Is Your Bank’s Newest Secret Weapon Old-Fashioned Direct Mail?

Betsy Fiden
Partner, Marketing and Strategy

For marketers, it’s not always about reinventing the wheel. Sometimes, it’s about rediscovering what made the wheel great in the first place.

So let’s look at direct mail. Long a staple of bank marketing, direct mail lost favor over time, replaced by more expeditious (and cheaper) channels such as email and social media. 

But the pendulum swung back. As time passed, customers weren’t complaining about their outdoor mailboxes being packed with junk mail. Instead they were dismayed that their email inboxes and social platforms were packed with marketing messages. Then came a pandemic, which made electronic communication more essential and even more pervasive. But it also made those communications less effective.

Should marketers follow the road less taken?

Let’s look at where the pandemic has left us and what’s likely the “new normal” going forward. Human connection and communication have taken on a more important role. Zoom meetings, grocery deliveries and online shopping and banking have all become ubiquitous, even essential. At the same time, with consumers going to e-bills and companies switching to digital marketing, physical mailboxes are often empty.   

All this makes print more powerful than ever for marketing. Haptics, the neuroscience of touch, holds that being able to touch something makes us feel differently about it — we place greater value on it. Thirty-six percent of people report having brand recognition after seeing a piece of print; just 16% report brand recognition after seeing a digital ad.

There’s also digital fatigue. According to a study by Sappi, 65% of consumers agree that mail lifts their spirits. Households receive on average just two pieces of mail per day, versus 157 email messages. Plus, with more people than ever working from home, mail is a welcome distraction. It’s part of the reason the USPS is consistently ranked as the most popular entity in government.

Survey conducted by Sappi: 975 US adults, primary HH mail checkers (May 11-May 18 2020)

Adding a one-two punch for impact.

Direct mail isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. It plays well with digital communication. 

There’s a 28% increase in conversion rate for marketing when direct mail and digital ads are used together as a one-two punch. And consumers say they prefer to receive direct mail and digital over any other media, including social media.

Those facts suggest that if your retail marketing strategy has defaulted to digital only, you’re missing an opportunity. 

Tips for increasing direct mail effectiveness.

The 2018 DMA Response Rate Report finds that 80% of sales are between the 8th and 12th touchpoints. Direct mail, as part of a larger physical/digital strategy, can help you increase touchpoints and get the most bang for your buck.

With USPS Informed  Delivery®, consumers can sign up to see your bank’s mail as a scan, in email, in addition to receiving the physical piece in their mailbox. The side that’s scanned is the address side so include key information, including offer and visual, there. The open rate for Informed Delivery email is impressive — 64% to 80%.

USPS Informed  Delivery®, (Source:

USPS offers the option to include a clickable color digital ad with Informed Delivery, alongside your mail piece. You can also substitute a color image for your scanned mail piece for even greater visibility. Only 15% of mail-receiving consumers are currently using Informed Delivery, but its base is growing by 1.5 million consumers per month.

Maximizing your marketing mix.

Here are some options for investing in direct mail and supplementing the effort with digital:

Mail + Retargeting

  • 96% of unique visitors leave your website without purchase/signup
  • 26% will return to your site to take action after being retargeted with display ads
  • Use mail to get them to web and retargeting to get them to return. Explore the technologies available that tie together your physical direct mail and digital.

Flip it; Digital first, followed by Mail/Mail + Machine Learning

Mail to someone who has visited your website machine learning can be applied to automatically tell you what to mail. Customize and personalize; drop within 24 hours. 

Mail with Video 

It’s reported that video provides a whopping 88% return on investment. To enhance your video performance, consider QR codes, which have made a comeback, for example, on restaurant menus and other touchpoints. You might also look at video mailers with a built-in player. Especially for high-value targets, they’re an effective substitute to replace in-person meetings with a physical experience and get your message noticed. 

Crowe Tax Connect Video Mailer (Source: McGuffin Creative Group)

Personalization/Variable Data

A study by Keypoint Intelligence shows that 29.2% of mail recipients are more likely to open and read your communication if it appears personalized and relevant.

Here are some ways to make a stronger human connection with personalization:

  • Don’t just personalize the name include what you know about them and what they may need (e.g., home equity loan for new homebuyers; mortgage if the customer recently married or had a baby).
  • Create a PURL, a personalized URL customized for the recipient.
  • When a physical return to the branch becomes possible, use a tool such as locr maps to map out specific directions to the closest branch. Highlight how close they are to the branch.

Design Tips

You have five seconds to get your mail opened or ditched. Let your design agency bring you more impactful ideas that are right for your specific audience:

  • Make it highly visual; we process images 60,000x faster than text
  • Use either real handwriting or for a human, genuine feel 
  • Employ the envelope back as a billboard and the flap side as address side
  • Be creative with paper stocks, dimensions, inks and folds. If your potential customers value sustainability, choose eco-friendly paper stock

Executed strategically and creatively, a campaign combining both physical and digital can be an effective (and profitable) way to work toward your bank’s goals. At the same time, it can drive loyalty among existing customers and put you in the consideration set with prospects. McGuffin has more than 16 years of experience helping banks use both media to move the needle and make an impact. If you have questions about how to meet a specific business aim, we’d be happy to talk


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Betsy Fiden
Partner, Marketing and Strategy