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Don't Rule Direct Mail Out Yet

March 24, 2011 By: Michael Browne

I spend a lot of time in this space marveling at the power of Facebook and other social media platforms, but the truth is it’s because I’m kind of in awe of this phenomenon myself. A year ago I didn’t want to join Facebook, and I thought Twitter was an appropriate name for a platform that basically was going to be a fly-by-night venture for teen girls who wanted to see if they could text their nonsense in 140 letters or less. I have since eaten many servings of humble pie, and as part of my penance I try to say at least one good thing about social media every day.

At no time, however, have I suggested that home-based travel agents should give up one of their tried-and-true marketing strategies: direct mail. This is still perhaps the  best way for many of you to reach most of your preferred client base.

A report out this week from  ICOM, a division of Epsilon Training,  notes that American consumers in the valued 18- to 34-year-old demographic prefer by a wide margin to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers rather than online sources such as social media platforms. (Aye, but here's the rub: Travel was the exception, where 18- to 34-year-old Americans preferred online to offline information by a 42 percent to 35 percent margin. Still, that 35 percent is a high enough number not to ignore.)

Most of the categories in the survey were product-oriented—household cleaners, food, personal care, etc.—so maybe the coupons in the weekly Val-Pak just lend themselves better to consumer goods than services.

More importantly, though, is the perception these younger adults have of e-mail and social media. They’re not as completely enraptured by it as we might suspect. In fact, when it comes to faith in the message being delivered, traditional mail still wins over the Internet—and that’s across all ages. Here are four key points from the survey that are all solid reasons why you should continue with your traditional marketing programs:

• 36 percent of respondents in 2010 said information is more private if sent through the mail vs. email or online, up from 29 percent in 2008
• 25 percent of respondents in 2010 said a large quantity of online information can’t be trusted, up from 19 percent in 2008
• 20 percent of respondents in 2010 said they trust information received by mail more than online, up from 12 percent in 2008
• 45 percent of U.S. men  and 36 percent of U.S. women do not have any social media accounts.

There are a growing number of channel choices for your marketing efforts. What you need to do is really examine your client base—or the client base you’d like to have—and put your muscle and dollars behind the best way to reach them. But just because you’re changing focus doesn’t mean you have to abandon the tools and techniques that have been working for you. The world changes fast—people’s habits, less so.

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