10 Reasons Why DTC Brands Are Using More Direct Response Marketing

Guess what? Direct response marketing techniques (like direct mail and door hangers) never stopped working. It has worked well for over a hundred years — even as new advertising channels have arisen. But once digital marketing took over, many direct-to-consumer brands abandoned or greatly reduced their usage of direct mail. And as they’re now discovering, this may not have been a good decision. That’s why DTC brands are returning to direct response and finding it to be one of their best performing — if not the best — marketing channels.

Why did so many companies stop using direct response marketing?

Digital feels easier to produce. It feels faster to deliver. And since everyone walks around with digital access through their smartphones, it feels normal. We live in a digital world. And while all these reasons are understandable, the question they don’t answer is, does digital advertising deliver better results?

More and more DTC brands are finding the answer to be ‘not alone,’ and they are returning to direct mail because, quite simply, it works quite well when added to a strong media mix. In fact, when direct mail follows digital, brand recall jumps by 25%

10 reasons why direct response marketing like direct mail and door hanger works for DTC brands 

Let’s dive into the reasons behind the success of direct mail and why DTC brands are leaning in more than ever. 

BONUS: At the end of this article, see the proven direct response marketing method that regularly gets superior results when compared to options like direct mail. It has amazing targeting capabilities and captures more attention than anything sent to a mailbox.

1. Direct response is more emotionally engaging

Do we know this is true, or do we just want it to be? 

As it turns out, this is science. Neuroscience studies have found that direct mail produces a stronger emotional response, creates more desire in the prospect, is more memorable, and results in a greater understanding of what’s being offered. Touch is powerful, and you can’t touch anything digital. Even more noteworthy, these results were consistent across all generations. 

A greater emotional response and connection with your advertising will result in a higher response rate, and that’s what DTC brands using direct response are experiencing.

2. Higher response rates and ROI

Interestingly, as digital everything was increasing around us, direct mail response rates increased along with it. One study found a median response rate for direct mail of 9%, which is outstanding, and that was higher than the previous year. The same study found that email, social media, paid search, and display ads on mobile and desktop — combined — earned a 2.3% response rate.

So, one channel outperformed five other channels combined by a rate of nearly 4:1. 

Likewise, direct mail earned a 41% ROI, far eclipsing the return on investment for various digital channels. And other research has produced similar findings. 

This is why DTC brands are adding direct mail and other direct response marketing to their media mix. Because they get higher response and make more money.

3. Data gets even better with direct response multichannel

None of this is to say you should abandon digital advertising. It does have advantages, some of which direct mail cannot compete with, especially the speed of delivery and the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions. 

The US Post Office found that a combination of digital and direct mail advertising resulted in 68% more website visits, a 63% increase in response rates, and a 60% higher ROI.

So as good as you might do with direct mail, you’ll do even better if you use direct mail in tandem with smart digital advertising. This works because people respond differently to different media. Seeing your advertising in multiple formats engages them differently each time, and it reinforces, or even seemingly verifies, what they’ve seen elsewhere — acting as a form of social proof.

4. Comparable costs

Costs are difficult to discuss with specifics because every campaign is different. But when you look at average cost per response, many DTC brands are surprised to learn that there isn’t a huge difference between direct mail and digital advertising.

This is one reason direct mail can earn such strong ROI — its higher response rate counteracts what initially seems like a higher cost to produce the advertising campaign. In other words, you can afford to spend more on direct mail, because you’re likely to make more back. 

5. Better data for more effective targeting

Direct response targeting data is much more reliable than digital targeting data. Why is this true? Consider the nature of it.

Most people don’t move very often. So if you know someone’s address, and can tie that address to prior purchase behavior, you can have fairly high confidence that this person may or may not have affinity for your products. And you can update mailing lists using address verification services.

Direct response lists use a lot of first-party data, and typically come with demographic, behavioral, and psychographic information about the people on the list. 

But with digital, so much of the data depends upon what’s recorded from digital behaviors like clicking, liking, commenting, and also purchasing. 

So if an algorithm tells you a particular target group has “interest” in topics related to your products and services, you don’t really have any way to verify if that’s true. What does “interest” mean? How does the algorithm define that and classify prospects as having it or not? Just because someone likes or comments on a social post doesn’t mean they have interest in a product mentioned in that post or blog article. But does the algorithm count it? 

No one knows. That’s all hidden from us. We have to trust the company behind the algorithm, and hope their contraption delivers accurate results.

And to be clear again — sometimes it does. Digital advertising can work. But as you saw earlier, direct response works far better on average, and the quality of the data is one reason why. It’s just much easier to create and send a targeted direct mail campaign that will effectively reach a quality prospect list than it is to do the same thing digitally.

6. Direct response has more staying power

Digital ads come and go — sometimes in seconds, especially with display ads. You see them flash on your screen while checking email, for example, and they change out every few seconds. Even if you look at the ad and might be interested, you have to make the decision to click pretty fast, or it disappears. 

When browsing websites with display ads, it’s even harder because often the ad is fixed in place on the page, and you quickly scroll away from it. Social media ads are also super easy to scroll past and ignore.

But direct mail exists. It’s physical. You pick it up, carry it in your house, and must decide what to do with it. You have to look at it. 72% of consumers do just that, says one study

Pro tip: (Front door marketing is even more powerful, as it’s in a less cluttered space)

These are staggering numbers that digital ads will never come close to touching in terms of impressions, with the possible exception of SMS.

A person can set aside a direct mail piece on their counter or table. They can add it to their to-do pile. They can show it to a significant other who might have an opinion about it. They can return to it later that day, next week, or even months later. They can keep the ad handy just as a reference so they know who to call. 

What does a campaign cost?

Get a custom-built sample campaign with real targeting data, ad creative, cost estimates, and distribution plans.

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For example, you never need a plumber until you need one. What’s easier — to have an ad from a plumber you kept for when you might need it, or to go online and search through hundreds of plumber search results. It’s much easier to just pick up the phone and call the one that sent you something. 

7. Direct response can be personalized

In many ways, direct mail can be personalized even more than digital advertising. But for the most part, both can do this well. 

By connecting your customer database with your direct response or front door marketing campaign, you can create personalized offers, headlines, coupons, and other forms of engagement that make the recipient feel more known and important. You reached out to them, specifically. 

8. Less competition and more attention

Interestingly, millennials and Gen Z are actually more likely to respond to direct response than older generations. This is likely because older generations grew up in the heyday of direct mail, and got conditioned to throw most of it away because they received mountains of it.

But today, with far fewer brands using direct response, combined with the amount of time younger generations spend staring at screens, receiving direct mail feels almost like a break. It’s a relief to get an actual piece of mail to hold and look at.

Another US Post Office study found that Millennials spend about 6 minutes sorting their mail, considerably higher than the 4-minute average. And they spend 8 minutes reading it, compared to the average of 7 minutes. 

Why is this happening? Consider the differences between how we interact with different advertising channels:

Suppose a person gets three direct mail advertisements on a single day. In today’s media landscape, that’s a lot. Some days you don’t get any. But with three ads, the recipient only has three things to look at. That’s almost no competition. And since all three are likely from different industries, each one will be duly considered.

Compare that to how many emails you get per day, or how many social media ads or display ads you see over the course of a day as you browse websites. Hundreds. Perhaps thousands. The competition online is overwhelming. 

Direct mail advertising gets seen by almost everyone who receives it. And because it gets received in a much less competitive environment, each ad also receives more attention and consideration. 

This is the single greatest reason why you see the 9% response rate mentioned earlier, as opposed to the under 1% typical of most digital ads.

One great idea you might consider is to send a direct mail campaign to everyone who unsubscribes from your email or SMS lists. Maybe they’re just tired of those forms of communication, but would still do business with you if you reach out through the mail.

Pro tip: Get even better performance when you combine the benefits of direct mail with a direct response marketing tactic like door hangers. Get solo attention on the front door of your most coveted attention. Learn more about front door marketing

9. Easy metrics

Measuring the effectiveness of a direct response campaign is much easier than most digital campaigns. The reason is again because of the simplicity of attribution for physical media. You sent out 10,000 pieces. 500 of them got a response, and 300 of those made a purchase. Done. 

You can calculate your response rate (500/10,000), conversion rate (300/500), the cost per acquisition (cost of campaign divided by 300 in this example) and ROI. It’s pretty simple math. 

In comparison, digital advertising has so many moving parts and interconnected systems.

Collecting data online is still a very common thing, but it’s more complicated, and in some situations, much harder to verify. For example, what value is there in the open rate for your emails? Some people open every email and then delete them as they go. With direct mail, it gets “opened”, in a sense, the moment they pull it out of the mailbox.

10. Direct response engages all stages of the buyer’s journey 

You can send direct response messages for just about any marketing goal. 

Want new customers? Send to a targeted list that aligns with your products, services, needs addressed, offers, and marketing goals. 

Want to follow up? Send direct response marketing to people who fill out a form online or express interest in some other way that includes sharing their address. For example, maybe they requested a free sample, and you want to follow up to get them to make a purchase. 

How about repeat purchases? You can create direct mail campaigns that go out to first-time buyers, loyal customers, and people who bought particular items or spent certain amounts of money. 

You can create campaigns that seek referrals from existing customers. You can motivate people to visit your brick and mortar store. You can send direct mail to your VIPs, loyalty program members, or even to the neighbors of your customers. And you can automate some of this. 

There’s no point in the customer lifecycle that cannot be engaged through direct mail. 

The best form of direct response marketing

All ten of these reasons why DTC brands are using direct mail are very strong ones to consider adding it into your marketing mix. 

Power Direct offers direct mail services using some of our incredible data targeting capabilities.  

But there’s another specialized form of direct marketing that includes all those same advantages, but it’s possibly even more effective (especially when used in tandem with direct mail campaigns). It’s called front door marketing, or door hanger marketing. 

Power Direct specializes in door hanger marketing and distribution

This kind of direct response works even better than traditional direct mail because now, you’re engaging the prospect on their front porch, where they get packages delivered. You’ll have zero competition here. And the visually powerful display and uniquely creative campaigns you can build simply have no comparison with things that fit in the mailbox. 

Take a look at some of our best door hanger marketing campaigns.