Better Together: Email and Direct Mail

So which medium is more effective at inspiring consumers to take action? A well-crafted, snail-mailed direct mail piece or an email with a pithy subject line?

You may as well ask, which variety of wine is better: Syrah or Riesling?

The answer, needless to say, is “it depends.” When it comes to print vs. email , both have pros and cons in certain circumstances.

But unlike the cabernet vs. chardonnay match-up, where you ordinarily wouldn’t drink both with the same meal, the print/email comparison is often a distraction from the real insight, namely, to use both in the same campaign!

That’s right — studies have shown that campaigns which use both media fare better than campaigns which use just one. In other words, direct mail and email complement one another.

While 90% of consumers strongly prefer one medium over the other, combining both tactics does not seem to bother most of them. In fact, they are 50% more likely to respond to their preferred medium when it is joined with its opposite. This number rises to 62% when digital campaigns are linked with direct mail.

Here are just a few of the ways the two media help each other:

* Printed mail pieces provide more substance, while email delivers easily absorbed bullet points;

* Email is typically opened up right away, while direct mail may linger on kitchen counters and tables;

* Printed mail can stimulate responses for weeks while email responses rise quickly, then drop just as rapidly

While all of this points to the effectiveness of a cross-channel email/snail mail marketing campaign, there are several caveats. For example, don’t simply repeat the identical message in both media. Use the relative strengths of each to create a balanced, effective campaign.

You might send a long letter to your target audience, then email the same folks a reminder about it. Or, on the other hand, you might email your target market and tell them an informational piece is on its way so they can be watching for it.

Indeed, it might even be a savvy move to send out an email blast, wait for the response, then ONLY mail to those prospects, as opposed to your entire target. Not only will you boost your response rate, you’ll save advertising and marketing dollars by not mailing to your entire list.

If you do plan on using both media, it’s important for each medium to reference the other. In other words, if you snail-mail a piece to a prospect who has responded to an earlier email, be sure to remind them of this so they don’t think they had simply been chosen at random. (Even though, as marketers, we know that no marketing communications piece ever goes out to anyone chosen at random!)

Reference their earlier response to your email to boost your reponse rate through the well-known phenomenon of “brand-bonding by self-selection.”

One final caveat: attempt to determine your prospect’s preference for either email or print, then send them more of it, and less of the one they don’t prefer. In fact, it might be wise to ask them point-blank which medium they would like NOT to receive, then honor their request if they do so. While cross-channel marketing is an extremely effective tool, it should under no circumstances come at the expense of alienating your audience members who are completely put-off by either of these two media.

Leave a Reply