By Heidi Tolliver-Walker

It’s an age-old debate: direct mail versus email marketing.

Supporters of digital media will say why drain your marketing budget on direct mail campaigns that nobody reads when you can contact your customers using the channels they prefer — television, social media, and mobile?

However, the latest data makes a strong case for printed direct mail. Sure, social media and mobile marketing are on the rise. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t responding to direct mail or that this channel is losing its effectiveness. That’s just plain false.

The reality is, direct mail remains a critical part of the mix. So the next time someone tries to tell you direct mail is dead, remember:

1. Direct mail doesn’t require opt-in

Unlike email and text messaging, you don’t have to get a recipient’s permission to send them direct mail. This means, even if a customer doesn’t subscribe or unsubscribes from your email list, you can still get in touch with them. (Which is why it’s always a good idea to get physical addresses from those on your email lists!)

2. Direct mail never stays in a spam filter

“Yes, your message may be picked by someone else,” notes Roger Buck, former director of marketing and product development at The Flesh Company. “But the chances are small – and direct mail never has a virus.”

3. Direct mail stays effective longer than you think

Direct mail is a bit like a note on the refrigerator door. “We sometimes hear from customers that our mail stays on their desk for weeks,” says Andre Palko, president of Technifold USA. “They may not immediately take action, but our brand lingers until they are ready to contact us. An e-mail does not last as well – and is far less striking. ”

direct mail open read rates

4. It’s still effective when the target recipient has moved on

“If you send an email to someone who’s no longer at a particular company, it bounces. If you send a postcard, the new person in that job sees it — and you’ve just introduced yourself as a vendor,” says Palko.

5. With direct mail you do not have to fight to get attention

E-mail is effective, but also overwhelming. A study by The Radicati Group concluded that the average business customer sends or receives 121 emails per day. In 2024 there are probably more than 500 emails a day in all likelihood.

Larry Bradley, owner of Proforma Sunbelt Graphics, writes: “The overwhelming deluge of e-mail in the office is a solid hurdle for e-mail marketers. It is difficult to distinguish the mess from the real mails, so that a large part of business e-mails is not read at all. By contrast, companies receive much less marketing by mail than ten years ago – a unique advantage for direct mail. ”

Direct Mail vs digital marketing channels

6. Certain offers just won’t get traction by email

There’s a reason businesses are more likely to get lending offers in the mail than they are by email. B2B decision-makers trust direct mail more than email, especially for high value products and services. Mailers can also include a wide variety of trust-building content not possible (or reasonable) to include in email. Yes, you can provide links. But with direct mail, you get that content in front of them in a tangible way right out of the gate.

7. Direct mail can reach high-level decision-makers

There are only so many things you can do to make email look more important. But beyond writing a compelling subject line, most of them look hokey. Direct mail offers options like kits, dimensional mail, and unique packaging options that, by their nature, get past the gatekeepers. (Palko has used everything from metallic envelopes, lunch bags, packing list pouches and prescription bottles to mail letters. “They are not only fun, but they get opened!” he says.) While these mailings may have higher price tags, they can also get near 100 percent open rates. When you’re trying to reach the C-Suite, that’s worth a lot.

8. Direct mail drives social media and online marketing

Many people believe you don’t need direct mail when you have social media and mobile marketing. What they’re overlooking is how social media and mobile marketing relationships get captured in the first place. Very often, it’s through print. Saying that you only need social and mobile is akin to saying that when you buy a house you only need the upper stories and not the foundation. Without print, getting social and mobile engagements is much more difficult.

Don’t let digital marketers get away with stealing your customers based on false contrasts. Open the discussion about the benefits of direct mail versus email—and when to use each. Be proactive and let direct mail showcase what you can do.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker is former print industry magazine editor and long-time industry analyst, content developer, author, and blogger. This article was first written for Xerox’s blog. She has written for the industry’s top publications, research companies, and private companies for the past three decades — so long that she still has an AOL address, which she signed up for back when AOL was still cool. You can reach her at htollvr@aol.com.

Previous post

Canadian consumers embracing AI to identify lower-cost alternatives, finds EY survey

Next post

This is the most recent story.

Direct Marketing

Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.