Email Marketing vs. Direct Mail

Email Marketing versus Direct Mail: Which to Use?


Whether you are launching a new small business or are a large established business refining your marketing mix, a common question stands before you: Email or Direct Mail? Maybe you’ve used one relentlessly throughout the years, but are looking for an avenue to reach more people. Maybe you can only budget for email marketing or direct marketing – which do you choose?
Both have immense value in the market place and both can be leveraged for successful marketing and sales. However, having to pick between email marketing and direct marketing can be tough. Here’s a list of pros and cons for email marketing campaigns and direct marketing campaigns to help you decide what’s right for your business.


Email Marketing Pros


Email marketing is Inexpensive. There is very little overhead in email marketing. No printing or mailing costs drastically reduces your investment. A great tool for low budget businesses to get the word out.

Email marketing is instantaneous. You don’t have to wait for the mail. Your offers can be seen within seconds of sending. The quick nature of email marketing allows you to spend more time on your business or other marketing tactics.

Email marketing is a great learning tool. If you are struggling to pick a headline for an ad or direct mail message, split your list and send top 2 headlines out and see which subject line has a better response or open rate. Trying to figure out what type of promotions your customers want? Test a few with different offers and see which takes the cake!


Email Marketing Cons


Establishing a good, healthy email marketing list takes time. Sure, you can buy an email-marketing list from a broker who promises emails for your target audience, but this is not a fail-proof system. You are much better growing your email marketing list organically, which takes time. Get people to opt-in to your mailing list via your website or social media pages.

Email marketing spam! No, your email may not be spam, but people are so inundated with junk mail that yours may inadvertently fall into this spam email category. People open relevant emails first – emails from people they know. Then they tend to open emails about things they are interested in. So, make sure your product or service is interesting to your email-marketing list! And be sure to avoid these email marketing pitfalls.

Short email attention spans. People prefer to scan rather than read emails. Thus, your email must be simple and straightforward. No room for puffery or complex offer details. You have limited real estate in email marketing.


Direct Marketing Pros


More focused audience. It’s true that a lot of direct mail can be labeled as “junk”. But physical junk mail gets a lot more TLC than junk email. When people are on their computers they are typically working and don’t want their time to be wasted by email marketing. Yet, when at home sorting through the mail people have more time to scan through the direct mail pieces they receive. These extra minutes are precious.

Direct mail is tangible. There’s only so much you can send in an email (pixels) and attachments (still virtual). Direct mail allows you to send helpful marketing pieces to your customers – DVDs, brochures and colorful flyers that will catch the reader’s attention. Some demographics prefer to read things on paper than online.

Direct Mail allows for more copy. With email marketing less is more. Direct mail, however, allows you to provide testimonials, product descriptions, promotion details, and more. If you have a product or service that requires a lot of explanation or information, direct mail may be your best friend.


Direct Marketing Cons


Direct mail is expensive! When you add up design costs, printing costs and postage fees, direct mail gets pretty pricey. If you are trying to reach a large audience this may not be your ideal media choice. Email marketing is much more cost effective for large and small audiences.

Direct mail takes time. If you need to get inventory moving quickly or are promoting a special holiday sale that’s timely, direct mail may not work for you. Mailing offers can take up to 10 days for recipient to receive and you don’t want your offer to be void by the time it arrives. Plus, people move and the mail system takes a bit of time to catch up. Your precious direct mail may end up in the completely wrong hands.

Direct mail is not a good testing vehicle. The high cost of direct mail typically means you get one shot to get it right. There’s no wiggle room for headline and copy testing like there is in email marketing.


Is email marketing or direct mail right for you?


That’s a decision you have to make for your business. And many companies do both. You just need to consider what we have discussed. Is your communication time-sensitive? Do you have a tight or big budget? How much explanation is required? Do you have a good list for one or either? Answering some of these tough questions will help you decide whether direct mail or email marketing is right for you.