Direct mail vs. digital marketing. It has become a modern-day marketer’s mystery. Direct mail response rates are unmatched. Digital marketing ROI is off the charts.  But which one is best? Let’s begin with a quick overview.


To reference a sports analogy, direct mail is that go-to veteran player. It’s a tried-and-true marketing friend, an age-old medium that uses physical pieces of mail like postcards, brochures, catalogs, or dimensional mail to produce unmatched response rates. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is the rookie phenom—the newcomer with the potential to be the best. It uses channels like email, social media, and PPC to dominate return on investment, and it wows its customers wherever they are, via their laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.


Both platforms are important for marketing your brand—and each produces impressive results—but which is better? As marketing professionals continue to debate which method they should choose, it’s time to weigh the statistics and decide for yourself. Direct mail vs. digital marketing? The answer may surprise you.


Does Direct Mail Beat Digital Marketing?


direct mail marketingThe history of direct mail marketing tells us that businesses have been using direct mail for over 185 years. That’s why it’s sometimes considered an antiquated option for those who haven’t done their due diligence on this thriving marketing medium. Not only has direct mail marketing always been an effective option, but it’s evolved drastically since 1835. It’s now well-positioned to be an even more powerful way to reach your target markets than ever before.


Take millennials for example. On the surface, most people would guess that Generation Y prefers digital marketing. After all, they grew up with the internet, email, and social media. The truth is quite the contrary, however. Millennials love direct mail. About 80% of them look forward to receiving their physical mail every day and almost 60% say they find it more useful than email. Furthermore, when you compare them to Generation X and baby boomers, millennials are more likely to take action on the marketing mail they receive.


Every Smart Brand’s (Still) Doing Direct Mail


The volume of direct mail flowing into mailboxes is proof it’s still a popular option for marketers. The USPS delivers almost 80-billion pieces of marketing mail each year and that number’s increasing. Does that mean you should follow suit and jump on the direct mail bandwagon? Yes and no. Just because (almost) everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean you should too. The main reason you should use direct mail as part of your marketing strategy is the results.


Direct Mail Response Rates Are Better Than Digital


You spend a lot of time creating your direct mail campaigns. That’s why it’s so important that you see the results you’re looking for. And what better outcome than when your recipients take the desired action you recommended? Maybe you want them to visit a landing page on your website or call your toll-free number. Perhaps you’ll include a coupon they can present for a discount at one of your local retail stores. There are many possibilities.


Does direct mail marketing work? The statistics show that it does. Direct mail response rates range from 2.9% for prospect lists to 5.3% for house lists. When you’re measuring direct mail vs. digital marketing, those numbers put your brand at a distinct advantage. By comparison, email marketing’s response rate is 0.6%. If you strategically design your mail piece and deliver it to a highly targeted audience, you’ll likely be very pleased with your direct mail response rates.


Also, Direct Mail is No Slouch with ROI


Marketers talk a lot about direct mail response rates, but direct mail also does a great job with ROI. It’s not as strong as digital, mind you, but it’s still impressive nonetheless. Direct mail marketing metrics show a 29% return on your marketing dollar while digital (email specifically) erupts with a whopping 124% ROI. Another digital channel—social media—stands between them with a 30% ROI. (More on digital marketing’s ROI in a moment.)


People Trust Direct Mail More Than Digital


To buy or not to buy. That is the question consumers ask themselves every time they shop. And the majority say that direct mail and traditional advertising channels like TV and print ads have more of an influence on their buying decisions than digital marketing. In fact, when you look at direct mail vs. digital marketing, traditional marketing like direct mail ranks higher in consumer trust than any digital medium. Digital has come a long way in building trust, but consumers still cite credibility as a major stumbling block. One of the primary benefits of direct mail marketing is that it’s a more trusted choice. That’s why many advertisers continue to use this classic marketing channel.


Does Digital Marketing Beat Direct Mail?


digital marketingYou don’t have to go back in time too far to discover the origins of digital marketing. The term was never used until the 1990s when the Internet and the World Wide Web began to emerge. Google didn’t even exist until 1998. But things grew quickly and Web 2.0 introduced a wealth (literally) of possibilities for people to interact with businesses and vice-versa. By 2004 Internet marketing/advertising was a $3-billion industry. Then social media arrived on the scene and “cookies” were introduced as a way to document a user’s web-browsing habits.


One thing led to another and digital marketing is now a hot commodity. Brands are spending up to 43% of their marketing budgets on content. About 70% of consumers take the time to learn about the products they’re interested in via content rather than traditional advertising methods. That means you can reach them via your website, email, social media, PPC ads, SMS messages, and other digital avenues.


Digital Marketing Produces Better ROI Than Direct Mail


When you want to get the most bang for your marketing buck, digital has the answers via a variety of formats. Just look at the top five marketing methods in terms of median ROI. Four of them are digital channels. As we already learned, email reigns supreme with a greater than 120% return. Social is second at 30%. But paid search and online display ads also favor well at 23% and 16% ROIs respectively.


Digital Marketing is Cheaper Than Direct Mail


If you’re wondering why there’s such a huge ROI discrepancy between direct mail and digital marketing, just look at the cost of a campaign. On average, a direct mail campaign can cost between roughly 30 cents and $10 or more per person. Naturally, that figure can vary greatly depending on how elaborate your direct mail piece is. But you need to consider the costs of writing, design, printing, a mailing list, and distribution. With email, you can immediately eliminate most of these costs depending on how many subscribers you have on your list and how often you send an email campaign. Maybe you’ll need to pay an email service provider a monthly fee, and you might spend some money on the design work and imagery. No matter how you manage your email campaigns, you’ll spend less than you would on a direct mail campaign.


Digital Marketing is Faster Than Direct Mail


Whether you’re looking for quick delivery or immediate results, digital marketing delivers. If you’re sending an email campaign, posting to social, or running an online ad, you can get immediate delivery (if you want to) and instant data from the results of these efforts. This also allows you to adjust your strategy on the fly, if necessary. With direct mail, you’re relying on the USPS to deliver your campaign on time and you may not be able to analyze your results for weeks or months in some cases (although there are ways to speed up your direct mail results).


One of the most important aspects of any marketing campaign is learning what worked and what didn’t. That means you need data to tell what happened. You can only learn so much from your direct mail response rates and ROI. Omnichannel marketing helps to bridge that gap. So does a revolutionary software program like Direct Mail Panorama, but there’s still a disparity. With a digital marketing channel like email, social, or PPC ads, you can get a handle on important and revealing stats like if and when a recipient opened your campaign and what action, if any, was taken. Plus you can do this in real-time rather than waiting for the results.


Direct Mail vs. Digital Marketing: What Should You Use?


marketing channelsBoth direct mail and digital marketing have their advantages. That makes it very difficult to pick a favorite. But it’s what we set out to do so here’s your answer. Rather than looking at direct mail and digital marketing as competitors, think of them as teammates. Then you can see how well they perform together and reap the rewards both offer. By combining direct mail and digital marketing—aka multichannel marketing—and by doing so in a way that enables them to work together seamlessly—aka omnichannel marketing—you’ll get the best of both worlds.


Omnichannel Marketing: Direct Mail and Digital Marketing Working Together


Today’s consumers are demanding. They want personalized shopping experiences that are true to their interests and consistent no matter how they’re interacting with your brand. They’re using multiple marketing channels and devices, and they expect you to know what they want and when they want it. If they don’t get what they want from you, they’ll look to one of your competitors. That means you must have a complete view of your customers. You have to give the right customers the right message at the right time—and you need to use any and all marketing channels to make that happen. If you want to know how to use direct mail marketing effectively, combine it with digital marketing. That’s multichannel marketing. When you make all those channels work together, you have omnichannel marketing.


Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be.


MSP is a full-service direct mail marketing company with more than 65 years of experience. Does that mean we’ve seen it all? Yes, it pretty much does. And we’re well equipped to help take your brand on a multichannel journey that will provide the results you’re looking for.


Over 70% of consumers say they’d prefer to connect with businesses via various marketing channels. For example, you could have a physical store, a website, and social media accounts that work alongside your direct mail print catalog. This allows you to maximize your opportunities and connect with your customers on various channels.


Let’s say you start with direct mail and you add one extra digital marketing channel, like email. This allows you to increase your revenue by almost 40% rather than going with direct mail alone. If you add a third channel, however, like social media, that percentage catapults to about 120%.


The lesson here is that the more channels you add, the more money you can expect to make because each one provides your customers with more ways of doing business with you. Almost half of all businesses today use as many as eight marketing channels to interact with their customers. Imagine the possibilities as you strategically use omnichannel marketing to accomplish your goals. It’s how any modern-day marketing executive wants to market their brand. You’re catering to your customer no matter what marketing method or channel they’re using.


We want to help you achieve your marketing goals using both direct mail and digital marketing methods. Contact an MSP representative today and let’s talk about a direct mail-based omnichannel solution for your brand.

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