Email has a place in your marketing strategy. It is the most common and cheapest way to keep in touch with prospects and customers. But it’s also a low-impact channel. People see it in their inboxes and maybe read one out of 10 messages you send them. And that’s only if the subject line is great and lines up with whatever they need that day — assuming your email isn’t going directly to the spam folders.
Email isn’t just disposable, it’s forgettable. It’s the supermarket checkout line, a place for impulse shopping and remembering things you needed to get anyway.
Direct mail is the opposite of all that. Direct mail is tangible and high-impact. People read it and consider what to do with it. It makes an impression and demands to be read.
We’re not arguing against email; it has a place in every brand’s marketing, but the role email plays in your strategy is totally different from the role of direct mail. That’s 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. Everyone with an email address wakes up to a ton of bricks in their inbox — on average 600 emails each week — that create a barrier between the reader and whatever message you’re trying to get them to read.
It’s not just the volume that kills email engagement, it’s the reputation. People have a rock-bottom expectation for email. So much of it is junk that less than 18% of email gets opened and clickthrough rates hover around 2%.
This manifests in a massive inboxing problem: Too many emails never even make it to the inbox to get the chance to even be opened. The average inbox placement rate in North America is only 83%, which gives your emails a 1-in-6 chance of never even being screened 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, people scan their inboxes for the emails they want to open and delete the rest. The emails that make the cut 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 messages with relevance and personalization.
Email is not where you fish for brand relationships, it’s how you nurture relationships with prospects you already know.
Direct Mail is the Anti-Email
Although they may both 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 crowded today. People are getting less postal mail than ever, only about 17 mail pieces a week, and spending more time with the mail they do get.
What’s more, COVID-19 sparked a liking for receiving mail. 54% of people surveyed in 2020 said they want to get direct mail from brands they’re interested in. Even letters and catalogs from businesses are welcome by two-thirds of Americans. The only types of marketing mail that get a net negative reception are the generic, non-personalized flyers and cards that too many businesses still send out.
Most importantly, people get their mail. It’s not an opt-in channel and there are no spam lists. Postal mail inboxing rates are over 99%. Of those, 90% of postal mail gets opened and response rates have nearly doubled over the past decade.
Compare those environments:
- Email is crowded and unappreciated. People open email only when it grabs their attention and promises something they specifically value, like the solution to a current need.
- Direct mail is low-volume and highly appreciated. It’s the way people want to hear from brands they don’t know, and they like getting direct mail from brands they do know.
Americans are as warm to direct mail as they are cold to email. It’s up to you to use those environments to the best effect in your marketing strategy.
Harnessing the Sun and Moon for Your Brand
These channels are night and day, and they need to be used that way in your marketing strategy to generate success.
In either case, knowing who you’re talking to and what they want from your brand is the key to success. Put in the work on customer profiling and data collection so you can send the right messages at the right times in both channels.
Personalization pays off. If you can individualize the direct mail and email you’re sending so they are each considerate of each recipient’s time and interests, you can make a warm connection in direct mail and break through the email wall. This tension, as well as using the rest of your digital channels, is the core dilemma your omnichannel marketing strategy has to address.
Personalization pays off. If you can individualize the direct mail and email you’re sending so they are each considerate of each recipient’s time and interests, you can make a warm connection in direct mail and break through the email wall.
Andre is the Founder and CEO of Propelo Media.