadvantages of direct mail

Let’s list the five cons of direct mail again:

  • Part of the clutter
  • Can’t track or verify delivery
  • Can’t specify delivery times
  • Negative association with bills
  • Feels impersonal

These are real obstacles. But there’s good news.

There’s a way to overcome all of them, without losing any of the pros of direct mail listed earlier.

It’s called front door marketing, also known as door hanger delivery and door-to-door marketing.

The door hangers from Power Direct are not flimsy flyers flapping in the breeze. They’re sturdy, large, high quality mini-billboards delivered to the front doors of targeted households chosen by you from your house mailing list or from one that we create for you based on hundreds of demographic, geographic, and psychographic categories.

Let’s see how Power Direct’s door hangers knock out each disadvantage of direct mail.

Clutter

There’s no clutter on the front door. A door hanger commands the full attention of the recipient. They aren’t expecting to find anything there, so when they do, it’s like a discovery. There is no ‘normal’ on the front door.
Tracking and verification

Unlike direct mail, you can track and verify the delivery of every single door hanger produced and delivered by Power Direct.

We use a proprietary technology called iVerify, which includes six levels of GPS-enabled verification that your deliveries are all going to the right addresses. See all six levels.

map of delivery areas

Delivery times

The timing of your door hanger delivery can also be specified in advance, down to the time of day, for each address on your targeted mailing list. For campaigns with higher volumes that take multiple days to deliver, you can select which neighborhood blocks to do first, and go from there. And you can monitor all of this through a secure client portal.

We aim for 100% delivery, and we achieve it nearly every time.

Negative association

People may associate their mailbox with bills, but what do they associate with the front door?

Packages!

And most people like receiving packages. It’s something they or someone else ordered, and it’s usually something they want. Your door hangers arrive in that highly favorable environment. So you enter the person’s home with a positive vibe. That’s not a small thing.

Impersonal

Unlike direct mail, which can be mass-produced anywhere, something delivered to the front door was put there by a real person. It makes your advertising feel more personal, more local. Even if you’re a national company, the door hanger conveys the idea that you have a local branch, and that someone from the local branch delivered this to the recipient’s home.

pink doorhanger on a front door

Get a project estimate for door hanger delivery

You now have a new form of media at your disposal that benefits from all the advantages of direct mail, and suffers none of the disadvantages.

Want to see what else Power Direct can do for your marketing?

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