When people ask Mike Tinz if direct mail marketing is dead, he doesn’t get angry. He patiently explains that it can still produce booming results when correctly implemented. Some users fail to understand the most effective use of direct mail marketing, says Tinz, a 20-year veteran of direct mail marketing and vice president of Money Mailer (www.moneymailer.com), who has conducted successful HVACR campaigns.

He views direct mail as an acquisition customer vehicle that brings in repeat business. He acknowledges the impact of internet marketing and sees it as a compliment to direct mail. But it should rarely be a one-way street of only digital marketing. In recent years, when internet marketing became the darling of campaigns, Tinz saw marketing results plummet for those who eliminated direct mail marketing from their repertoire.

He drives home that when clients try direct mail and it isn’t working, the fault usually lies not with the medium itself but the approach. Inexperienced businesses or those who hope for quick results sometimes go for the least expensive target list. This usually means the list is too broad and fails to focus on the correct buyer profile.

“You just need to make sure that you're targeting the right audience, and one of the things that we do is we have some very good, sophisticated tools that allow us to really take a look at what the business owner needs and compare it to the right audience, so we get the right business and we get them the best response rate,” Tinz says. He also urges clients to give the campaign sufficient time, noting that only a few months of effort is often insufficient. It’s important to be in front of the potential customer when they're ready to make a buying decision, thus adding to the importance of frequency.

Another direct mail marketer, Syd Michaels, puts the issue more bluntly.

"Direct mail would only be dead if reading literature stopped and all mailboxes were destroyed and vanished,” he says. “People always read direct mail, and some are still stuck and don't even want to go digital at all, and that would be your ideal client. Perhaps some only read newspapers, some still look for inserts, I have an insert that still crushes certain towns. It is a great proven direct response contact medium. 

“The only people that want you to believe direct mail is dead are the digital only marketing agencies that are selling others on digital and trying to get everyone off direct mail so that they can make more money for themselves. Every dealer in America does direct mail.”

If Tinz and Michaels maintain the effectiveness of direct mail marketing, branding expert Fabian Geyrhalter is a believer of a broader approach to offline marketing.

“The more online your brand, the more digital your product, the more offline you should think,” says Fabian Geyrhalter, a brand strategist, founder and principal of Finien (wwwfinlen.com).

“There is an obvious backward trend happening: Kids love cheap plastic skateboards again,” Geyrhalter says. “All the hard work of creating gears for bikes is thrown out for fixies, and the hottest Silicon Valley investment is … artisanal coffee shops. Small batch gin producers are next in line. Stihl chain saws only sell through their own little stores, 8,500 of them in the U.S. You won’t find their products online or at major home-improvement stores, and it’s working great.

“Why? Because in 2017, offline is special, it is different. It is tangible and it is memorable. You don’t ‘like,’ but you actually truly enjoy a brand. You don’t hit ‘share’ like you hit snooze on your alarm clock, instead, you have a real conversation with people who trust you about a brand. Now that we are all well versed with pay-per-click ads and (finally) social media, it is time to hit the pause button and think about what it is that makes your brand special and how to best engage with your audience in your outreach. How will you create memorable, perhaps even inventive, inspirational campaigns? 

“The best place to look for inspiration is in the most offline of places: Bars. Firestone Walker’s beer coasters are every bit on-brand while starting a clever conversation about defending one's beer. Remember grabbing matches in restaurants on your way out, back when we were all smoking like chimneys? As we changed our habits, so have restaurateurs, and those fun and useful souvenirs have all but disappeared, making them a novelty now. A local bar down the street from our office goes back to basics by offering matches (pictured above) with the most rudimentary and anti-brand (hence memorable) call to action.

“Traditional marketing indeed can be seen as a novelty today and if treated in a unique way, and matched with the core values and personality of your brand, you might agree that retro is the new now, and offline the new online; even for your digital-first brand. If you can pull off ‘the matchbox trick’, remaining on your customer’s mind daily for months, I let you crunch the big data numbers on that one, but I feel you’d see a new type of ROI. So when you gear up for your marketing outreach, perhaps go single-gear and stand out instead.”