If your email response rates seem to be going down and profits are dipping, the issue may not be your creative or tactics. In fact, email performance has been eroding for some time as brands swamp the inbox with more spam than consumers ever wanted to read. But there’s a way to pick up the slack on underperforming email, and it’s in the mailbox.
Direct mail response rates and ROI are on the rise, and the mailbox is wide open to your marketing campaigns.
Email is still an important part of the marketing mix, but it’s a victim of its own success: Brands overuse it and use it for the wrong things. The end result is that everyone with an email address wakes up to a ton of bricks in their inbox — on average 600 emails each week — and those bricks build a wall that cuts them off from your best offers and campaigns.
In this, and almost every way, direct mail is the mirror image of email. Where email is crowded, postal mail is wide open. Where people are increasingly negative toward receiving emails, they’re actually happy to get direct mail. Where a lot of email gets caught in spam filters and junk folders, never to be seen by your targets, 98% of direct mail gets delivered and read.
When Email Makes Sense
That’s not to say email can’t be done well, but you have to recognize the challenges and new realities of the channel. People scan their inboxes for the messages they want to open and delete the rest. The emails that make the cut are from trusted brands with relevant offers and subject lines.
But it’s not just the volume that kills email engagement, it’s the reputation, and that leads to a crippling inboxing problem. The average inbox placement rate in North America is only 83%, so your email only has a 1-in-6 chance of even being seen by the person you sent it to. Running afoul of spam lists makes it even worse: One blacklisting can cripple your entire brand.
The bottom line is that less than 18% of email gets opened and clickthrough rates hover around 2%. This is just not a high-impact, breakthrough marketing channel.
Now, where email still works great is with people who know your brand and will go out of their way to whitelist your email address and read every offer. In a similar vein, leads who have shown interest in your products are likely to open emails to see your pricing and product updates. It’s also a great way to follow up on marketing from other channels, like direct mail or TV, to remind them of those offers and explain more.
This is where email works: When the recipient already wants to hear from you — especially if you personalize it to catch their attention.
But if you want to break through to new prospects and customers, especially people who don’t know your brand or that they need what you offer, email is useless. Only a fraction of a percent of them will ever read your email. Even for people who are neutral about your brand, emails aren’t likely to register.
For these folks, you need to make an impression, and that’s exactly where direct mail excels.
The Anti-Email: Direct Mail
You might look at email and direct mail and see them as the same tactics in different channels, but these are totally different, potentially complementary practices.
The mailbox is not crowded today. People are getting less postal mail than ever — only about 17 mailpieces a week — and they’re spending more time with the mail they do get. And people get their mail. There’s no such thing as postal spam or opt-in requirements. Your mail person will not refuse to deliver your letter.
Over 99% of postal mail is delivered correctly, and 90% of it gets opened. Where email’s reputation with consumers is very poor, Americans in 2020 say they enjoy opening postal mail.
According to Gallup, 54% of people surveyed say they want to get direct mail from brands they’re interested in. Even letters and catalogs from businesses are welcome by two-thirds of Americans. The only types of marketing mail that get a net negative reception are generic, non-personalized flyers and cards.
So, it’s no surprise that direct mail response rates have nearly doubled over the past decade: American consumers are as receptive to direct mail as they are suspicious of email.
Treat Email Fatigue With a Direct Mail Booster
So, email is a crowded and unwelcome place for your marketing, which people only bother to open when it grabs their attention and promises something they specifically value. Direct mail is wide-open, and people go out of their way to check in and open it. Americans say they are happy to get mail from brands they don’t know, and they are delighted to get mail from brands they do know.
Email isn’t just disposable, it’s forgettable. But it’s still the most common and cheapest way to keep in touch with prospects and customers, and it has a place in your marketing strategy.
Think of email like your supermarket checkout line: a place for impulse shopping and remembering things you meant to do anyway. If someone knows what you offer and needs a nudge, email is the pole you poke them with.
Direct mail is the opposite of all that. Direct mail is tangible and high-impact. People read it, remember it, and consider what to do with it.
That’s why direct mail is the anti-email. These channels are night and day, and they need to be used that way in your marketing strategy to generate success.
In either case, knowing who you’re talking to and what they want from your brand is the key to success. Put in the work on customer profiling and data collection so you can send the right messages at the right times in both channels.