Google Direct Mail: Has Hell Frozen Over?

By Patrick Nycz

Google has a very robust direct mail program.

Writing that sentence just now was weird. Isn’t it kind of an oxymoron? Google, arguably the biggest digital marketing brand and top search engine in the world, is using snail mail to drum up business?

This may seem odd to those not on the mailing list. Or those marketing-forward professionals who have moved the majority of their marketing budgets to online and social media programs and away from traditional marketing tactics. But I don’t think these are the people Google wants to talk to. Google wants to talk to small business owners that have not yet used Google (or probably any internet tools) for marketing purposes.

One thing I do know for sure. Google direct mail does not follow the “golden rules” of direct mail marketing, and because of that Google’s direct mail program should probably not work. But I know it does. Because I see 3 or 4 Google mailings a year and I always open them.

Why the Google Direct Mail program should not work:

1.The List. According to the golden rules of direct mail marketing, the list is the most important component of a successful direct mail program.

I don’t think anyone told Google. Or they don’t care.

It looks like the Google direct mail goes to the person in the company or household that buys domain names or urls. I own a small marketing firm and we have someone who is responsible for buying domain names. The Google mailing always goes to that person.

Here is the cover for the brochure included in the Google direct mail program.  Google must be shooting for REALLY small businesses.

This would make sense if the direct mail offer had something to do with domain names. But it doesn’t. The offer is for online advertising. In most organizations I have seen, the person that buys domains is not the person that makes decisions about the company’s marketing. In most companies, that person is either the marketing director or the owner.

By targeting the people that buy domain names, Google is showing that they really want to grab the very smallest of small businesses: one or two person operations.

I wonder how many bigger small businesses get this mailing vs. the 2 person shops? Even for a multi-billion dollar company, that seems like a waste of money and resources. But it still ended up in my hands and I am intrigued.

Too small. No information. But Google sent me a letter. Heck yea, I’m opening it.

2.Envelope. After the list, the offer ranks pretty high in the world of direct marketing.

Once again, Google is writing their own rules because there is no offer on the envelope.

The envelope has nothing on it but the Google logo, the address, and the postage area. No offer. No appearance of incentive. The most interesting thing is the Google logo.

Just the Google logo. Which is enough for me. I knew I wanted to open it to see what Google was sending me. I think a lot of folks would have the same reaction.

The letter does a good job of addressing the small business owner we talked about above…”You may be surprised at the number of people who are searching for exactly what you have to offer.” Good opening line.

But if you skip the letter, (like I did my first time) the little brochure tells a great story. Even if it hides the offer like a punch line to a joke.

The cover (shown above) sets up how to get your small business to show up on Google. Then the brochure opens up to tell you how and why.

Then the brochure goes on to illustrate how it works and how much it will cost. My favorite part is the page that says: “It’s easy. It’s just four lines. Write your ad.”

Why is the offer hidden way back…
on the last panel of the brochure?

You just need a headline and two lines of copy. It sounds pretty easy to write an ad…just make sure you write a good one! We’ve addressed that conversation in an earlier idc blog.

So then we come to the hidden offer. On the very back panel of the brochure is a thick paper card with a code worth $100 in free advertising on Google.

3. Test the offer. After the list and the offer, according to direct marketing guidelines, benchmarking results are next. Examine results, establish the control offer, and test new offers against it.

I look at this and wonder how much more effective this program would be if they put the offer right on the envelope?

But I am standing at my desk right now with three Google direct mailings in front of me from the last 2 years. They are all the same. Nothing is different.

Why the Google Direct Mail program does work:

1. Interrupts the day. Recent studies still show that direct mail still outperforms email and telesales efforts especially when it is a component of a larger integrated marketing program.

2. Google Direct mail is part of a massive integrated marketing program.  Google may not have billboards or tv spots, but they are almost always in the news and top of mind.

Google advertising Google on Google is pretty hard for anyone to avoid.

If you are a small business owner and live in the USA, chances are you use Google many times a day. The whole Google search platform is weaved into the way everyone does business today.

3. It’s from Google. And Google is telling small business owners that it’s pretty easy to get their business to show up on Google.  That is a compelling conversation. There are not many brands that can get a prospect to open the envelope with just a logo on the outside.

There are so many “rules” made up by so many “experts” that it can be easy to lean on the old tried and true. Thank goodness a curve ball comes along once in a while to change things up and challenge the status quo. Most brands are not Google and therefore cannot get away with breaking the rules in their marketing programs.

But what is Google telling the world with this direct mail program? Frozen Hell aside, I am hearing that when going after a market one needs to consider the marketing options that best fit the conversion. In Google’s case, even the biggest digital marketing brand on the planet will use the old tried and true direct mail channel to reach a market that would otherwise go untouched.

At idc, we work with brands of all shapes and sizes. Our goal is to grow market share using the communication tools that best reach prospects and customers—using the latest, greatest, digital channels as well as the proven, more traditional tools, too. That typically looks like an integrated marketing plan…or as we like to call it around here: strategic marketing to grow your business.


About the Author: Patrick Nycz is the president and owner of idc, a strategic integrated marketing firm. He is currently keeping his eyes open for marketing strategies—new, old, or just breaking the rules—that can be used to help grow idc clients’ market share and business. He spends his days, among other things, as a business owner, marketing strategist, account exec, cheerleader, salesman and excitable creative. Get connected to Patrick at LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @PatrickNycz or email him at Also “like” idc on Facebook!
This entry was published on September 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm. It’s filed under advertising, audience, brand, context, creativity, direct mail, direct marketing, Google, integrated marketing, marketing, marketing communications program, Patrick Nycz, positioning, sales, web marketing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Google Direct Mail: Has Hell Frozen Over?

  1. Pingback: Google Direct Mail: Has Hell Frozen Over? ? idc: brand affinity … « atapepogotu

  2. I don’t understand why people frown upon direct mail as a marketing solution. Sure, it’s old-fashioned and can get spammy from time to time. However, an effective direct mail campaign will produce results as long as it is sent to the right mailing list and has appropriate branding , just like how Google made theirs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: