How Email Has Helped Clarify the Value of Direct Mail

emailThe digital avalanche has changed the way we communicate. It has forced marketers to more fully understand their audience and how and when they prefer to communicate. And while many predicted that emails would replace commercial direct mail, it really hasn’t happened that way.

“Texting is ideal for when you need to connect with someone and either, or both, of you may be unable to take a phone call,” writes Luke Heffron in TeraData. “If you would like an actual conversation and to hear a human voice, then a phone call is of course the best way (OK, or you could Skype, which is still a phone call)…Texting did not kill the phone call—they both have their place. Likewise, email has not killed direct mail.

“According to the DMA 2012 Statistical Fact Book, the overall volume of direct mail has remained fairly steady across the past three years (a slight dip from 2011 to 2012). So let’s agree that, for the foreseeable future, we should still keep our mailboxes in front of our house,” Heffron continues.

What has happened, as email has become ubiquitous, is that marketers have gained a better understanding of when direct mail is most effective. And according to Heffron, direct mail still reigns in many ways, from customer acquisition to building lifetime value.

And while it may be far easier to distribute an email than produce a mailing, just being easy or less expensive isn’t the best factor to determining your channel.

“Technology has changed our focus on the ‘how’ to do direct marketing instead of ‘why’ and ‘what’ to do direct marketing for,” says Heffron. “By only focusing on the ‘how,’ it’s easy to see why online channels are so prevalent for direct marketers. It’s so much easier to execute than traditional mail. But the simplest easiest path is not always the most effective. “

So beware the fast and easy fix, as Heffron advises. Sometimes email is the right option, but in many cases a well-done direct mail offers a huge tactical advantage.