By Alex Hopwood, Data Analyst, DDB Health

Decades ago, healthcare professionals along with the rest of the population were swamped with promotional direct mail. But in recent years, new technology like email, SMS, mobile applications, and AR/VR have diversified the ways in which healthcare marketers can reach physicians.

While this diversification has resulted in engaging surround-sound digital programs, it has also meant increased competition for physician eyeballs, marked by tactics with low open rates and low engagement. The average person is exposed to more than 5,000 brands and advertisements per day1, many of them digital, which means healthcare marketers now compete for even the smallest bit of attention from physicians in increasingly crowded digital spaces.

With that in mind, it is worth considering more traditional channels to cut through the clutter, namely direct mail, which provides several key benefits.

First, direct mail is already front and center with physicians across a range of provider levels: 66 percent of oncologists say they already use it to get medical info2 and 60% of PAs and 77 percent of NPs report that they read mail from pharmaceutical and life science companies3. Second, unlike digital tactics like e-mail, direct mail allows for pass-along impressions as it can be easily handed between HCPs. Lastly, and most importantly, marketers can reach all call-list HCPs through direct mail without having to ask for an opt-in or purchase an e-mail list.

When creating a direct mail piece, it’s important to keep several things in mind:

1) Choosing the appropriate format: postcards, letters, and dimensional mailers will vary in terms of both cost and impact, so it is key to think strategically about which will make the biggest impact for the smallest spend (and that includes postage!)

2) Addressing the mail for openability: Many marketing campaigns have shown great success when direct mail is handwritten, and addressed to a specific person as opposed to a company, organization, or position (“Dear Doctor,” “Dear Employee,” etc.) It is important to pique the interest of a recipient by creating desire, interest, or curiosity that will lead the user to open it and engage with its contents. Not only is it flattering to be addressed personally, but also it makes the recipient curious about the nature of the message. (How did they find my name? What do they want from me specifically? How am I relevant to them?)

3) Tracking appropriately. It is difficult to track direct mail open rates for obvious reasons, and even rates of delivery can be a gray area. But response can be tracked through the use of vanity URLs or business reply cards. Making these as easy as possible to use can optimize response rates – a shorter URL is easier to type in, and including a pre-addressed reply card can make it easier to mail out, ensuring measurability of the campaign.


1 – September 2014 Study – Media Dynamics Inc.
2 – Kantar Media 2016
3 – CMI/Compas Media Group 2012