The Great Debate: Direct Mail vs. Email

Debating whether or not to replace print with email? It’s a discussion that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s happening in boardrooms, around water coolers, and during lunch meetings every day.

To many, email sounds like an inexpensive alternative to print. But is it really a replacement? Both media have strengths and weaknesses and shine for different reasons. If you’re considering replacing print with email, whether in whole or in part, here are some points to keep in mind:

  • The percentage of opt-in email that gets opened has reached 22%, according to email service provider Epsilon.
  • Emails are getting filtered out. More and more legitimate emails never arrive, and without any indication that they did not reach their intended destination. This is making email more unpredictable.
  • Direct mail costs more, but also implies legitimacy.
  • Scams, spam, and phishing (creating fake emails to look like legitimate ones) are creating more uncertainty about marketing communications and accessing information using email.
  • Both email and direct mail can be tracked. With email, you can check whether contacts have been read. Likewise, with intelligent mail bar coding (IMB), you can see exactly when postal mail arrives.
  • Email is inexpensive and immediate, but voluminous. In today’s quite-empty post boxes, direct mail is more likely to be seen.
  • Email offers interactivity through links, animation, and other tools, but with personalized URLs, QR codes, and even novelties like USB inserts, direct mail now offers interactivity and excitement as well.
  • People often have multiple email addresses. Most people only have one home address.

Pulling It Together
Email is generally inexpensive and offers immediacy. If you are communicating with customers using an opt-in list, email can be an effective way to stay in touch, especially about time-sensitive events (e.g. letting customers know about a last-minute sale).

For financial, insurance, and medical offers, print offers a gravitas that email cannot. Print also offers a longer shelf life. Especially with 1:1 personalization and QR codes, marketers report that people continue to respond to campaigns weeks and months after the drop date.

These reasons and more are why many marketers no longer see email and direct mail as an either/or proposition; rather, the two can successfully work together in a coordinated effort!

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