The Direct Mail Opportunity


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The Direct Mail Opportunity

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

Direct mail gets a bad rap. Sometimes it’s deserved, like those generic monthly mailings from cable companies, cell phone novelists, banks, utilities, and more. Same offer every time. If I did this back when I was a marketing director I’d have been drawn and quartered.

But when done well, direct mail can be superb. It can be a compelling way of reaching a target audience with unique and even personalized messages that generate revenue for the company behind it. While consumers may quickly fill a circular file with generic (and repetitive) direct mail offers, relevant, personalized or customized direct mail is opened, kept, read more than once, and gets people to pull out the plastic.

This is supported by Canon’s latest study, done in collaboration with NAPCO Research, which shows direct mail to be a growing opportunity for commercial printers. I was not involved in the study but recently received an early release of the research report and permission to share some highlights. The study cites reasons why your company should look for ways of offering customers direct mail services. Truth in reporting, I work with some very large direct mail companies that send out tens of millions of direct mail offers each month. I know direct mail on that scale poses more than a few challenges. But on a local or regional level many PSPs (print service providers) find direct mail to be a terrific fit. It can be an excellent way of expanding what you offer and of tapping into a new revenue stream. Long story short, if you aren’t offering direct mail services you are doing a disservice to your customers. And your competition may be there ahead of you.

Most direct mail offers we all receive are generic because the people responsible for creating the offer don’t realize all that can be done if they used the capability built into digital presses. Instead, they send the same page to every “target,” and stuck in the year 1992, hope for the best. But you know better. You can provide modern direct mail that is targeted to the recipient, uses color, has a message on the envelope, and includes a CTA (Call to Action) that encourages recipients to act sooner rather than later. Moreover, some of your customers probably want this now, don’t know where to turn, and may be unaware that you can change the flow of cash into their business. So tell them!

A growth application.
Implementing and selling such services takes some time and effort, but the new Canon research and a separate study show broad potential show the potential. According to PRINITNG United Alliance’s 2023 Commercial Printing Print Business Outlook, also sponsored by Canon U.S.A., commercial printers offering direct mail expect the segment to grow annually up to 5% over the next three years, a three-year compounded growth rate (CAGR) of 12% to 16 %. Direct mail is expected to offer the highest growth.

That report also indicated that commercial printers’ capital investment wish lists aligned with direct mail production. When asked to identify the most desired capital investments, commercial printers said bindery/finishing technology, commercial inkjet systems, mailing and fulfillment capabilities, and print enhancement technology were on their acquisition lists for meeting anticipated demand.

Direct mail, especially when digitally printed, is expected to boost demand for such dimensional mail as boxes, tubes, containers, bags over the next two years. Dimensional mail often contains a giveaway item or sample intended to give recipients a memorable opening experience that may also work as a call to action.

Direct Mail Influences
Print and direct mail convey value that is not present in an age of digital images. Respondents to the latest study said print communicates quality, has higher retention levels, enhances brands, demonstrates credibility and authority, and is better noticed than digital media perhaps because it has more staying power. By comparison, a digital image vanishes when a computer is shut down, while a physical direct mail piece that was saved is often viewed and read multiple times. Tied to this are five key influences behind the value and growth of direct mail.
  • Digital printing empowers and supports use of direct mail.
  • Personalization and customization increase conversion and repeat purchase rates.
  • Print enhancements, from heavier stocks to coatings to textures and more make direct mail stand out
  • USPS Promotions are accelerating demand. The USPS website offers a wealth of information on these promotions ( that are creating customer (and print provider) incentives to use direct mail.
  • Technology is enhancing value and driving positive results.
Direct mail is delivering growth and opportunity. The technologies that support effective direct mail are well-developed and ready for use. They will certainly improve, but now is the time to begin bringing the value of direct mail to your customers. Canon’s latest report shows the market potential and can help you determine what makes sense for your business and the customers you serve.
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