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How to Use Direct Mail in the Modern Marketing Mix

Hal Conick

Far from dead, direct mail marketing gets a higher response rate than it did more than a decade ago. Here’s how marketers can take advantage​.

Many marketers have long awaited the death of direct mail. Surely it couldn’t last much longer, they thought; after all, smartphones, video marketing and social media have all become vastly popular. Why would consumers still want to get physical mail? 

Neil O’Keefe, senior vice president of marketing and content at the Data & Marketing Association, says that marketers began questioning direct mail’s endurance in 2007. That year, Statista reports that smartphone sales jumped 70% from the previous year to $8.7 billion. At the same time, the volume of mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service began to plummet: In 2006, people in the U.S. sent 213.1 billion pieces of mail, according to USPS; by 2017, they were sending 149.5 billion pieces each year, a 29.9% decline. By this point, smartphone sales had reached $55.6 billion. The price of postage and paper had skyrocketed, as did the number of internet users—everything seemed to hammer a nail into direct mail’s coffin.

But a strange thing has happened in marketing: Direct mail response rates have risen in the past 10 years. 

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Hal Conick

Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at hconick@ama.org or on Twitter at @HalConick.