Comparing Direct Mail to Email
Cost alone is not a sufficient measure to compare direct mail to email because using email introduces other factors that do not apply to direct mail. For example:
With email, the sender has incomplete control over how the message appears to the recipient, both when it is received in preview and after it is opened. A printed piece does not change based on the type of reader the recipient is using.
Email depends on a variety of Internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver the message, each with its own blocks and filters for email. The USPS delivers all the mail unless the address is faulty. There are also tools such as National Change of Address (NCOA) processing and delivery point validation (DPV) to identify undeliverable addresses during mail list processing.
A sender of email risks having his Internet Protocol (IP) address being blacklisted by ISPs. While blacklisting is a useful tool to cut down on spam, the decision on whether a message should be blacklisted rests with the ISP, not with the message recipient. With traditional direct mail, the recipient decides whether to put himself on the “Do Not Mail” list.
In its 2009 Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path, an email deliverability company, found that 20% of email ads directed at consumers were undelivered (sent to “junk” or “bulk” email addresses). More than 20% of business emails were undelivered. This compares to traditional mail list providers who will guarantee a deliverability rate of 88% or higher.
When talking about costs, discourage customers from only considering the cost of distribution (i.e.: printing + mailing + postage costs) when comparing direct mail to email. A better comparison is the cost-per-response for direct mail and email—although, as yet, there is insufficient data on email response rates.
The Final Word: Walk the Talk
Printers and mailers can make a strong case for traditional direct mail as part of a marketing campaign, but only if they walk the talk. A printer who relies solely on email to stay in touch with customers and prospects or, worse yet, uses no form of outreach at all, has a serious credibility problem.
This is what it takes to conduct a traditional direct mail marketing campaign:
• Get a mail list. Include your Top 100 customers, the prospects for whom you issued a quote for significant work, and all the businesses within a 10-15 mile radius of your printing company that you think you should be doing business with you or who buy a significant amount of the type of printing you do best.
• Design a mail piece. Postcards are a good choice, so is a monthly newsletter. Subscribe to a newsletter service such as Printips and you’ll have content to use for the newsletter, a postcard, and email.
• Write up a work order. Viewed in the context of walking the talk, your direct mail piece is as important as any work you are being paid to produce. Get it on the production schedule and complete it on time.
• Partner with a lettershop or mail at the single-piece first class postage rate. If you don’t have the skills and equipment to do the mailing yourself, find a lettershop you can subcontract to. If there are no convenient lettershops, mail at the single-piece first class postage rate. Walking the talk is more important than saving money on postage.
Keep it up. Don’t stop. Augment traditional direct mail with email if you like, but don’t ever stop using direct mail. Your shop’s future depends on it!
Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printingresources.com. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.