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A smiling woman looking at mail in a post office

8 Reasons Direct Mail is More Effective than Email Marketing

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker

It’s an age-old debate: direct mail versus email marketing.

Supporters of digital media will say why drain your marketing budget on direct mail campaigns that nobody reads when you can contact your customers using the channels they prefer — television, social media, and mobile?

However, the latest data makes a strong case for printed direct mail. Sure, social media and mobile marketing are on the rise. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t responding to direct mail or that this channel is losing its effectiveness. That’s just plain false.

The reality is, direct mail remains a critical part of the mix. So the next time someone tries to tell you direct mail is dead, remember:

1. Direct mail doesn’t require opt-in

Unlike email and text messaging, you don’t have to get a recipient’s permission to send them direct mail. This means, even if a customer doesn’t subscribe or unsubscribes from your email list, you can still get in touch with them. (Which is why it’s always a good idea to get physical addresses from those on your email lists!)

2. Direct Mail Doesn’t Get Caught in the Spam Filter

“Yes, it may be skimmed by a gatekeeper,” notes Roger Buck, former director of marketing and new product development for The Flesh Company. “However, the odds are still much better – and it doesn’t contain a virus.”

3. Direct mail remains effective long after it lands on the desk

It’s the equivalent of taping things to your audience’s fridge. “We’ve had people tell us that they had one of our mailings sitting on their desks for months,” notes Andre Palko, president of Technifold USA. “Although they didn’t act immediately, we remained top-of-mind until they were ready to act. You don’t get that kind of staying power – or attention – with email.”

direct mail open read rates

4. It’s still effective when the target recipient has moved on

“If you send an email to someone who’s no longer at a particular company, it bounces. If you send a postcard, the new person in that job sees it – and you’ve just introduced yourself as a vendor,” says Palko.

5. With direct mail you do not have to fight to get attention

E-mail is effective, but also overwhelming. In 2014, The Radicati Group concluded that the average business customer sends or receives 121 emails per day. In 2018 there are probably 141 in all likelihood.

Larry Bradley, owner of Proforma Sunbelt Graphics, writes: "The overwhelming deluge of e-mail in the office is a solid hurdle for e-mail marketers. It is difficult to distinguish the mess from the real mails, so that a large part of business e-mails is not read at all. By contrast, companies receive much less marketing by mail than ten years ago - a unique advantage for direct mail. "

Direct Mail vs digital marketing channels

6. Certain offers just won’t get traction by email

There’s a reason businesses are more likely to get lending offers in the mail than they are by email. B2B decision-makers trust direct mail more than email, especially for high value products and services. Mailers can also include a wide variety of trust-building content not possible (or reasonable) to include in email. Yes, you can provide links. But with direct mail, you get that content in front of them in a tangible way right out of the gate.

7. Direct mail can reach high-level decision-makers

There are only so many things you can do to make email look more important. But beyond writing a compelling subject line, most of them look hokey. Direct mail offers options like kits, dimensional mail, and unique packaging options that, by their nature, get past the gatekeepers. (Palko has used everything from metallic envelopes, lunch bags, packing list pouches and prescription bottles to mail letters. “They are not only fun, but they get opened!” he says.) While these mailings may have higher price tags, they can also get near 100% open rates. When you’re trying to reach the C-Suite, that’s worth a lot.

8. Direct mail drives social media and online marketing

Many people believe you don’t need direct mail when you have social media and mobile marketing. What they’re overlooking is how social media and mobile marketing relationships get captured in the first place. Very often, it’s through print. Saying that you only need social and mobile is akin to saying that when you buy a house you only need the upper stories and not the foundation. Without print, getting social and mobile engagements is much more difficult.

Don’t let digital marketers get away with stealing your customers based on false contrasts. Open the discussion about the benefits of direct mail versus email—and when to use each. Be proactive and let direct mail showcase what you can do.

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