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Perspectives

Direct mail, like vinyl records, has been rediscovered.

By Brian Odell   

Did you relegate your old vinyl LP collection to the basement after CDs and digital downloads disrupted the market? I did. It had been at least 15 years since I listened to a vinyl LP. Advancements made in sound quality, simplicity and convenience had seemingly killed vinyl.     

But a funny thing has been happening. Turntables and vinyl are making a comeback. In fact, FORTUNE magazine recently reported that vinyl record sales, fueled by a unique sound quality and a nostalgia wave, are at a 28-year high having reached $416 million in 2015. This is still far below digital sales, but at this level they said it shouldn’t be considered just a hipster thing anymore. Apparently, a lot of the buyers are Millennials who are looking for a deeper, tactile connection to the music.

I didn’t expect to join the movement, but my daughter gave me a turntable – and a copy of Adele’s new album – as a gift for my birthday. I love listening to Adele, but I’ve got to admit, I’ve had more fun going through my original collection, now resurrected from the basement. Listening has brought back a flood of memories about people from my past or moments in my life that I had forgotten. Even some old favorites have been rediscovered. Does anyone remember The Pousette-Dart band?  

With vinyl, it’s not just about the songs. It’s also about tactical reward. The album design. The printed lyrics. The process of cleaning of dust off the record itself and carefully setting down the needle in the grove. It’s more of an experience than digital. It’s what people say they enjoy about it. I found I did too.  

Studies suggest the same sort of resurgence is happening in B2B direct mail. Marketers are finding that it can be an impactful way to connect with customers and prospects – especially in a world where people are being overwhelmed with digital content. I’m not suggesting that direct mail is a replacement for email, social media and online advertising, but if executed properly, it can provide excellent results and high ROI. It’s a way to connect with key prospects in ways that are more tactile and personal.

According to the DMA Response Rate Report, direct mail generates a 3.7% response rate with a house list and 1% with a prospect list. On average, email response rates lag at 0.1% for both house and prospect lists. Direct mail is a bit faster too. The CMO Council reports that 79% of people act on direct mail immediately versus just 45% with email. Of course, there’s a big difference in cost that can’t be ignored. Printing, postage and handling are not cheap.

Again, it’s not for everyone, but we’re finding it can be an effective part of the overall marketing communications mix for some of our clients – particularly when we’ve utilized oversized envelopes and dimensional mailers. There’s less competition in the mail for the prospects attention. Prospects seem to react well to packages that arrive on their desk and deliver something of value. Neuroscience experiments show that there’s an emotional effect linked with direct mail. Recipients tend to feel a deeper connection to the sender. It’s all about touch. Humans like to touch stuff. They value something they can see and touch 24% more than something they can only see.

The takeaway is this: maybe it’s time to take another look at direct mail as a contributor within your marketing communications mix. Consider leveraging it to create a meaningful connection with your most significant prospects. The fundamentals always apply: build the right list, create a compelling offer, be creative with design and packaging, and time it right. You might be surprised by the results. Of course, call us if you’d like some help. And better results.

I think I’ll listen to Frampton Comes Alive tonight.

Brian Odell

About Author

Brian Odell

30+ year veteran of B2B branding and marketing communications. Started out as a technical copywriter. Worked in PR. Eventually moved to account service. Founded Catalyst to serve B2B marketers looking for ways to leverage their brand as the stimulus for company transformation. Lots of experience, but definitely new age when it comes to brand strategy and activation.

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