"Direct mail is dead" is probably just too bold a statement. In reality, a complete and integrated companion marketing approach works best - utilizing a variety of venues to market your message - including direct mail, email, internet marketing, social media, etc.
I think this topic has been stirred a bit by the interpretations of an NPR article noting that the USPS is seeing less mail due to the economy. In the article, the Postal Service’s Senior VP of Customer Relations, Stephen Kearney, states:
"Our mail volume had its greatest decline since the Great Depression… We may have losses (revenue) that are larger than the $2.8 billion we had last year."
Those looking to make their case may be misdefining "mail volume" as only direct mail pieces. But Americans are sending fewer packages and letters via USPS for a number of reasons, i.e. - the economy, email, availability of other carriers, etc. To twist USPS’ declining revenues into proof that direct mail doesn’t work is misguided.
That being said, however, I do feel the efficiency of direct mail has declined in the face of online inbound marketing tactics.
Here are some of my DM cons which has inspired me to ramp-up Web 2.0 activites and email marketing campaigns.
Direct mail is often considered to be junk mail. Seldom does a one-shot mailing have the desired result. You must have a long term, well thought out marketing plan.
Your piece is competing with dozens of other pieces for attention. If you don’t know what you are doing, it is easy to waste a lot of money.
There is a relatively high cost per contact.
It may be difficult to obtain updated, accurate mailing lists.
There’s no data. Direct mail does not offer real time data like internet marketing campaigns can.
Too many cheaper, more efficient options.
If you are moving forward with a Direct Mail campaign, I can only endorse it when done correctly, and that means including drivers to that next action step.
But beyond that I'd also advise to determine who you want to reach before you develop your direct mail program. This allows you to specifically target your message to fit specific needs. It is the best advertising medium for customizing your appeal. With improved database resources and demographics, you can effectively precisely target the prospect you are aiming at.
Also, carefully plan your package content, its design, and its message. Remember to attract the reader’s interest, it must be clear, concise and easy to respond to. Can't stress it enough... INTEGRATE... coordinate your mailing with other advertising methods to significantly increase your return. Also, presenting one specific offer instead of a variety of options is usually more effective.
Finally, figure out a way to diligently test and track your campaigns. I recommend the Direct Mail Marketing blog at marigoldtech.com for some tips on calculating DM ROI.