The power of niche magazines and direct mail
Once considered solely the purview of secular business, principles of marketing have become a powerful tool for evangelization. More and more, Catholic communicators are employing those principles to spread the Gospel message. Whether it is studying audience data to understand people’s interests, habits, and beliefs, employing digital advertising to promote core ministry services, or even using survey tools as a means to engage people in conversations about faith, communicators realize that evangelization and marketing have overlapping methods.
One tool that has been extremely effective is direct mail, in the form of a diocesan magazine. Magazines produced for Catholic parishioners are technically known as “niche magazines” because they are intended for targeted audiences who share an interest in a specific subject — in this case, faith in Jesus Christ and engagement with the Catholic Church.
A diocesan magazine that includes evangelizing content such as stories of Christian witness, education, and formation and advice for applying Gospel values in daily life can serve to build up disciples who are equipped to share their faith with others. When diocesan magazines are mailed directly to parishioners’ homes, they also unlock the potential of direct mail.
IS DIRECT MAIL REALLY EFFECTIVE IN THE DIGITAL AGE? AND CAN IT WORK TO ENGAGE YOUNGER READERS?
Many people assume that digital natives have no interest in printed material that comes to them through the mail, but the surprising reality is that young people do read direct mail, and further, direct mail has a high “trust factor.” Research supports this assertion:
- 41% of Americans of all ages look forward to checking their mail each day (Gallup)
- UP TO 90% of direct mail gets opened, compared to only 20% to 30% of emails (Data & Marketing Association)
- 90% of millennials believe direct mail is more reliable than email and 24% are likely to share it with other people (USPS, Valassis)
According to the Small Business Administration, direct mail is growing in popularity for several reasons:
COMPARED TO EMAIL, DIRECT MAIL CAN BE MORE EFFECTIVE.
- The SBA cites a study that found direct mail campaigns generate purchases five times larger than email campaigns.
DIRECT MAIL STANDS OUT.
- Young people get scores of email every day and are notorious for not checking email, but they get very few pieces of “snail” mail.
DIRECT MAIL IS MORE SHAREABLE.
- It goes to an entire household, not just a single person, and it generates conversation among household members.
DIRECT MAIL HAS A LONGER LIFESPAN.
- The SBA cites a study that found an email’s lifespan is mere seconds, while direct mail’s average lifespan is 17 days.
FAITH Catholic has long championed the use of print magazines for these same reasons. The tangible aspects of holding a magazine, turning the pages, revisiting it several times, keeping it visible on a coffee table, and physically sharing it with others all combine to multiply the impact a magazine can make.
“A diocesan magazine works in two important ways. On the one hand, it’s a niche publication that can reach a targeted audience with content that is relevant and generates a response,” says FAITH’s president and CEO Elizabeth Solsburg. “On the other hand, when it’s mailed to parishioner households, it can serve as a very sophisticated form of direct mail, and we know from a plethora of research that direct mail still works to reach people of all ages.”