Is Direct Mail Still A Thing?

Direct Mail: Reports of its Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

Contrary to recent buzz, direct mail is still an excellent option for promoting your services to existing and prospective customers.  Done well, direct mail can be very effective, especially when paired with your other marketing initiatives.  Think about it: in this day and age, we are all bombarded by many different forms of digital advertising, all day long.  Nationwide, heck, worldwide, company advertising budgets have shifted away from the traditional forms of marketing (direct mail, newspaper, TV, radio, etc.) to internet marketing. It’s literally everywhere! This gives good old direct mail a bit of an unexpected advantage, in that it stands out from all that digital clutter.  And let’s not forget that there is still value in holding something tangible in your hand.

Cognitive Stuff

Studies show that consumers understand and retain what they read on paper better than what they read on a screen.  There’s all kinds of fancy scientific reasons for this, having to do with how our brain “maps” information.  The long and short of it is this: fewer of our cognitive resources are drained when we are reading from paper that we are holding in our hand.  And I don’t know about you, but my cognitive resources don’t need any further draining at this point, nomsayin?

That’s not to say that the majority of prospective consumers who receive a postcard from you won’t immediately toss it.  Because they will.  (There’s some tough love for ya!)  But a percentage of them will read and keep it, if your offer is compelling enough.  And either way, that tossed postcard counts towards your “frequency.”

Frequency Matters

Frequency is the number of times a prospect sees your marketing.  In the marketing industry, there is something called the Rule of 7, and it refers to the number of times a prospect needs to see your brand before they even remember it.  Which is – you guessed it – 7.  Frequency is key to marketing to new prospects.  So if you’ve sent out one postcard, and given up because you didn’t get a good response, you really haven’t given it a fair shot.  That’s like going to the gym once, and expecting to have 6-pack abs the next day.

Target Carefully

Pick a couple of towns to start with.  They should be towns that you can easily service and where opportunity exists. Purchase a quality mailing list.  You want to purchase at least 10,000 addresses (or more!) because you want to cast the net wide enough to catch some fish.  Then set up a schedule to hit these same homes with postcards every month.  Use first class mail so that you get undeliverable mail returned to you.  Expect to receive up to 9% back as undeliverable the first time you send your postcards.  Don’t panic when you see undeliverable mail coming back to you.  This is normal since people move, die, get married, etc. every day!  Returned mail is your friend, because it allows you to update your mailing list and remove these addresses to save money on your next mailing.  (And remember, even at 9% undeliverable rate, that still means that 91% of the people on the list received your mailing.)

It’s important to use the same mailing list every time and keep updating it, as undeliverable mail is returned to you.  You want to keep your name in front of the same people every time.  Why? Because sending postcards to 50,000 homes one time won’t produce as many leads as sending postcards to the same 10,000 homes, five times.  Frequency, remember?

What Should You Expect?

Remember to have reasonable expectations when you use direct mail.  When you are mailing postcards or flyers to people who don’t know your company, you can expect a less than 1% return.  Yep, I said less than 1%.  (So you can see why we suggest casting a big net!)  You can expect that return to improve over time, as you continue mailing to the same houses.

Make your offer compelling.  What makes a good offer?  Service.  By far, the best response you’ll get is with a service offer.  It’s tempting to promote new installations and high-end equipment, but after 20+ years in HVAC marketing, my experience is that it’s best to get into a customer’s home first with a service offer, and then upsell.

Be Clear And Concise With Your Message. 

Use words that provoke emotion. Give them a reason to take action.  (“Be more comfortable NOW.”  “Start saving money on your utility bills TODAY”.)  Create a sense of urgency or FOMO (fear of missing out) by using expiration dates.  Above all else, you must have a call to action on your direct mail.  Ask for the sale.  Ask for the phone call.  Ask for the website visit.  ASK!  Get a little creative: use direct mail to show your company personality (branding).  Have fun with it but make sure that your direct mail is consistent with the look and feel, colors, fonts, etc. of your website – because that’s where homeowners are going to go to check you out after they receive your mail.  And when they get there, you don’t want to look like a completely different company!

Track It

And for heaven’s sake, track it!  Add a call tracking number, or a QR code, or a link to a dedicated landing page, or any combination of these.  Then use the data you collect to watch trends, test which marketing promotions work best for you, and make better and better marketing decisions moving forward.

And don’t let anyone tell you that direct mail doesn’t work anymore, because it does.


More tips at

Need help with yours?  EB&L is the HVAC industry expert for direct mail. Call our friendly staff today at 315.685.9500.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *