Marketing channel

Why direct mail is the anti-email marketing channel

Email has its place in your marketing strategy. It’s the most common and cheapest way to keep in touch with prospects and customers. But it is also a low impact channel. People see it in their inbox and read maybe one in 10 messages you send them. And that’s only if the subject line is great and is everything they need that day – assuming your email doesn’t go straight to spam folders.

Email isn’t just disposable, it’s forgettable. It’s the supermarket queue, a place to do impulse shopping and remember things you had to get anyway.

Direct mail is the opposite of all of that. Direct mail is tangible and high impact. People read it and wonder what to do with it. It impresses and demands to be read.

We don’t object to email; it has its place in every brand’s marketing, but the role that email plays in your strategy is totally different from that of direct mail. This is why direct mail is the anti-email; they’re the sun and moon of omnichannel marketing, and you need both to make sure your target audience sees the light.

The Great Wall of Email

The problem with email is the wall. Anyone with an email address wakes up with a ton of bricks in their inbox – an average of 600 emails every week – that create a barrier between the reader and the message you’re trying to get them to read.

It’s not just volume that kills email engagement, it’s reputation. People have an irreproachable expectation for email. There is so much spam that less than 18% of emails are opened and click-through rates hover around 2%.

This manifests as a huge inbox problem: too many emails never even make it to the inbox to even have a chance of being opened. The average inbox placement rate in North America is just 83%, giving your emails a 1/6 chance of never being filtered by your target recipient. And don’t get us started on spam lists!

That’s not to say email can’t be done well. In this environment, users scan their inboxes for the emails they want to open and delete the rest. The emails that make a difference are those from trusted brands with relevant offers and subject lines.

Often, personalization makes all the difference. But you need to have that relationship with those customers and prospects before you can send relevant, personalized messages.

Email isn’t where you fish for brand relationships, it’s how you nurture relationships with prospects you already know.

Why direct mail is the anti-email marketing channel

Direct mail is the anti-email

Although they both may seem like ways to send messages to a target audience, direct mail is a mirror image of email in almost every way. As we talked about in a previous article, the mailbox is not cluttered today. People are getting less mail than ever before, only about 17 pieces of mail a week, and are spending more time with the mail they receive.

In addition, COVID-19 has created a taste for receiving mail. 54% of respondents in 2020 said they want to receive direct mail from brands they care about. Even letters and business catalogs are welcome for two-thirds of Americans. The only types of marketing mail that get net negative reception are the generic, non-personalized flyers and cards that too many companies still send out.

More importantly, people get their mail. It is not an opt-in channel and there are no spam lists. Postal mail reception rates are over 99%. Of these, 90% of postal mail is opened and response rates have nearly doubled over the past decade.

Compare these environments:

  • Emails are cluttered and unappreciated. People only open an email when it catches their eye and promises something they particularly value, like the solution to a current need.
  • Direct mail is low volume and highly valued. It’s how people want to hear about brands they don’t know, and they love getting direct mail from brands they know.

Americans are as warm to direct mail as they are cold to email. It’s up to you to make the best use of these environments in your marketing strategy.

Harnessing the sun and moon for your brand

These channels work night and day, and they must be used in this way in your marketing strategy to generate success.

Either way, knowing who you’re talking to and what they want from your brand is key to success. Work on customer profiling and data collection so you can send the right messages at the right time across both channels.

Personalization is paid. If you can individualize the direct mail and emails you send so that they accommodate each recipient’s time and interests, you can build a warm connection in the direct mail and break down the email wall. This tension, along with the use of the rest of your digital channels, is the central dilemma that your omnichannel marketing strategy must address.

Personalization is paid. If you can individualize the direct mail and emails you send so that they accommodate each recipient’s time and interests, you can build a warm connection in the direct mail and break down the email wall.