Direct Mail Is Still an Important Marketing Component


Initial costs aside, studies found that direct mail produces a higher response rate than online advertising. It's perceived as more trusted and personal than email, and has the potential to generate a long-term relationship. The key is effectively integrating it into an overall marketing campaign.

Direct mail, direct marketing, catalogs, advertising, email, prospects, patient retention, marketing

Direct mail should be part of an overall marketing to consumer approach. The combination, strengthens every component.

It was Mark Twain who once said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

That was a long time ago. But today those words could easily apply to direct mail which, according to the Data & Marketing Association, is far from dead.

The DMA Statistical Fact Book notes that 9.8 billion catalogs were mailed in 2016, and more than 100 million U.S. adults made a catalog purchase during that same year. But perhaps even more impressive is direct mail’s response rate — 4.4% compared to email’s average response rate of 0.12%.

Meryl Randman, creative director at Meryl Randman LLC, explains why.

“When someone gets an email … you have to have a really strong subject line or some sort of connection to open the email,” Randman says. “It’s not going to have the shelf life as opposed to direct mail.”


Randman defines direct mail marketing as a form of advertising that allows organizations to communicate directly with prospects, as opposed to ads that have a more broad-based focus.

“You’re sending a piece of mail to someone specifically,” she explains. “You have someone in mind, they’re your target, and you gear all the language towards them. By doing this, it strengthens the chance they’ll take action.”

And action is what you want.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that email, social media and online advertising should be overlooked. Rather, Randman believes that direct mail should be part of an overall marketing to consumer approach. The combination, she adds, strengthens every component.

For example, if you have a potential patient’s email as well as home mailing address, you could send them an email indicating, “We have something special coming for you in the mail.” It piques their interest, and provides an extra push for them to open the direct mail envelope when it arrives.

Then, follow up the direct mail with an email reminder. Something along the lines of, “Hope you received our recent package.”

“The whole thing with advertising on any level is, of course, you want them to act right away, but people don’t,” Randman says. “So you send reminders, and work all the components together that way.”


Randman says a great first step toward getting response to direct mail is by offering an incentive. She recalls that her current dentist, whose business continues to thrive, placed an ad in the New York City subway featuring a special low introductory offer for patients to come to their office. A direct mail piece that incentivizes, focuses on benefits, and offers up customer testimonials is an excellent strategy to win over new customers.

“People want to feel comfortable,” Randman says. “We’re all social creatures. So we want to feel like other people had good experiences.”

One direct mail approach Randman recommends for dentists that she says is cost effective is a direct mail campaign to current patients. The incentive or offer might not be for the current patient, but the promotion might say, “Do you know anyone who’s interested in a dentist? If so, we’re offering a special cleaning.” In other words, the type of marketing material current patients might be inclined to pass along.

“Word of mouth,” Randman says.

And if a new patient makes that initial visit, follow up with them to make certain they had a good experience, and might refer your practice to others they know.

“It’s all part of retention,” Randman says. “Maybe you can send a quarterly newsletter, and do it by email which is more cost effective. It could offer friendly problem-solving information such as why they should floss. You could even have a pass-along coupon in the newsletter.”


Randman says that direct mail has the potential to generate a long-term relationship because it’s perceived as more trusted and personal than email. However, it does come with a higher initial cost. As such, it’s important to set specific goals.

“You want a strategy,” she says. “That’s how all effective marketing is handled.”

But you also want to measure, evaluate, and be prepared to make adjustments where necessary.

“Measuring is what makes direct mail so important and so successful,” Randman says. “You should be measuring everything, even the timing of when you have your mailing. Is there a set time of the year when people tend to visit the dentist more?”

For example, parents might be inclined to bring their children in for a checkup before the start of the school year. Or link their oral checkup with a medical physical.

“It’s always smart to tie direct mail into something like that.”

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