I “grew up” on the internet — logging onto AOL back in the mid-90s. I’m extremely comfortable online.
I even like getting a lot of my information — particularly timely news — online. In fact, we’re subscribed to the local newspaper’s Wednesday and Sunday editions. But I’m far more likely on any given week to log onto their iPhone app and read the news there. Rather than ever take the paper out of the delivery bag.
I also suck at managing the flow of paper that comes through our house. I’m thinking about dumping my piles of swipe-able direct mail in the trash, just because it’s hard for me to manage the piles.
Even when I get print newsletters I pay for, I often end up letting them stack up for a couple months before I plow through the pile.
In short, I’m the perfect candidate for “paper-free.” And yet, today’s advice is going to go 100% in the opposite direction.
This was spurred by an email I got earlier this week, from one of the Agora-affiliated companies. A top financial newsletter publisher.
It turns out they’re going back to print.
These are newsletters that have succeeded growing their readership base online. Selling to people online. Delivering the products digitally. And they’ve done VERY well as a result.
But now, as a free benefit of my subscription, they’re going to send me a print newsletter in the mail.
But wait a minute! Isn’t this backwards from the way trends are going?!
After all, the Apple Watch was just released! Shouldn’t they be focused on a watch app that sends subscribers the latest recommendations in a way that’s easier to get there?
In short, NO!
Here’s what’s going on. And this is an ongoing theme here at Breakthrough Marketing Secrets. We’ve reached a point of digital overload.
Direct mail was expensive. You had to be really, really good to make marketing profitable in the mail. Especially when it came to acquisitions — but even when selling to your own customer list.
Then the internet came along and changed everything.
Suddenly, it became cheap to put up info and marketing online. Now you can put up a website for close to free. You can send traffic to it for close to free. You can follow up by email for close to free (even when you send every day!). And once people buy, you can deliver your product for close to free.
This represents HUGE margins, when you make it work.
And, in part because of these huge margins, it drove EVERYONE — even the biggest direct mail companies — to the internet.
And slowly at first, then rapidly and completely…
Entire industries (like financial publishing) that had existed almost exclusively in direct mail a decade ago, were now almost exclusively online.
And it was good!
Profits were up. It was easier than ever to reach customers. And cost of fulfilling on your orders dropped to near zero.
But then something happened. The internet — and especially the most sophisticated direct marketing industries — became saturated.
The core buyers in the industry — continuing to use investment newsletters as an example — are subscribed to a dozen or more newsletters. And that’s the paid ones. The free ones they’re subscribed to number in the many dozens.
They get 20 emails a day from investment newsletter publishers — some they paid for, some they didn’t. And the perceived value of the paid newsletters starts to diminish in the eye of the buyer.
Don’t think I’m just talking about investment newsletters, either. I’m talking about ANY active information publishing or digital products market.
The trend to go digital has now pushed all the weight to one side of the train — and it’s crowded.
It’s hard to make space. Even if you have a longstanding relationship with your customers.
It’s hard to stand out.
And what happens to a digital product? It gets downloaded and saved to a hard drive. (If it’s ever downloaded.) And then, it gets forgotten.
Well, that overcrowded side of the train — with everyone moving to digital — has created an opportunity.
For those who want breathing room — an opportunity to claim their space — the other side of the train is full of wide-open seats.
I just had a client, in a direct mail newsletter (not even officially a “promotion”) enjoy a HUGE payday from offline readers that he sent online to order.
At my suggestion, he’s also getting back into direct mail — heavily — to drive new customer acquisition.
He’s got a very substantial file of email names, too. But he’s telling me email is dying. It’s harder and harder to move folks to action from email — whether they’re paid subscribers or free.
Why? Because that side of the train is too crowded.
Meanwhile, the physical mailbox is void of competition. It’s screaming opportunity.
Sure, the internet still provides certain advantages. For example, for timely investment recommendations that come on a daily basis, you NEED the speed of the internet.
Yet for a monthly investment newsletter, covering big stocks and long-running market trends, print has its major advantages. Not the least of which is that when your reader sits down to read, they don’t have 50 tabs and 8 pop-ups, plus 983 unread emails, all competing for their attention.
Also, the total universe of direct mail names has shrunk considerably. As direct marketing businesses have moved online, their direct mail files shrunk to a mere fraction of their previous glory.
Direct mail is NOT what it was in 1999. But it’s still a party worth going to. And it’s only going to get better as more and more marketers shift back.
The title of this lesson was “The BEST Way To Deliver Digital Products?” with the question mark emphasized here.
I’m leaning toward that answer being “offline” — more strongly now than ever.
Brian Kurtz has been a tireless advocate of this. Dan Kennedy, too. Joe Sugarman stood on stage at Titans last year and emphasized this.
And more and more I’m finding the smartest direct marketers I know are all in agreement.
The new “hot” medium for reaching your customers isn’t mobile, or social, or whatever… It’s the “new” classic, direct mail.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
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