The Idea Center - Blog
Swipe to the left

Direct Mail or Email - Which Marketing Channel is Right For You?

June 15, 2015

Marketing is all about choices. Every campaign involves selecting one message over another, choosing one design out of several concepts, and choosing one audience to market to over another. 

One of the biggest choices many direct marketers have to make today is between an older, more traditional marketing channel – direct mail – and its newer and cheaper alternative, email. 

In the choice between direct mail and email, the diplomatic answer – that both email and direct mail are great channels, when used properly – is the correct one. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each can lead to a successful campaign.

That’s the short answer – the real answer is significantly more detailed. We dug into the advantages and disadvantages of both email and direct mail to help you find out which is the most effective direct marketing channel for your business.


Email is extremely cheap, but rarely a focused experience

How many emails do you receive per day? According to research from The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto-based marketing research firm, the average business users gets a total of 126 emails per day – by no means a small amount. 

Whether all of these are read or not is debatable. Given the signal to noise ratio that is easy to observe in most email inboxes, it’s unlikely that each email received by an end user receives the same amount of attention as a physical letter or postcard.

This is email’s strength and weakness. Email is a cheap marketing channel – with an email server of your own, it’s almost free. Because it’s so cheap, the majority of users are inundated with commercial messages that receive little attention.

When you rely on email marketing to spread your message, you risk being lost in the user’s inbox along with every other email marketer. As Danny Hatch says in Target Marketing Mag, it isn’t tactile – there’s no experience of holding it in your hands.


Direct mail costs more, but it also creates better results

Direct mail’s greatest weakness, when compared to email, is its cost. Sending out a series of thousands of emails costs almost nothing, while mailing out thousands of letters or direct mail postcards requires a real marketing budget.

Despite costing more than email, direct mail has numerous benefits. It has a larger audience than any email campaign. It has a more receptive audience, since people receive far fewer physical letters and postcards than they do emails.

It also allows you to deliver a much more detailed, engaging message. While users only give commercial emails a second or two before hitting the delete button, they will rarely fail to pay attention to a stylish, colorful, and effective direct mail piece. 

While email’s strength is also its weakness, one of direct mail’s weaknesses – cost – is also one of its strengths. Because it costs far more to send direct mail than email, consumers trust direct mail campaigns 25% more than they do email campaigns.


Both email and direct mail have a place in your marketing campaign

Direct mail and email are different marketing channels with different strengths, and both can produce fantastic results.A growing number of marketers now use them in tandem as part of a multichannel campaign, often achieving an impressive synergy. 

Inbox overload is a serious phenomenon, particularly in the B2B world. While direct mail may not be as cheap as email, no marketing channel can match its ability to put your message in front of the right person without any additional distractions.