Since the emergence of email in the mid-1990’s, much has been expressed comparing traditional direct mail to email marketing. Dubbed snail mail, the ensuing years have seen a decline in direct mail and a corresponding explosion of the use of email.
This is no wonder given the ease of deploying email. With a couple of extra clicks, you can increase your reach from only one recipient to hundreds or even thousands. It may seem like email campaigns are the most efficient method of reaching your audience—wide ranging and instantaneous.
The use of email marketing is compelling and both popular and effective in its own right. But it suffers a bit from its own success. And while direct mail is not as prevalent as it was for decades, its inherent differences and qualities compared to email find it making a comeback.
Direct Mail vs. Email: The Numbers
Would it surprise you to learn the average lifespan of an email is only two seconds? According to Proactive, a UK marketing firm, while digital communications have a lifetime of mere seconds, the average lifespan of a direct mail piece is 17 days.
And, Proactive found that 75 percent of people could recall a brand directly after receiving a piece of direct mail, while only 44 percent of people could after viewing a digital ad. Consider, too, that prospects are 10 to 20 percent more likely to convert to a brand or business due to a direct mail offer than an offer by email.
Additional research from the Direct Marketing Association shows the value of including direct mail in your campaigns. They found…
- Direct mail is acted upon immediately by 79 percent of consumers
- Direct mail generates a 4.4 percent response rate
- And it has a 34 percent rate of attracting new customers
- Email is acted upon immediately by 45 percent of consumers
- Email generates a .12 percent response rate
- And, email has a 24 percent rate of attracting new customers
Yet, email marketing continues to grow in use and numbers. There are many factors in its favor: ease of use, low cost, and expansive reach potential. All very compelling for sure. But all this meteoric success comes with a price: 70 percent of those surveyed by Proactive felt they received too many emails. And, 57 percent of abandoned email addresses are due to users receiving email overload on those accounts. You don’t want a potential customer to remember you as the company that sent them too many emails.
As for email’s reputation of being a low cost medium, surprisingly, email was found to be more expensive per lead than direct mail ($55.24 vs $51.40). However, the return on investment, or ROI, for email is higher for email marketing. For every $1 spent in an email campaign, Proactive found a return of $38 to the company, with a $7 ROI per $1 spent for direct mail.
This highlights the different ways that email and direct mail can work. Direct mail has a lower ROI, but it is less expensive to acquire a new customer. Proactive’s survey takers used the words “important,” “formal,” and “personal” to describe their feelings about direct mail.
Keeping it Personal with Multi-Channel Marketing
“Personal” is a word you should take note of. Making a personal connection with a potential customer can set your strategy apart from the crowd. And if it’s your first interaction with them, that connection can make a big difference between the customer deciding whether to build a relationship with you or pass you by.
How do you think the survey-takers described email? The above statistics show that direct mail has many positive aspects. If you’ve come to view email from an either/or perspective, you might think “impersonal” or “unimportant.”
But, some of the most common words associated with email were: “informative,” “interesting,” and “smart.”
What should you take away from this? It’s “smart” to keep email as a part of your marketing strategy. Use direct mail to connect with new customers and email to reinforce that connection and keep the interest in your company alive.
Direct mail and email both have an important role to play.
Customers in the survey agreed there is a need for both forms of communication. Items such as brochures/catalogs, welcome packs and loyalty rewards are preferred in mail form. General news and updates, confirmation messages and reminder messages are best received by email.
Because customers react differently to different forms of communication, it’s important to use direct mail and email in conjunction with each other. Of those surveyed by Proactive, 51 percent preferred the combination of mail and email, and 65 percent want to be able to explore a physical and an electronic source before making a commitment or purchase.
And when a business uses direct mail and email to market their products or services, customers will spend 25 percent more than a marketing strategy that uses just one method or the other.
Proactive found that 56 percent of respondents felt “valued” by direct mail, while only 40 percent felt valued from an email. “Valued” is a world like “personal” that you should keep in mind when developing your multi-channel marketing strategy. A personal connection can make the customer feel valued, and in turn, your company will be valued by the customer.
Despite statistics that show direct mail is effectively outperforming email in many areas, email can be successful in gaining awareness of your brand and making your other marketing strategies more effective. Both direct mail and email can and should be considered parts of an effective multi-channel marketing mix.