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Email or Direct Mail – Which is Better?

We get asked all the time – which is better, direct mail or email?  We think the best answer is – it’s not one or the other, but whether each makes sense for you to generate more customers.

Clearly, email has become the 800 lb. gorilla in the room when it comes to marketing – it’s really your core program.But there are some specific disadvantages with email, and advantage offered by direct mail, that you absolutely should take into account.

Here are 5 advantage of direct mail (and disadvantages of email marketing) that you should keep in mind when planning your next campaign:


Important advantages that direct mail has over email

Over the past 5 years, the direct marketing industry has had a lot of advances in technology. Emails is still considered the crown jewel of marketing because it’s so simple, effective, and fast. However, the direct mail marketing industry is very much alive and kicking. In fact, as email marketing has matured, it’s become hyper competitive – and that actually creates an opportunity for direct marketers who run well planned and executed direct mail campaigns.


Emails offers limited creativity

There is not a lot you can do with an email. You may toss in some color or images in an HTML email, but it’s nothing really exciting. You may even hire a graphic designer to spice up your design, but it’s still pretty hard to stand out from the crowd or enhance a message.

On the other hand, a big, colorful, 6×11 postcard leaves room for a vast amount of creativity and design. A bright layout with a catchy tagline and funny picture will be sure to grab your recipient’s attention!  There is a lot you can do as far as designing is concerned when it comes to direct mail. With the help of a graphic designer, you can select a good design with colors that are vibrant and exciting. The mail or postcard gives you more leeway to personalize your message.


The move to mobile has changed the email dynamic

The portability of the mobile phones means that everyone is now checking their email on their phones. That’s great for consumers, but it makes it tough for email marketers to get their creative message across. Remember, about 50% of all email is not ready on mobile!

In comparison, direct mail is more relaxed in every sense of the word. There is a lot of time and leisure to view the mail. People often come home from a long day of work, sort through the mail pile, and see what catches their eye. That means you have the freedom to be more expressive with your sales pitch.


Where direct mail scores big over email

Come morning, we find many emails vying for our attention in our inboxes. But do we really bother to even go through them? Or do we reach for the delete button? The fact is that we receive more emails than we are able to read. While most of us send updates, news and offers to the trash bin, there is a large percentage of people who don’t even bother to go through their emails every day. That, in essence, means that any marketing message you have sent is likely to sit at the bottom of the pile, totally ignored.

There’s one other thing to keep in mind. A lot of email clients like Yahoo still block images. So even if you create the coolest email around, a lot of people are going to see a big white space where your email image sits.

The fact cannot be argued that people toss out physical mail too, but statistics favor direct mail. One study shows that 77% of the consumers do go through their physical mail as soon as they receive it. (need hyperlink) Most people check their mailboxes daily. A postcard that is visually appealing is sure to attract the eye of the consumer.


Personalizing it

Direct mail can get you closer to your customer. The mail will not only make it into the house from the mailbox, but will probably sit on the kitchen table pitching your product to the homeowner. The same results cannot be expected from an email. With so many other things on their agenda, the customer will not even give most emails even a cursory glance.


Same cost per lead

You may think that the cost of mailing directly is more than sending out an email. After all, you do have to think of the return on your investment (ROI)! However, it may interest you to know that the cost per lead of direct mail is about the same as that of the pay-per-click and considerably less than telemarketing. Though direct mail production cost is a bit higher than an email, it is not enough to be significant.

Table 1: Cost Per Lead Comparison


Source: DMA, 2012 Response Rate Report


You can target your local area marketing better

Having been around for a while, direct mail data is regularly updated. The data available comes from public records. Information such as address, mortgage data and time at residence is available. It does not; however, include email addresses. With direct mail, micro-targeting of households in precise areas and zip codes becomes easier. You can easily target all the addresses within your radius.

As far as emails are concerned, it is not that easy to find quality lists. The data in email lists often has data that is questionable.


Last Thoughts

Keep in mind, with integrated marketing, it’s not always one of the other. Your business may want to combine email and postcard marketing into a single campaign. But don’t discount direct mail simply because you think it does not work – or does not offer a good return on investment. Keep in mind that any well executive marketing campaign can work – and direct mail has some specific advantages that email just can’t match.

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