Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing: How Do They Stack up and What Is the Best Way to Reach Customers?

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing: How Do They Stack up and What Is the Best Way to Reach Customers?

Direct mail and email marketing have value – but businesses still count on direct mail to spark action.

In some segments of the marketing industry, there is a misperception that direct mail is less effective than digital channels, but there has been no decline in the power of direct mail.  In fact, the Direct Marketing Association continues to report evidence that email or digital marketing is being outperformed where it counts, in the end results.  Boasting a 4.4% response rate, direct mail trumps email’s average response rate of only 0.12%, as per the director of marketing and media insights at the DMA.

Longevity of direct mail

Considering that twice the number of 18-35 year olds believe that printed communication will never be replaced entirely by digital communication (compared to the over 55 population), it is wise to anticipate a future that includes a  continued reliance on printed forms of communication, including direct mail.   The evidence continues with a DMA fact from 2013 that indicated “65% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase as a result of direct mail.”   Greater than 40% of people visit the website of the brand whose mailing they received and more than 30% do an online search.  Another undeniable fact from the research tells us that two-thirds of customers tend to keep their printed mail and nearly 80% tend to take action right away, while only 45% take immediate action after receiving a targeted email.

There are many reasons for the longevity of direct mail in marketing as more than 50% of recipients think that printed media is the most trustworthy of all communication channels with more than 30% going as far as to adopt a negative view of a brand that fails to engage them with printed communication.  People seem to put more value on printed media and therefore would be turned off or insulted when businesses do not invest time and energy into reaching out to them with personalized “actual” mail.

Meaningful message and strong call to action

Of course, exactly what they receive makes a huge impact, from expert design and careful consideration to deliver not just physical mail, but a meaningful message with a strong call to action that uplifts and projects the brand with unforgettable elements.  Bob Ylinen, Northern California Regional Vice President for Minuteman Press International, echoes a fact from multiple studies, “Direct mail marketing is still one of the best ways to reach your customers. It is more personal than an email and more likely to be read.”

Put a quality printed piece in their hands

Each Minuteman Press franchise is equipped with the ability to advise on a range of marketing tools including both digital and printed approaches.  For instance, for direct mail pieces, it has been discovered by the Direct Mail Association that dimensional mailers perform outstandingly and make an even greater impact when followed up with a call and an email.  Ron Rubin, Minuteman Press International Regional Vice President for the New England region, acknowledges that a unified approach to marketing works best, as he states, “Email marketing is an effective tool today but should be used in conjunction with direct mail marketing, which gives you the ability to put a quality printed piece in the hands of your potential customer.”

Direct Mail combines powerful data and variable data printing for a personalized approach

According to Return Path’s Email Intelligence Report, E-newsletters make up the greatest number of emails in consumer inboxes at 29%, but again, they get buried in sheer volume.  Email can be lost in the abyss commonly known as “spam” or “junk” and the decline in response is a potential consequence.  People are easily overwhelmed by high inbox traffic and will delete things that look like advertising without bothering to open it.

Meanwhile, direct mail list vendors are established and have been honing their databases for many years, so that fact combined with variable-data printing, make highly targeted campaigns much easier.  Email lists are getting better, but they are still not all at the same level of quality.  Of course, time and attention to maintaining clean, up-to-date house lists that include current customers as well as former customers (so they can be encouraged to return) will be repaid many times over when applied to a proper direct mail campaign.

Sumner Misenheimer, owner of Minuteman Press in Newburyport, Massachusetts, has seen so much success for his customers using direct mail. He comments, “A direct mail piece can be more effective than email as long as the value it illustrates is of the highest quality.  The exceptional value is in the clarity of the message and most importantly in the actual printing quality itself, which must be the very best.”

The Balantine white paper is a study that cited encouraging trends in customer reaction to direct mail campaigns.  It turns out that “85% of consumers sort through and read selected mail pieces each day while 75% of them examine the mail more closely and 40% have gone on to try a new business after receiving direct mail from them.”  Still, for the greatest effect, it is not safe to assume that a direct mail campaign will work simply by using any method of production. It is surprisingly easy to self-sabotage by cutting one’s marketing budget in this area and taking what is a valuable targeted mailing list and sending substandard printed representations of the brand message.

The proper, personalized design and production of marketing materials, including the formulation of a direct mail campaign, is both an art and a science.  A great marketing team, such as you will find at Minuteman Press, is dedicated to review results and make appropriate adjustments to fine-tune your campaign as time goes on, for the best response rate every time.

Business Insider indicated in a study that direct mail marketing produced “$2.05 trillion in sales for 2012” (which represents roughly 8.7% of US GDP – November 2014).  Also, a study by Experian illustrated that “traditional offline marketing,” which includes direct mail, stood as a $93.6 billion industry in the year 2012.  To ignore the impact of using direct mail is to impose a ripoff on one’s own business growth potential.

Use an integrated cross media marketing approach 

Mark Calis, owner of the Minuteman Press franchise, Washington, DC, has the experienced-based knowledge to advise his customers what he knows works best, an integrated approach to reaching customers which incorporates email, but is properly fortified with the special marketing magic that only direct mail provides.  He advises, “Direct mail is needed to provide the legitimacy of the message you are trying to get across to your customer. An email marketing campaign alone, will never be enough.” Mark helps his customers greatly as direct mail tends to make people take action (according to a study by USPS): * 46% of recipients reading their direct mail* 23% visiting the store location of the sender * 21% visiting the sender’s website* 12% calling an 800 number listed on the mailer *   9% replying via email

Jody and Goroh Numata are award-winning owners of their Minuteman Press franchise in Houston, Texas.  Jody offers the wisdom that comes from years of developing proper marketing strategy for her clients, saying: “I think both direct mail and email marketing are necessary today to reach across the generations.  That said, however, direct mail is a stronger marketing ploy.  It can serve as a sample of what you can create in your shop.  We use our mailing pieces to promote unique design, paper, printing and/or finishing options.  We usually identify on the actual piece what paper is used and we try to use something unique each time. Direct mail also provides a tactile reminder of whatever information you are receiving.  You can keep it, you can put it in a pile to come back to, and it will stay as a gentle reminder of whatever is being marketed.  You also have that visual sense of color and image as a reminder.  I may not always remember the name of the company, but I’ll remember the color of the mailing piece. For the younger generation tuned into the online experience, it may be helpful to start with the email marketing and then follow up with direct mail.  Email marketing can either spark an interest leading to your website and perhaps an online order, or be deleted.  Since it is so easily removed from the in-box, a direct mail follow up ensures your piece reaches your audience with a gentle reminder.”

What is the best way to reach customers?

Email and Direct Mail work in tandem both to reach new customers and to keep current customers loyal and willing to make referrals.  Still, time-tested, professionally executed direct mail campaigns remain a surefire way to spark action with clients.  For new customers, data has shown that email may, indeed, have less meaningful impact while direct mail maintains impressive strength.  This fact has been enough to motivate Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft to become serious, regular direct mail users.  With an endorsement like that from digital authorities such as those, it is clear that all businesses with intent to make real gains seek marketing specialists with experience in direct mail campaigns because those doing so will always spark action and give them the competitive edge.

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