Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing: The Great Debate

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Wondering which marketing channel is more effective: direct mail vs. email marketing? You are not alone. Direct mail vs. email marketing – it is an age-old debate. Those who support digital media say why you should drain your marketing budget on direct mail campaigns when you easily connect with consumers through social media, emails, etc. 

On the other hand, the proponents of direct mail say that emails are impersonal, intangible, and often elicit no emotional response from the prospects. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both direct mail vs. email marketing so that you can make a well-informed, knowledgeable decision by the end of this article!

The Basics

Direct Mail

Simply put, direct mail is unsolicited advertising material sent to prospects via regular mail. In the past, print marketing used to be hard and difficult. Finding quality items, packing them on your own, shipping them off, measuring the ROI, etc. seemed very hard. 

Email seemed to solve all of this instantly. However, in the tech-fast age of today, sending direct mail has become as easy as clicking the send button on an email. Moreover, consumers are overwhelmed by digital noise and your advertising email tends to get lost in the mail. 

Direct mail helps you rise above all the digital noise and helps your brand get out from the inbox onto the consumers’ desk.

Email Marketing

When you send a commercial, advertising message to a group of people through email, it is termed email marketing. Unlike direct mail, you don’t have to send anything physically. The email goes to the customer’s digital inbox, where they can view and respond to the messages.

With the help of email marketing, you can reach out and connect with hundreds of people in an instant. 

The Pros & Cons: Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing

Direct Mail Pros

Will Not Get Lost in Spam

When it comes to emails, many marketing emails are automatically sent to spam. Imagine spending hours designing a creative email that never sees the light of day. This will never happen with direct mail – it will not get lost in spam.

Often Has a Longer Impact

Direct mail is like a note on your refrigerator. It will stay on their desk for days, even weeks. Even if they don’t take immediate action, your brand will linger until the customers are ready to make contact.

Most of us check our emails on our commute or on our way into a meeting. Direct mail offers the time and space that people need to appreciate the promotional item that you sent. On average, the lifespan of direct mail is 17 days. 

An email will not last as long and has an average lifespan of mere 2 seconds. Moreover, it is far less striking. 

Larger Brand Impact

As our lives become more & more overwhelmed and consumed by digital media, we start to pay less attention to the emails and digital messages we get. According to statistics, the brand recall from digital ads is 44% as compared to a 75% brand recall from direct mail. 

People perceive direct mail as a trusted and personal form of marketing. When they receive a promotional package, they are intrigued and their curiosity is piqued. This leads to a genuine interest in your brand and your services.

Brings in More Customers

Direct mail brings in more customers than email marketing. The stats show that it has a 30x greater response rate as compared to emails. If you send an email to a person who no longer works at a specific company, it will bounce.

However, if you send a brochure, postcard, etc. the new person at the job will see and your marketing efforts will not go in vain.

Direct Mail Cons

Hard to Obtain Addresses

It can be hard to build a practical, high-quality direct mail list. This is because people don’t give up their home mailing address easily while they have no qualms about sharing their email address. Moreover, people move and you don’t know whether the person who receives your direct mail will even be interested in your services or not.

Greater Initial Investment

This is not a secret – sending promotional direct mail is a lot more pricey than simply blasting out emails. You have to pay for editing, designing, printing, postage, etc. However, these costs pay off substantially since direct mail gives you a greater return on your investment by the end of the day.

Takes More Time 

Designing mail pieces is more time-consuming and extensive than drafting emails. Printing your direct mail, packing it, taking it to the post office, shipping it, etc. takes a lot of effort and time. With emails, all you have to do is press send, and the message will land in the prospect’s inbox. 

Email Marketing Pro’s

Easy Analysis

There are quite a few advantages of email marketing. When you send an email, your message gets delivered instantly and the results are generated pretty quickly as well. If you integrate the email with your CMS, you will get real-time data on open rate, bounce rate, deliverability, click-through rate, and a lot more.

With all this useful information, you can learn whether or not your digital campaigns are engaging the subscribers. Depending on the stats, you can tweak the existing and future marketing campaigns to maximize their effectiveness. 

Has a Higher ROI

One of the main benefits of email marketing is that its return on investment is almost 5 times higher than direct mail. For every dollar you spend on a direct mailer, it usually brings in about $7. On the other hand, for every dollar you invest in email marketing, you get an ROI of $38.

This is really helpful for small businesses that don’t have a lot of money to spend on direct mail campaigns but can devote some time to creating an effective email campaign. 

Requires Less Time & Resources

Modern technology and automation have made it faster and easier than ever to create unique and beautiful email campaigns. You don’t have to spend a lot of time making email marketing pieces and sending them out.

You can select from several pre-made templates that you can customize according to your brand and services. Moreover, you can send as many emails per day as you want instantly.

Email Marketing Cons

Easy to Get Stuck in Spam

Do you check your spam folder? It is very unlikely that you do. However, apart from the spam folder itself, if the email doesn’t catch the prospect’s eye immediately, you are in trouble. On average, 45% of a person’s email is junk mail that they never bother to open or check.

Since there is always a danger of viruses in emails, people tend to ignore emails from sources they don’t know and trust.

Becoming Less Personal

Email marketing is becoming an oversaturated market. Every business and company uses this form of marketing, one way or another. Not only is it becoming impersonal, but the effectiveness of email marketing is becoming low as well.

It is very hard to stand out in an oversaturated market, with everyone using the same digital marketing tactics. 

Almost Never Looks Good

As compared to direct mailers, you can’t make your emails look amazing. Even if you add beautiful images, use enticing fonts, etc., there is no guarantee that the email will look good on the other end.

Oftentimes, pictures don’t show up in emails and email users read them without rendered images.

Which Is The Best – Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing?

The million-dollar question is: direct mail vs email marketing – which is the best? Well, it is a hard call. As you can see from the pros and cons mentioned above, both mediums are effective for different reasons.

Direct mail is more personal, tangible, and has a large impact on people. On the other hand, the cost of email marketing is less and it doesn’t consume a lot of time as well. The best option is to combine email marketing and direct mail campaigns together and achieve the best possible results. 

For instance, you can send the prospects an email and tell them something is coming in their mail. This will build their anticipation and they will eagerly await the direct mail you will send them.

FAQ’s About Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing

Where can I design and make great direct mail pieces? 

A. It is as easy as 123 here at Inspire. We put together a list of the top, creative direct mail ideas for you to choose from. We have ones for customers, prospects, industry leaders, etc. – you name it! 

Where can I learn more about direct mail?

A. On our direct mail resource hub! We go over the basics, campaigns, fulfillment, and so much more on this resource. By the time you finish, you will be a master at it!

Are there other marketing techniques besides email and direct mail marketing?

A. Yes, of course! Social media marketing and referral networks are just a few out of the sea of techniques you can use to grow your business. 

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing – Final Word

Sending marketing emails seems an easier and less expensive way to get your brand out there, but it has lower prospect response rates and conversion rates as compared to direct mail response rates.

Moreover, it is very likely that people will delete the emails without opening them, or that the emails will get stuck in the spam folder. Do you feel happy when a package arrives on your doorstep? 

Direct mail has the same effect on your prospects. Hopefully, this article has made everything perfectly clear for you. However, if you are still confused, we recommend that you make both email marketing and direct mail marketing a part of your wholesome and comprehensive marketing strategy.