Marketing Research: Consider the Source

I read an interesting article recently that discussed results of a study about consumers' preferences for mail as a way for businesses to communicate with them. In particular, the study found that consumers prefer receiving certain types of correspondence from businesses by direct mail rather than e-mail (e.g., info about products and bills/statements) and they are less likely to ignore direct mail than e-mail. These findings are eye-opening for firms that use direct mail, especially firms that may question whether direct mail is a relevant medium to reach their target market.

Now, before anyone abandons their e-mail marketing efforts and shifts those dollars to direct mail, we must consider the source of the study. The study was commissioned by Pitney Bowes. Yes, that is same the Pitney Bowes that offers many products and services to the direct mail industry. The company has a vested interest in the promotion of direct mail as a viable communication tool for businesses. While the research design was no doubt sound, one can't help but fight the temptation to nod and wink that research sponsored by a supplier to the direct mail industry would find that direct mail enjoys high preference levels with consumers... especially when compared with e-mail, a medium that poses some level of threat to direct mail. Survey research findings help businesses make more informed decisions and have the potential to be framed in a way that can influence decisions and behaviors. But, we must be careful not to blindly accept findings presented to us. Link