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Email Versus Direct Mail – They Both Get Results

Email versus direct mail is a hot topic. While the gurus have predicted that email marketing was history, an increase in email usage and industry numbers prove otherwise. Worldwide, marketers spent nearly $2.8 billion on email campaigns in 2017.

As for direct mail, it’s certainly not going anywhere either, with marketers expected to spend about $42 billion on campaigns in 2018 (keep in mind producing direct mail pieces can get expensive when factoring in the different sizes, material, catalogs and mailing costs).

So, what’s a marketer to do when considering email versus direct mail? First, understand they both have their advantages. You also have to look at your goals, budget and what you want to communicate. And you can increase sales and brand awareness when you combine both of these marketing channels.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of email and direct mail marketing:

Email – Fast with a High ROI

  • Email is a fast way to get your message out there, with a direct line to peoples’ inboxes. And people read their email everywhere, on their desktops at work, on their tablets in the kitchen and their phones at the beach.
  • Email is one of the least expensive marketing channels. If you do it yourself, and don’t spend a lot of time and money on the design, you’ll save even more. If you hire an Email Service Provider (ESP), it will cost you more but you’ll have a host of services to choose from, including highly-targeted audiences (see more on this at What is an Email Service Provider?)
  • Because of email’s lower costs you get a high ROI – about $38 for every $1 spent.
  • You can include links to your website, special landing pages, videos and more in your emails.
  • Email has a lower Cost Per Acquisition, $21.10, than direct mail’s $31.10 (from the DMA’s in-depth Direct Media Response Rate, CPA & ROI Benchmarks in 2017).

For more of email’s benefits see Email Marketing Advantages.

Just be careful with email…

  • Don’t inundate customers with too many emails. It won’t look good for your brand and people will quickly unsubscribe from your list.
  • Keep your list clean and up to date. By doing this, you’ll improve delivery and response rates and stay on the good side of the major Internet Service Providers. Consider using an ESP since the reputable ones do constant data hygiene on their lists.
  • Some email campaigns take time and you need two or three deployments to get the desired results. Take 5 Media Group has found that at least two emails per month, over a three-month period, provides the most effective sales results.

Direct Mail – Big Response Rates

  • Direct mail shows better response rates than email. According to the DMA, direct mail sent to homes had a 5.1% response rate vs. email’s 0.6% response rate; direct mail sent to prospects had a 2.9% response rate vs. email’s 0.2%.
  • Size matters: response rates for direct mail sent to prospects were almost double for oversized envelopes (4.9%) than they were for letter-sized envelopes (2.5%).
  • A direct mail piece is in a customer’s house and a constant reminder of your business. If it’s visually appealing or deemed important someone might even put it on their fridge!
  • You can put a QR code on a direct mail piece and show people your landing or home page when they scan the code with their phone.
  • Use your CRM with direct mail to track the performance of the campaign. You can also start a direct mail campaign based on what your customers do and collect valuable consumer data.

But direct mail can get expensive…

  • As mentioned above, email is more affordable than direct mail and doesn’t require an investment in materials, printing and postage.
  • Designing direct mail pieces requires more work, and can get more complex, than creating email campaigns.
  • You have to build a quality, targeted mailing list and keep it up to date.

Email vs Direct Mail, Using Them Together

Email vs Direct Maill will continue to be integral parts of direct marketing for the foreseeable future. They also work well together as part of an omni-channel effort to increase response rates, sales and brand awareness.

Send a Teaser Email

You can, for example, send consumers an email alerting them that something is coming in the mail for them. You’ve now piqued their curiosity, getting them interested in the offer and your brand.

You can then send them a small freebie or mail piece and include a QR code or coupon. If the coupon is only redeemable on your website you should see an increase in traffic – and hopefully sales.

Send Mail to Email Non-Responders

Another tactic is to try a direct mail campaign to prospects who don’t respond to your emails. You could be writing the most hysterical, insightful subject lines ever but there will still be portions of your prospective audience who ignore your emails.

Segment these non-responders and create a direct mail campaign to send them.

Follow Up with an Email to Direct Mail Recipients

You can also go the other route and send an email campaign to your direct mail list. This is a great way to remind people about your new product or upgrade and it can also increase qualified leads and website traffic.

Use Email and Direct Mail with Social Media

If you’re looking for an even bigger reach and higher response rates try using email, direct mail and social media.

Jenna Gross, CMO of the marketing agency Moving Targets, told Forbes, “We pair all of our direct mail campaigns with digital advertising that uses the identical demographic data.”

She noted that by doing so, “prospects see an ad in their mailbox, inbox and social media feed. Using cross-media tactics produces an exponentially better response rate, typically 25% or higher than direct mail alone, based on my agency’s findings.”

Gross also said you’ll get more qualified leads and an increase in website and social media traffic, “resulting in greater exposure to your business. Digging into the data available allows you to learn more about your customers so you can then optimize future campaigns.”

Quick Links – Here’s What We’re Covering:

What Is Email Marketing And How Does It Work?

How to Create an Email Marketing Strategy Plan

The Different Types of Email Marketing

Email Marketing Advantages

Email Versus Social Media

How a Retargeting Strategy Works with Email

What is an Email Service Provider?


Since our founding in 2003, Take 5 Media Group has been one of the nation’s leading compilers of consumer information. We’re experts at building audiences based on lifestyle changes, intent to buy, demographics and more.

We then use our innovative marketing channels, that include email, social media and display ad retargeting, direct mail, content and influencer marketing and geo-fencing to get your message to these highly-targeted audiences.

To find out more about us, call Take 5 Media Group, Boca Raton, Florida, 561-819-5555, in New York at 917-201-7451 or visit our website at Take5mg.com.