Email vs. Direct Mail Marketing: Which is More Effective?

As a consumer, you probably receive several marketing messages from companies each day – in both e-mail and direct mail format. As a business owner, you may be wondering which form is best for your brand. To help answer that question, there are 7 important factors you’ll want to consider.


  • Ease

The best part of technology is when it works for us, making our jobs easier and more efficient. E-mail marketing campaigns are considerably easier than direct mail campaigns. It’s a matter of typing up a message, choosing your recipients, and clicking the “send” button. The alternative involves creating a design, writing the copy, printing the final piece, addressing envelopes or postcards, placing stamps, and mailing the piece. The choice is a no-brainer.

Setting up e-mail workflows will allow you to go the extra mile by streamlining your communication with clients and potential consumers. If these workflows are properly integrated with your sales funnel, you’ll be able to see when a person moves from one stage to the next.  This results in better targeted marketing.

  • Size of Message

With direct mail pieces, you’re limited by what you can send. If you’d really like to bump up your game and send out a helpful book or informational guide, that’s fine; you can do that. Think of how expensive it will be, though. It would be much more cost efficient to send out an eBook.

You typically don’t want e-mail messages to be too long. Otherwise, people aren’t likely to read them. You can, however, send links to outside resources to better get your message across. People who are interested will click these links to find out more. Placing a call-to-action inside your e-mail is another useful tool. This CTA may encourage the recipient to download a free eBook or sign up for a free consultation.

  • Buyer Journey

We briefly alluded to this point with the e-mail links and CTAs. Several components can be incorporated within your email. These pieces will provide your audience with choices. Some people will want to visit your online store right away, others will want to read more about your products/services, and some will want to contact you for more information.

The links and CTAs you place within an e-mail message allow readers to choose their own path. The ultimate destination is the same – a final purchase. However, the consumer journey to that destination can vary.

  • Speed

Once you click “send” on an e-mail message, the recipient will receive the message almost instantaneously. That’s powerful. Let’s say you research open rates and find that people are most likely to open e-mail messages around 2:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Plan to send your e-mail messages out at this time. With direct mail, you have no idea when a person will receive your message. It’s all dependent upon the postal service, the weather, and other factors.

  • Accessibility

It’s hard to name a point in the day when we’re without our smartphones. These devices are often the first thing we pick up in the morning and the last thing we look at before going to bed. This kind of accessibility makes putting your message in front of a given audience easier than ever. You only receive physical mail once per day (if that), and you must actually be at the mailbox in order to obtain it. It’s no wonder that e-mail marketing wins this round, too.

  • Measurability

By this point, it’s clear that online communication has its benefits. Another positive factor we should mention is the simplicity involved with measuring your marketing efforts. Want to know who received your e-mail, whether those people actually opened the message, and if they clicked on any links or CTAs within the message? No problem! (It’s almost scary the kinds of things that can be tracked nowadays).

  • Return on Investment

The factor you’re probably most concerned with is the financial aspect involved. We don’t blame you!  There’s no sense investing resources into a project if it won’t deliver the results you want. You’ll be interested to see these HubSpot calculations based on an article by the Harvard Business Review. Here, it was found that direct mail had a 1 percent higher response rate than e-mail marketing. However, e-mail marketing provided an ROI that was 95 times better than that of direct marketing. That’s amazing!

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide which marketing route is right for your company. You may even choose to implement a combination of both e-mail and direct mail.