Direct Mail vs. Email: Which Is Better for Acquiring New Business?

direct mail vs email

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing

Which Delivers More Prospects for Your Business?

In our opinion direct mail is more effective than email marketing due to the inherent direct mail benefits highlighted in this article. Of course direct mail has one major weakness – cost. Email is significantly cheaper.

However, while direct mail has a higher front-end, on the back-end direct mail is cheaper when calculating cost per sale.
BETTER RESPONSE: When searching for “new” customers, study after study proves direct mail will generate more new customers than email. A recent study by the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) shows direct mail being 10 to 30 times more effective than email.
CONSUMERS PREFER DIRECT MAIL OVER EMAIL : An Epsilon study found that over 50% of consumers prefer direct mail over email. And 67% feel direct mail is more personal than the Internet. 70% preferred mail for receiving unsolicited information from unfamiliar companies.
OFFERS THAT ARE MORE TRUSTWORTHY: The Epsilon study also found that 25% of consumers found direct mail offers more trustworthy than email offers.
MORE PROSPECTS: Accurate – quality email addresses are very difficult to acquire – mainly because most people do not opt-in for third party offers. For this reason, all email lists are missing the majority of the target. Typically a direct mail list offers 80% more prospects.
EMAIL OVERLOAD: Sending and receiving emails is easy, possibly too easy. Most people receive dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of emails in a single day. That’s simply too many to give each one adequate attention. This means that your email is likely to be glanced at and quickly tossed aside, if it’s even opened at all. Regular mail will get tossed aside too, but the fact that there’s actually less of it going out these days increases the odds that someone may actually open what you’ve sent. When there’s currently less competition with direct mail why waste your time fighting to stand out among all the email?
LESS COMPETITION: More than ever consumers are bombarded with digital offers that they don’t want. Email is now the cluttered option, while direct mail represents the uncluttered option. With direct mail your offer will not get loss in avalanche of competitive offers.
SPECIAL – UNIQUE: Unlike the old days when every marketer was using direct mail, these days a mail piece is special and unique. These days it’s not often when someone receives a personalized envelope with a catchy teaser – open me – line. This uniqueness will inherently stimulate more interest from the reader … thus response.
DIRECT MAIL CAN BE MUCH MORE CREATIVE
Your chance to wow a customer with an email goes about as far as the subject line. Take too many chances with a creative subject line and it will likely get deleted for fear there is some sort of virus or phishing scam involved. Stick a boring subject line in, and, yes, it will also likely get passed over and deleted. While there are ways to spice up emails, they just don’t seem to have the same potential as direct mail.
LONGER SHELF LIFE: The shelf-life of an email offer is measured in seconds, while a direct mail piece can linger on a coffee table for days.
MORE SELECTIVITY: Most email lists do not offer the extensive array of selectivity factors available with a direct mail list. With a direct mail list you can pinpoint your best prospects … cream of the crop prospects, while email often forces marketers to take the old-fashion shot-gun approach.
HIGHER DELIVERY RATE. A direct mail list is typically 95% deliverable. On the other hand, the great majority of email lists being advertised have a delivery below 50%. Also, due to the constant onslaught by spammers, the ISPs (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc) are beginning to block unsolicited emails … and for this reason some are predicting the demise of email “prospecting.” Fantastic offer, fantastic creative, fantastic list … all this is irrelevant if the ISPs don’t deliver. With direct mail – your offer gets delivered!
HIGHER OPEN RATE: With the great majority of email “prospecting” campaigns, 95+ percent of all emails are not even opened. The email recipient will either delete or transfer to the SPAM box … without even peeking at the email … your brand name. On the other hand, direct mail is a tangible item that typically captures a glance. The receiver may not read every word, but your company name/brand will gain much more awareness with direct mail than email.
SAFE: With the growing threat of identity theft, viruses, and SPAM, people are becoming more and more hesitating in responding to on-line offers … even legitimate interesting offers. Direct mail is safe … the user can visit website on own time schedule and without having to click potentially dangerous links.
IMPROVES EMAIL RESPONSE RATE: One sure way to boost email OPEN and CLICK-THROUGH rates is with direct mail. One week before the email blast, send the email recipient a postcard informing that a special “email” offer will soon arrive. This one-two punch will increase the odds that the email recipient will OPEN the email … instead of deleting before even blinking at the email.
MORE CONTROL: The majority of quality email list suppliers will not release their email addresses. With direct mail you can receive the direct list. Having a prospecting database in-house … offers innumerable marketing applications / opportunities; for example, data append, market analysis, market penetration reports, SalesForce Prospecting Management, Telemarketing Follow-Up Campaigns.
TELEMARKETING. A direct mail list can also include phone numbers. A telemarketing list is not the ideal tool for generating sales, BUT telemarketing is very effective for gathering information on potential customers … relationship formation.
INCREASE WEB TRAFFIC & ONLINE SALES: Direct mail has a tremendous influence on generating online sales. Per USPS study, over 60% of direct mail recipients were influenced to visit promoted website – with the greatest influence on first-time shoppers. Direct mail recipients purchased 28% more items and spent 28% more money than non direct mail recipients. The study also noted a revenue lift of 163% for websites supported by direct mail as opposed to those that were not.
SOURCE: USPS survey of 5,000 visitors to retail websites
DIRECT MAIL GENERATES ACTION. The US Postal Service did a third-party study that revealed these direct mail facts:
… 46% direct mail recipients read their direct mail and nearly everyone at least glances at it for a few seconds (that’s an impression)
… 23% visited the sender’s store location
… 21% visited the sender’s website
… 12% called an 800# listed on the mailer
… 9% replied via email
https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/Acquisition_WP1.pdf
VERIFICATION: With an email campaign there is no way to verify the accuracy / quality of the email list since in most cases the email supplier will not provide the email contact data to the marketer. With a direct mail list the marketer has a physical address … that you can cross reference with other databases for verifying demographics / quality.
HISPANICS AND DIRECT MAIL: Due to cultural and other issues, direct mail is an excellent way for reaching Hispanics. According to a USPS survey, Hispanics are six times less likely than non-Hispanics to discard their direct mail without reviewing. And even though Hispanics look forward to direct mail, Hispanics receive 20% fewer direct mail pieces than the average non-Hispanic household. Also note that studies have shown Hispanics spend more shopping each year compared to non-Hispanics.
CONSUMERS LIKE THE TACTILE NATURE OF DIRECT MAIL: In focus groups consumers said the interactive part of direct mail helped them connect to the brand and left a lasting impression.
EMAIL IS NOT AS TRUSTWORTHY: Spam, identity theft, and a multitude of viruses that can crash your entire system are just a few of the fears people have when opening their email. Unless the person already knows you, attachments almost never get opened. Images may not even make it through spam filters. Even if someone is intrigued with your tag line, the fear of a virus is often enough to keep them from opening it. An attractive envelope, however, does not hold the same sort of fear.
DIRECT MAIL IS MORE PERSONALIZED: There’s something much more personal about holding a letter or a brochure in your hand than clicking and gazing into a screen. Direct mail can connect to another individual in a way that a standard email can’t. The feeling of holding something in your hand creates a psychological connection that just doesn’t exist with an email. Once someone has actually opened your envelope they’re more likely to spend some time looking over the physical materials they’re holding than they would an email. In the time it takes a person to walk to the trash can, you have a chance to actually capture their attention.
DISCOUNTS: Consumers believe more valuable discounts/coupons come through the mail than email. For example, over 50% prefer receiving credit card offers via mailbox than Inbox.

IN SUMMARY: For “prospecting” … direct mail is more effective than email! Email “prospecting” is losing its power and direct mail is regaining strength. Many marketers choose email marketing because it is cheaper but when prospecting for new business. Mail is the overwhelming winner especially in the New Jersey market because it is difficult for many companies to advertise on New York TV and radio at a cost-efficient price. Have you noticed that some of the biggest Internet names (Google, Facebook, Microsoft) are now major direct mail users. Marketers that use direct mail will gain a competitive edge on the competitors that skip direct mail.
Keep in mind, we often recommend using email marketing to our clients because it is a very effective medium for communicating and selling customers. But we wrote this article specifically for the purpose of those businesses seeking new customers.