It is estimated that the U.S. Postal Service delivered more than 80 billion pieces of standard advertising mailings in 2015. While that is down from the more than 102 billion direct mail pieces delivered in 2006, it’s still a huge number. It’s logical to question if direct mail remains a relevant advertising medium in today’s digital age. After all, you can now deliver video content directly to a customer’s phone in a matter of seconds.
But as Mark Twain once quipped, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Our most-recent Future of Communications (FOC) Audience Insights Study indicated just how important direct mail can be to agricultural audiences, and the response may be a bit surprising. We’ve indicated in previous blog posts that trade magazines remain the most-referenced source of information for agricultural producers. Not surprisingly, this year’s study showed that 92 percent of the respondents put agricultural magazines as a source for information. And the response rate was consistent within all age ranges.
But coming in second: direct mail. Overall, 67 percent of the respondents indicated mailings from product or service providers as an information source. While older respondents preferred direct mail more than those in the younger age categories, direct mail remained the second most preferred information source.
As we continue to analyze the data for our clients, some clear takeaways are emerging. First, agricultural audiences are information hounds and will use a wide variety of sources to get this information.
While digital information delivery is becoming more commonplace in agriculture, a full transition has yet to take place. Some of this is based on generational habits — if you didn’t grow up with a smartphone, you may not make it your first source for information. Of course, that is changing, but it remains that older producers continue to rely on traditional information delivery sources.
Delving a bit deeper into the data generated from our study, we surmise that the influx of digital communications makes direct mail more compelling for agricultural audiences. We have seen a preference for printed newsletters over electronic delivery for some audiences, and in general we can get a strong response from direct mail when it is integrated into an email campaign. Sometimes, an audience may just prefer the tactile feel of paper in their hands.
What this data clearly shows is that direct mail remains an important part of an agricultural marketing communications plan. Messages can be refined depending on the audience and type of response solicited, but it is not going away anytime soon.
And if you consider that trade magazines and direct mail are delivered the same way, if we put “mail” as an overall delivery vehicle, it is clearly the most impactful to the agricultural audience.
It’s important information to consider as marketing communications programs are developed. Because as our research shows, direct mail still has a place in the mix.
This post was originally authored by Alexa Ganos, BR’s former group director of direct marketing.