The 10 million dollar question – which method of marketing is more effective…direct mail or email?
I sought out to answer this question by searching the web for finite studies on the subject. If you look long enough, you’ll find the statistics. Direct mail is more effective!…but then you see the study was undertaken by a major postage meter manufacturer. Email brings a higher return on investment!….but the fine print reveals the study was financed by an email marketing company. So how does one sort the fact from fiction?
Nowadays, everybody and their brother employs some sort of email marketing campaign. This is in part because when the recession hit, retailers were looking for proven cost-effective and results-oriented marketing programs. And let’s face it, email is an effective way to keep in touch and build customer loyalty. But there’s a catch. You need to keep in touch in a meaningful way. That means no selfish, spammy advertising or amateurish-looking enewsletters.
You’ll always get a better return on your investment with email marketing because it’s so cost-effective to send. Although email marketing generally does have a better ROI than direct mail, the ROI for both is really dependent on the content within the piece, the sender’s industry and, most importantly, the sender’s relationship with the recipient. Deliver a thoughtful, creatively designed direct mail campaign to a well built mailing list, and you can still have an excellent ROI.
It is easier to track the effectiveness of an email campaign than a direct mail campaign. With email, one can track open rates and click-through rates at a glance. This data can then be used to tailor future content to the recipient’s specific interests. Try doing THAT with direct mail!
The response rate for direct mail is always higher than email because a lot of email goes directly to spam. Comparing the stats: A standard response rate for a piece of direct mail is about two percent; however, this two percent jumps to between five and 35 percent when direct mail is sent to the same recipient a second time. For email sent to an opt-in email list, marketers report an open rate of between 15 and 35 percent combined with a six percent click-through rate as average. (These statistics change depending on your industry.) But because you can easily segment your email database by recipients’ past actions and by their chosen preferences when they sign-up to receive your emails, smart email marketers can greatly increase open and click-through rates over time.
Email marketing is more viral in nature than direct mail. Ask a random group if they forwarded a piece of direct mail with a great offer to a friend in the past week and then ask how many forwarded an email. When produced effectively, with relevant and well designed content, there is no substitute for the level of interactivity you can gain through permission-based email.
In conclusion, email marketing seems to give better ROI and better metrics. But the real truth of the matter is that both email and direct mail marketing tactics work best when used together. No one tactic will reach all of your audience. Only through an integrated communication plan across several mediums will the most effective (and money making) marketing take place.