Is Direct Mail Making a Comeback for Associations?

Looking to try something new? Direct mail could be making a comeback for associations
Looking to try something new? Direct mail could be making a comeback for associations

By Audrey Smilgys – Senior Solution Consultant

With the ASAE Annual Meeting right around the corner, the American Society of Association Executives turned to some colorful and creative direct mail pieces to generate more attention for the already popular event. Time will tell if it worked, but ASAE’s extra attention to direct mail campaigns is perhaps a sign of things to come in the world of association member engagement.

Here's a great example of direct mail from ASAE for the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting
Here’s a great example of direct mail from ASAE for the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting

Is Direct Mail Making a Comeback?

Email inboxes are too full these days. Some forward-thinking workplaces have transitioned to Slack or Microsoft Teams to keep things organized, ask quick questions or share thoughts and ideas, but the majority of folks still use good, old-fashioned email to communicate.

They don’t just use email, a lot of people overuse it. The amount of email sent and received worldwide on a daily basis is projected to reach 347 billion in 2023, according to Statista. And, of course, members likely use multiple email accounts for various aspects of their lives.

For membership directors trying to reconnect with lapsed or disengaged members, overcrowded email inboxes could be perceived as problematic. But try thinking of it as the perfect opportunity to consider a tried and true tactic — direct mail.

For Some Associations, Direct Mail Never Left

Email may be the dominant form of communication these days, but direct mail still plays a role for many associations and nonprofits.

Need to boost member engagement? Download Protech's free e-book today!
Need to boost member engagement? Download Protech’s free e-book today!

Here’s what one director of membership services said when asked about direct mail for a recent e-book:

“Until the internet is 100 percent worldwide — available to everybody — I don’t see it truly possible to go paperless.”

As it turns out, direct mail is still getting attention in the association world. At Associations Now, Ernie Smith pointed out that it’s more affordable to send an email or publish a social media ad, but there’s value to be gained from direct mail.

Smith’s piece mentions the addition of video elements to direct mail, as well as the increased likelihood that your content is actually read. But what stands out the most is the high response rates driven by direct mail campaigns. According to the post, an ANA/DMA Response Rate Report showed response rates to direct mail were as high as 9 percent in 2018.

While all of this data shows that direct mail is a tool worth adding to your member engagement and retention arsenal in the short term, it will be interesting to see whether email sees a similar resurgence in the years to come. As more people start transitioning to apps like Microsoft Teams (which is now used by 329,000 organizations worldwide and has been developed into a complete meeting and calling solution), inboxes may be a little bit freer to help make sure your association emails are being read.

Until then, try bringing innovative direct mail strategies back into your member engagement toolbox. It might be just what your trade or professional association needs to win back the attention of lapsed members.