Most inbound marketers are vehemently opposed to direct mail.

There’s no clear return on investment! The cost-per-lead is too high! Direct mail is dead!

I’m not so sure.

A recent postcard I received made me question whether direct mail marketing is in fact a viable and profitable marketing channel for small and medium-size businesses.

Like any marketing channel – SEO, PPC, social media, etc. – there are fundamental best practices. When those aren’t followed, the marketer will not see remarkable results. It happens all of the time. Landing pages that aren’t fully optimized. A half-hearted social media campaign. The SEO guy who promises to get you to the first page of Google by focusing solely on high quality back-links.

So with that postcard in my hand, I wondered how direct mail marketing was any different. I hopped on the Interwebs and did some research.

It’s not just the online world that’s come a long way. Offline technologies have too. With direct mail, marketers can now more easily use data-driven personalization to engage specific, target audiences. Smart direct mail marketers use variable data printing to get the same kind of personalized effect that inbound marketers achieve through contact list segmentation and targeted email marketing.

It’s pretty wild.

For the record, most surveys among B2B marketers put email marketing at the top of the list when it comes to nurturing leads more effectively to close more sales. Surveyed B2C companies, however, tend to see much higher ROI with direct mail, often citing it as their most profitable marketing channel.

In 2012, Direct Marketing News cites, the average response rate for direct mail – both for B2B and B2C campaigns – was a whopping 4.4%. A response, in this sense, is when a person responds to the direct mail offer in a trackable way. Picking up the phone, visiting a particular landing page, using a coupon, etc.

4.4% is much higher than industry expectations, and in line with the 3-5% click-through rate I’d expect to see in an average email nurturing campaign.

I came across a study, Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail. It revealed that physical mail, whether a letter or postcard or small package, left a “deeper footprint” in the brain. There’s more emotional processing, which plays a big role in memory retention. Overall, there’s greater internalization of a company’s brand when it’s delivered via snail mail.

What I’m trying to say is that direct mail can work really well, if done right.

And I think a NYC restaurant is doing direct mail the right way.

Which brings us back to the postcard:

inbound marketing direct mail

The front of the postcard isn’t particularly interesting. The text is actually hard to read and doesn’t jump out from the postcard nearly as much as it should.

But when you turn the postcard over, here’s what you see:

restaurant direct mail

I’m not a direct mail expert, but I know good copy and a good marketing offer when I see it.

  • You’re invited: This establishes a kind of exclusivity, and centers the offer around some kind of event. Typically, these kind of introductions are used in email marketing subject lines to capture attention. Off to a good start.
  • The West Village community: This postcard wasn’t sent to everyone. It was only sent to folks who live in the immediate area. This is great personalization and will likely resonate much stronger in the reader’s mind.
  • I’ll show you around and explain how Virgola has renewed a little piece of Greenwich Village history: Like the YouTube marketing video I wrote about last week, this is a great example of education-centric marketing. This is the kind of inbound approach I like to see with companies. People enjoy learning, and this particular offer reinforces the neighborhood personalization and community. There’s good synergy here.
  • Should you choose to book in the next 30 days: This is an exploding offer. Act soon! This is a classic marketing best practice. Psychologically, folks are more inclined to act in the heat of the moment when there’s a clear deadline around the marketing offer. It also gives Virgola a distinct campaign timeline to get a sense of how well this piece of direct mail is performing.
  • Complimentary bottle of chilled Prosecco: Need I say more? This is an extraordinary offer. According to their menu, it’s valued at $44. Not the kind of giveaway you typically see at a restaurant opening.

Finally, we’re being told that the restaurant is small and has limited seating – another subtle way of enticing the reader to take action and to reserve a table – AND as “neighbors”, we’re being given a dedicated code to use and email address to reach out to. This is great positioning.