The mail system is changing forever. Not just on Saturdays.

It’s time we wish the first generation of direct mail and e-mail a happy retirement to Del Boca Vista. I recall stories of when ol’ direct made the eyes of David Ogilvy twinkle with glee. Or when e-mail came on the scene, a hot, young upstart in the electronic world.

But like all things, there’s a new generation of direct mail and e-mail taking over and doing things differently. A generation of mail made for new technologies. Therefore the people receiving their messages demand more. The people using them for marketing purposes had better demand more of themselves in how they create, strategize and measure.

Let me explain. The ways we use mail has worked well for some period of time but like anything else, they are evolving.

Younger generations such as Millennials are embracing alternative communication methods through social media and internal project management tools to get information and send information beyond the standard send-and-receive e-mail systems. They also are responding to those offline techniques that incorporate online communication for continuing the conversation and relationship. I hardly think the generations that follow them are going to revert back the other way. We’re only going to get more electronic, more segmented, more fast and more personalized.

Marketers have the choice of evolving with this development or not at their own disappointment, if not their own peril.

Bottom line: Your message will not be nearly as effective if you ignore the ways to inject more technological applications into that direct mail or e-mail while adding inbound marketing mechanisms into your efforts.

We have to act as if direct mail in its most traditional form of “here’s our message, call this phone number if you’re interested” is irrelevant right now in terms of the call to action. We have to act as if spammers are ruining the quality of e-mail communication by the day.

It doesn’t mean mail is over. It means old direct mail and e-mail marketing messages are over.

Farewell to Direct Mail Marketing as We Know It

Let’s pick up the bugle and play “TAPS” for traditional direct mail as we’ve known it – a static piece like a postcard that merely asks your recipient to call or e-mail you without leading them anywhere else isn’t working hard enough. Even before the U.S. Postal Service decides to trim a day or more from its schedule, you should be re-evaluating conventional direct mail – not whether or not to use it necessarily but how you will inject a much-needed online component into that DM.

Direct mail with no online component such as a landing page or QR Code to scan or code to enter when they get to a website for a discount/prize….is probably going to get about a 1% response rate at best. So if you want to send out some general postcard to promote your business and get awareness, it’s your dollar. But expect no less than 99 out of 100 people to pitch it in that format. It’s good to at least have that expectation so that you’re not surprised (and if you are pleasantly surprised, that’s gravy). If you want better than that, the next generation is about driving the recipient to a personalized URL. You should be doing that right now if you’re using direct mail. Do you want a static piece that provides a response at best of awareness without likely action or do you want a piece that potentially drives the person online to take action and possibly even find long-term connectivity through a social network?

In the second half of this topic in my next post, I’ll talk about why you should bid adieu to the first generation of e-mail marketing right now too.