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Email vs. Direct Mail: Which to Use?

The Most Effective Direct Marketing Campaigns Integrate Both Mediums

A long-standing debate among marketers is the email versus direct mail dilemma. In recent decades, the prevalence of digital marketing has become so rampant that consumers are now ignoring email in record numbers. Marketers desperate to get their brands in front of customers and new prospects has resulted in a resurgence in direct mail.

Both mediums have their advantages and disadvantages. So how do you choose which to use? Following are some pros and cons to each medium.

The Case for Email

It’s Cheap

Email is one of the least expensive marketing tactics for getting your message out there. As a result, it has one of the highest ROIs – averaging $38 for every $1 spent – in your marketing tool kit.

It’s Fast

Once your email is ready to go, your message is delivered in the click of a button. People check their email feeds all day, in the office, car, gym and at home.

It’s Loaded with Data

As soon as you click “Send” on your email campaign, your email service provider starts generating analytics: number of messages delivered, opened, bounce rates, click-throughs and unsubscribes, just to name a few.

It’s a Gateway

You can include links to special landing pages, promotional offers, white papers and videos in an email. These may encourage recipients to engage more with your brand.

The Case Against Email

Nobody’s Opening Them

Because it’s cheap and fast, most marketers are inundating consumers with email. As a result, consumers are opening fewer emails and driving down the effectiveness of email marketing. Today, almost 80 percent of emails are deleted without ever being opened!

Spam, Spam, Spam

Consumers are more likely to click the “unsubscribe” button on your email message than they are the links within the message. Today, almost 50 percent of email is considered spam. You may not think your message is spam, but if it fails to pique the recipient’s interest that email is headed to straight to the trash folder.

Lists Are Hard to Come By

It takes a lot of time to cultivate a good email list. Remember, if the recipient hasn’t opted in, there’s a high probability your message will be perceived as spam.

They Don’t Look Good

Over half of all emails are viewed on a phone, and over 43 percent of Gmail users view their email without rendered images. As much as you’d like to design a good looking piece that will jump out and grab attention, the reality is email is very limited when it comes to appearance.

The Case for Direct Mail

It’s Seen

While marketing emails get lost in a bursting inbox, postal mail is touched, viewed and saved. In fact, the average lifespan of direct mail is 17 days, compared to just two seconds for email.

It’s Engaging

When consumers receive direct mail, they’re far more likely to engage with your message. Research shows that 87 percent of direct mail recipients are influenced to buy something online; 43 percent will download an offer online; and 54 percent will engage in that brand’s social media.

It’s Responsive

Direct mail response rates far outperform those of email. For example, direct mail sent to homes has a response rate of over 5 percent compared to a 0.6 percent response rate for email. Additionally, direct mail sent to a business prospect averages a 2.9 percent response rate versus only 0.2 percent for email.

It’s Visually Appealing

Direct mail uses design, color, images and size to attract recipients and reinforce your brand image. And today’s direct mail can include QR codes that link directly to your website, promotional landing page or demonstration video to further ensure higher conversion rates.

The Case Against Direct Mail

It’s More Expensive

Printing, design and postage can add up.

It Requires Design

Whereas many business owners seem comfortable doing their own email marketing, most don’t know how to render artwork that will grab your customers’ attention. Realistically, both mediums are better performed by experts in content development and design.

It’s Not Instant

Direct mail requires planning and offers less spontaneity. It takes time to design, print and mail a quality piece.

Using Both Email and Direct Mail Together

As you can see, both email and direct mail have their advantages and challenges. While direct mail is perceived as a more trusted, personal form of marketing, email is quick and informal.

The best campaigns integrate the strengths of both mediums to maximize their effectiveness. An email telling a customer to check their mailbox for a special offer or gift creates anticipation and value. A follow-up postcard or letter may be the best way to reach customers or prospects that won’t open your emails.

The bottom line is direct mail and email work best when supporting each other. With improved direct mail capabilities such as personalization and increasing consumer intolerance of spam, finding the right balance in your direct marketing efforts is key to maximizing your customer experience while acquiring new prospects and growing brand loyalty.

Josh Field

Posted by Josh Field