Blog : Print Bounces Back to the Top of Direct Mail Marketing

By Craig | Oct 20, 2014 | in

By Barbara Perkins

In the world of direct mail marketing, print was long considered best in class. Business was still decent enough when The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General reported 213 billion pieces of mail were handled in 2008. That was then. Today most direct mail marketing is distributed digitally.

While digital, offers a cheap and quick point of entry, it falls short at providing evidence that it works. Complaints about unwanted banners, pop-up ads and unrequested email have skyrocketed. Indicators point to an overload of online messages being sent to folks who don’t want to hear them. Toss in security breaches or computer viruses and the world of online marketing is not only plagued by too much noise, it is now all-out interruptions.

Consumers fed-up with bloated in-boxes come as no surprise to John Sobczak. An industry veteran, with Hampstead, N.H.-based RAM Printing, Sobczak says he personally gets more than 200 emails a day. “I don't have time to deal with that either,” he says. However, customers angered by online marketing is precisely the type of news that bodes well for companies like RAM – one of a handful that remain smitten by print.

The origins of the digital disruption slowly took shape in the early 2000's. That's when internet, email, online gaming and social media platforms were welcomed advertisers joining in on the marketplace noise. These inexpensive new ways to reach the masses grew in popularity while print spiraled to new lows. By 2013, the number of mail pieces handled by the postal service fell to 158 billion.

“Direct mail today is very different from what it was in the past,” says Sobczak. "We try to reach folks who actually want to read their mail." Among his responsibilities, Sobczak advises clients on best practices for building, maintaining and streamlining in-house databases. Advances in data-mining, personalization and targeting techniques, have changed the game. Mass mailings blanketing consumers is simply an outdated concept. What RAM does instead is more of a one-on-one type campaign. In effect they manage existing relationships between their clients and their customers – creating value for both.

Ushering in an era of enormous discounted marketing costs, the surge in internet marketing has fostered a renewed interest and commitment to address print's perceived impact on the environment.

Sobczak quickly ticks off a number of ways that RAM adheres to sustainable business practices. Consuming less energy and generating less waste are starters, then there's the ink. While some printing companies use oil-based inks; RAM’s are vegetable-based. There's no compromise on quality or color and the green-friendly options make economic sense.

While the company didn't initially launch with sustainability in mind — they were quick to embrace it. RAM was among the first printers in New England to become affiliated with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), “We wanted to make a swift and clear demonstration of our commitment to sustainability,” says Sobczak. So even if clients dictate their paper choices, RAM ensures that only paper which is FSC certified is procured. RAM Printing was also one of the inaugural Business Partners in the Green Alliance. A community-based consortium formed in 2009, the Green Alliance works to promote area companies that embrace and champion environmentally sound business practices, policies and concerns.

“When it comes to direct mail, a lot of people just assume using paper is not so great,” says H. Bradley Kahn, communications director of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). But direct mail works he says. Take California-based Patagonia Inc., a company that's considered very environmentally aware. They use direct mail all the time, says Kahn. And they always print on FSC certified paper. “When a company like RAM aligns with us, it communicates that they too value the environment,” says Kahn. Not only does seeing that FSC logo send a message to consumers that RAM cares about forests, but it sends a signal to the landowners, paper mills and even the truckers – every link in the paper chain – that the way they do business really does matter.

Paper used in direct mail campaigns germinates from the forest, and forests, when properly managed, are renewable. If companies and consumers stop using paper, landowners will eventually use their property for other things – in some instances that means clearing the way for urban sprawl and development according to Kahn.

“Using paper along with other media can really impact the effectiveness of marketing campaigns today,” says Dennis J. McCarthy, a director with South Carolina-based Blackbaud Inc. a marketing and fundraising consulting firm whose roster boasts 30,000 clients in 60 countries. Catalogs and other print pieces encourage phone calls, store visits and website purchases he says. An integrated marketing guru, McCarthy, attributes the current direct mail rally to better messages and more prudent mailings. People will pay attention to it now because direct mail in its latest incarnation is so much more targeted and interactive. “People really do like to touch things,” says McCarthy. “They like to turn pages.”

Green Alliance Members save 5% off all printing at RAM! Not a member? Join here!