As everything shifts online, emails and social media now seem less personal than older forms of communication. It’s easy to send an email or text message, so when someone takes the time to send us a piece of physical mail, it stands out. It’s something physical you can hold, and doesn’t disappear with a click or tap.

Sending direct mail takes time and attention, but the payoff is worth it. For instance, 70% of consumers say direct mail is more personal than online interactions. So while direct mail feels outdated, it’s still surprisingly useful.

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Why dealerships don’t prioritize direct mail enough

Even dealerships who understand the power of direct mail tend to discount it due to a number of factors.

  • It’s harder to measure — unlike a click or an email open, it’s harder to tell when someone has looked at a piece of mail
  • It takes more effort — organizing a direct mail campaign (from design and strategy to finding the right partner to print and send your message out) takes more time than typing something out and hitting Publish or Send
  • It’s harder to target an audience — unlike social media ads that allow you to pick based on a list of interests, demographics, and more, direct mail targeting can require a bit more research.

Thankfully, these issues are less problematic than they might seem.

Measurement is possible through tracking metrics like calls to your dealership, or visits to a custom webpage that you set up for the campaign. You can improve targeting by using existing list data or getting targeted lists from organizations like UPS or a marketing company. And these days, online tools make it much easier to design, print, and send physical mail according to the strategy you laid out.

Direct mail gets a response rate as high as 37%

Even with these tools though, direct mail does still take more effort than your typical digital marketing campaign might. Putting in that extra effort is a big part of why direct mail works so well: fewer people are doing it, and it shows you put time into the message.

Let’s take a look at why taking the time to create a direct mail campaign is worth it.

5 reasons why direct mail isn’t dead

Direct mail remains useful for dealerships because it allows them to target a specific audience with their marketing messages, while adding more personalization and standing out from the mass of digital messages that customers get every day.

But how, specifically, is direct mail helping your dealership grow its revenue?

1) Response rates to direct mail are higher than other mediums

While many companies struggle to get a 5% click through rate with their online ads (let alone actually getting a lead), direct mail gets a response rate as high as 37%. If you want vehicle owners to take action, direct mail is your best bet.

2) People look forward to physical mail

Your typical customer’s house gets about two pieces of physical mail each day. Meanwhile, consider how many texts and emails they receive, or ads they mindlessly scroll past every day. If their inbox is anything like yours, they’ll delete most emails without clicking anything.

With physical mail, there’s not a mass of content fighting for attention, and this simplicity and lack of overwhelming options means 77% of Americans look forward to opening them.

3) Direct mail has a higher ROI than digital ads

A 2017 study of marketing mediums found direct mail has an ROI of 29%, which is significantly higher than both paid search and online display ads. In fact, it comes in just below social media ads, which average 30%.

Other more recent research puts direct mail ROI much higher, outcompeting every other medium. This is likely due to the rising prices of ad costs and the introduction of Apple’s iOS 14 privacy update, along with consumers now seeing so many ads online (and getting better at ignoring them).

4) Vehicle owners trust printed physical ads more than digital

Despite the fact that anyone can send physical mail, it affects our psychology differently than when we see something online. The ad isn’t from some faceless online entity anymore, but a real person (even if we still can’t see a face).

So while it may not make logical sense, 82% of Americans trust print ads more than digital ones. Two-thirds of Americans in Gen X say they have a good impression of companies who send direct mail, according to USPS. In particular, younger customers don’t associate direct mail with “junk mail” in the same way that some older customers might.

One reason might be the way we react to receiving physical mail these days. When someone writes you a letter, it shows they care enough to do so. The more effort and personalization involved on the sender’s part, the more meaningful it becomes.

Tip: To maximize this effect, consider handwriting the direct mail you send out, or at very least, writing a personal note with a signature to each person.

5) Direct mail is more memorable than digital

Building on the uniqueness of having a physical letter, and our tendency to trust it more, a vehicle owner who receives direct mail from you is much more likely to remember your dealership, even if they don’t need to visit anytime soon.

Some dealerships maximize this effect by sending refrigerator magnets, which offer some kind of value and give the customer motivation to keep the magnet around, so they see it every day.

For instance, when we send out direct mail for dealerships offering DriveSure (such as reminders for upcoming benefits expiring, or reminders after benefits have expired), our mailers pack a 1-2 punch of value. These mailers often include a coupon or two for service offerings, but they also highlight the unique suite of DriveSure benefits: renewable roadside assistance, tire protection, and alternate transportation coverage.

Since these benefits are included with the service at no extra charge, customers take notice and remember that dealership, especially when all the info is right there in a mailer they can hold. This has proven to help drive traffic and get customers coming back for service.

4 Direct mail tactics that work

To learn how your dealership can get the most out of direct mail, check out our past article on Direct Mail Tactics That Work. From defining the right offer and creating more effective messaging, to deciding when to send direct mail, and who to send it to, this article will help set you up for direct mail success.

Don’t ignore digital messaging of course, since it’s still highly effective, but consider how you might add direct mail to your messaging for maximum effectiveness. Harvard Business Review found there was a 49% increase in sales from customers who received both email and physical mail.

In short, don’t ignore the power of direct, physical mail in your marketing efforts, but be sure that it remains part of your larger marketing strategy — complete with digital mediums.

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