Old-fashioned. Expensive. Out of date, and out of touch. These are some of the descriptions that have been unfairly attached to the concept of direct mail advertising. And while there are those who would have you believe that direct mail is dead, the numbers repeatedly prove otherwise. So if you’ve been ignoring direct mail in your marketing efforts, it might be costing your business more than you realize.

Direct Mail vs Digital: Which Works Better?

Too many companies dismiss the idea of direct mail as a viable marketing channel in favor of anything and everything online. Email marketing, social media outreach, Google advertising programs – they’re modern, they’re often inexpensive, and they have the potential to reach an enormous audience. So why wouldn’t your company take advantage of popular platforms like these to connect with customers and drum up new business?

The reality is that direct mail vs digital advertising should never be viewed as an “either, or” option. Both avenues have a great deal to offer, and both have certain drawbacks as well – especially if your campaign isn’t thoroughly thought out or researched and planned in advance. Let’s take a quick look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of postcard marketing vs email.

Email marketing:

  • Is fast and convenient to get up and running,
  • Often results in greater ROI due to lower start-up costs, and
  • Performs particularly well when your company wants to let clients know about new products or services

Direct mail marketing:

  • Enjoys an average lifespan of 17 days per message (compared with just two seconds per email),
  • Outperforms email in terms of response rates (4.4% vs 0.12%, according to the Direct Marketing Association), and
  • Typically costs less for each new customer acquired

Study after study continues to show that direct mail makes an impact that online marketing can’t match.

Digital connections may have the potential to reach more people at once, but postcard marketing and other forms of direct mail are highly targeted in terms of who’s reading them. And while there’s still some debate over which platform provides the best immediate returns, there’s a great deal of evidence to show that direct mail generates and supports more long-term clients.

Direct Mail Can Be Cost-Effective

One of the biggest complaints about direct mail is that the up-front costs of initiating a campaign are greater than those of many digital marketing programs. This may very well be true on a message by message basis. Especially since, despite better efficiencies in print technology, postage costs in the US continue to rise.

But the key points to keep in mind here are that:

  • running an advertising campaign based on savings rather than on results is a recipe for marketing failure,
  • those direct mail campaigns that prove ineffective are usually the ones that are being done wrong, and
  • there are direct mail strategies to fit most advertising budgets, especially when they’re combined with digital marketing

Most customers still consider direct mail to be personal, reliable, and trustworthy when compared with other forms of advertising communications (email, for example, is often viewed as smart and informal, but not always believable). Brand recall is also notably higher where postcard marketing is concerned.

But the bottom line is that clients appreciate the values associated with both direct mail and digital ads – and their preference for one over the other often depends on the situation. And that may be the best reason of all to stop avoiding direct mail and make it part of a well-rounded marketing strategy.

Consider this: social media in all its many forms is a great way to start and sustain conversations with both current and sought-after customers. While these interactions aren’t designed to promote or even encourage direct selling, they do provide the perfect opportunity to listen to – and gather feedback from – your market.

Finding out everything you can about what’s important to your clients online lets you transform that information into more effective action offline. In fact, the knowledge you gain through social media interactions can dramatically improve your messaging across ad channels like direct mail.

Direct Mail as an Investment

If concerns about cost are the main stumbling block preventing your business from exploring direct mail, it’s probably time to recognize postcard marketing for the valuable investment it is. Every commercial enterprise has to spend money to make money. So the real question is, does it make more sense to spend a little and get a little, or to spend a bit more for significantly greater returns?

Ignoring direct mail might be saving your business cash upfront, but it could be costing you far more in unrealized revenue. And that’s why working with a direct mail professional can mean the difference between throwing money away and getting the most from your advertising dollars.

Experienced marketers understand that mailing your ads to a targeted audience – the people most likely to want or need what you’re selling – is the best way to keep direct mails costs down. Look for a direct mail company that offers quality-sourced, up-to-date, specialty mail lists, as well as reduced package pricing for full-service mailouts.

One of the main ways that a postcard professional can help save you money is through their solid and practical advice on things like:

  • consolidating production costs with larger print runs,
  • growing your mail list strategically over time, and
  • designing an effective marketing plan around what to mail, who to mail to, and how often to mail

The most valuable direct mail organizations are usually those that have taken steps to make postcard marketing as financially streamlined as possible. Not only do these companies typically accept online and credit card payments, they provide tools that allow you to calculate your ROI in advance. Some can even help your business invest in direct mail by making financing options available.

When it comes to building out a successful marketing plan for your company, there’s no longer any reason to ignore direct mail. Especially since research now makes it clear that the combination of direct mail with digital in a mixed media campaign outperforms either advertising channel alone.