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Email Marketing Vs. Direct Mail: Where To Spend Your Budget

In today’s world, there are more marketing channels and places to advertise than ever before.  Between online banner ads, sponsored blogs, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, sponsored Tweets, magazines, newspapers, and even the sides of buses – the list of where to allocate your marketing/advertising budget goes on and on.  Although many of these newer options can be effective if done right, a lot of companies stick with the proven traditional methods.  In particular, email marketing and direct mail marketing still seem to be go-to options.

Like most things, there is no definitive answer whether email marketing or direct mail is superior.  A business owner will really need to evaluate their industry and target market to figure out which makes the most sense.  In certain cases, a combined approach may be the most effective.  Below we will look closer at each method and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Email Marketing

Advantages – If done correctly, email marketing may be an almost guaranteed way to get your message in front of a consumer.   Unlike Facebook and Twitter, the recipient must decide to open your message or delete it (they can not simply ignore it and wait for it to disappear on its own).  We recommend reading up on techniques to bypass spam filters if you decide to execute your email marketing campaign on your own.  Compared to other forms of online marketing, email marketing provides the best ROI.

“Email is bringing in $40.56 for every dollar spent on it in 2011, compared to catalogs’ ROI of $7.30, search’s return of $22.24, Internet display advertising’s return of $19.72 and mobile’s return of $10.51.”  – Direct Marketing Association “Power of Direct” (2011)

Depending on your target market, email marketing is usually less expensive than direct mail.  Print, postage, and handling are not a factor with email marketing.  Additionally, if you are looking at an international campaign, the process of designing and sending emails is less complicated than trying to direct mail internationally.

Another major pro to email marketing is trackability.   Today, most email marketing services provide detailed reports of your campaign, including open and click through rates (CTR).  Smart forms are also possible to incorporate directly into emails, which allow recipients to provide you with additional data directly through the email you sent them.

Disadvantages –  Email marketing certainly has its downfalls.  The biggest issue is the quality of email address lists that are purchased.   As a buyer of an email list, it can be hard to ascertain how many times this same list has been sold and mailed to in the past.  As more businesses try their hand at email marketing, consumers are becoming overwhelmed by junk email and advertisements.  Depending on your product/service and market, this needs to be considered.  When executing an email marketing campaign, it is often recommended to collect email addresses from your current customers in addition to purchasing lists.

Direct Mail Marketing

Advantages –  A major advantage of direct mail over email marketing is that you have more opportunities to make a good “first impression”.  When sending an email, the fonts and sizing of your subject line (which is the only thing many consumers will see at first), will not be different from any other email they receive.  Besides very creative wording, your email at first glance has no chance to stand out from others.  However, with direct mail, you are able to print mailers in all shapes, colors, and sizes these days.  Want to really grab the recipient’s attention?  Spend a couple of extra dollars on over-sized, brightly colored post cards and stand out from the rest of the competition.

With direct mail marketing, there are no spam filters.  You can be assured every piece sent will be delivered (provided the addresses are correct).  Additionally, most of the public regularly checks their mail box.  When it comes to checking an email account, this is not always the case.

Disadvantages –  Looking at costs, direct mail lists are relatively inexpensive.  However, depending on the type of mailer sent out, it is possible to spend a substantial amount of money when it comes to postage and printing.  For this reason, if your goal is to target X number of consumers, you may spend more money with direct mail than emails.  Another disadvantage of direct mailing compared to email marketing is trackability, or lack thereof.  It is possible to monitor response rates with direct mailing campaigns, but good luck obtaining an open rate.

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