Four reasons to consider direct mail over e-mail

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Bernie Gracy
Bernie Gracy

Sending e-mail blasts to customers and prospects is cheap, easy, and fast, but how does e-mail stack up against direct mail when it comes to reliably delivering communications messaging? With the proliferation of e-mail, marketers are finding that their messages can get lost in the shuffle. Marketers are returning to direct mail in some instances as the best way to cut through that clutter, according to Bernie Gracy, VP of strategy and new business development for Pitney Bowes.

Gracy says e-mail and direct mail are both important communications channels. However, direct mail offers advantages that e-mail simply doesn't. Here are four reasons companies might want to consider investing more dollars in direct mail.

1. Crowded e-mail boxes

E-mail boxes are getting more crowded and that makes it difficult for marketers to reliably reach their audiences, says Gracy. Personal and business e-mails flood e-mail boxes every day, and it's not easy to keep on top of the influx. “I'm getting hundreds of Tweets and Facebook updates every day,” Gracy laments. “All those e-mails people send are getting lost.”

Consumers frequently discard e-mail in an effort to clear the deck. On the other hand, according to Mail Moves America, eight out of 10 households read or scan the advertising mail they receive. “With direct mail, you cut through the messaging clutter,” he says.

2. The trust factor

According to Gracy, legitimate financial services organizations find that e-mail to their own customers are often dismissed as potential scams. Viruses and other security issues also lead to consumer caution in opening e-mail messages. Gracy points out that direct mail doesn't carry that kind of stigma and widespread concern. And, it's not just Baby Boomers who are leery about e-mail offers. Research by the US Postal Service revealed that 70% of Gen X and Gen Y consumers are more likely to read a credit card offer when it arrives through direct mail versus e-mail, suggesting that direct mail offers may have a higher degree of perceived legitimacy compared with e-mail.

3. E-mail fatigue may set in

Preference for direct mail as a channel for receiving promotional materials has remained high among all age groups. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology's “Print in the Mix” study, half of all respondents said they requested promotional materials from companies over the past six months. They also indicated a strong preference for receiving offers by mail versus e-mail (78% versus 63%, respectively). “Targeting and relevance are keys to success.” Gracy advises. “You send fewer but more relevant pieces, and that's how you can move the sales needle.”

4. People read and react to direct mail

According to research conducted by USPS, consumers spend an average of 30 minutes reading their mail each day (25 of those minutes are spend reading direct mail advertising). Importantly, studies show the mail is usually handled by the person responsible for household finances and purchasing decisions.

Most marketers celebrate e-mail open rates as a measure of success and they hope recipients will spend a few seconds actually reading the e-mail message. Gracy and other marketing industry experts say e-mail marketers are grappling with the problem of declining open rates by increasing frequency. He says that's a mistake. “Both e-mail and direct mail have a place in an integrated programs,” he says. “But if you can somehow use direct mail to cut through the messaging clutter – even to drive people to your website – you'll be more effective overall.”

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