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Direct Mail or Email?

Tamara Forrest-Smith

Direct Mail Vs. Email

I’m the first to admit I rarely check my mailbox. When my wife and myself get home she will tell me to open it and hand her the mail.

So does direct mail still work?

Today I got two direct mailers. Nothing unusual in that of course but what might sound unusual is both mailers were from two mammoth online companies that have tens of millions of visitors each and every day.

Amazon was one and the other was Google.

Both letters were addressed to me personally.

Letters had vouchers, offers and a small brochure. Both letters had a time limited offer.

I took up the offer in Google, after all, it was a cash voucher we can use in our business. Amazon was for their TV channel. I don’t need that.

A client called me recently. He told me he was already doing direct mail. He wanted to know how to increase his response.

We spoke over Skype for one hour but what I quickly realised when he said direct mail he meant direct email. Maybe I’m getting old!

I told him that isn’t real direct mail. He replied well it’s all the same but we don’t waste paper.

I asked him how many emails he sends? He told me around 50,000 each day. I asked what is the response rate? He told me he had no idea, the list was bought and he hoped for a sale or two.

The truth was he just kept emailing the list until people said stop emailing me!

So what is better email or direct mail?

First here’s a few numbers I

It’s pretty enlightening, to say the least.


E-mail – is fast, quick, low cost and research shows people prefer it as a method of communication when they know the organisation that is contacting them. In 2013 average open rates were 19.6% (consumer products faired better at 25.4%) and a unique click-through rate of 16.9%. Only 3.0% of those who received the e-mail actually visited a web page and that generated an average response rate of 0.12%. Where you have a relationship with the individual results improve and the top performers had an open rate of 38.6% but 25% of e-mailers only achieved 7%.

This data shows that e-mail can and does work but the sheer volume of clutter in people’s in-boxes, shows that e-mails are great at communication mainly if the recipient knows you.

However setting out to build a business and generating new enquiries is far more difficult due to low open and response rates and the difficulty in sourcing good quality e-mail lists.

Direct Mail – 100% delivery, 56% of people believe that printed marketing is the most trustworthy form of communication, 66% of consumers keep their mail for over 2 weeks. Even in a digital world direct mail gets 44% of recipients to go your website. Average response rates are 4%. Overall 7% of receivers will take some sort of action.

Research undertaken at Bangor University looked at how the brain reacts to printed material versus virtual stimuli. The “real” experience that the physical media provides means it’s better at becoming part of memory. It generates more emotion, helps to develop more positive brand associations, the materials have a more personal effect, and therefore aid motivation.


Interesting stuff right so that takes us back to the question why are Amazon and Google – two companies that rule the web now taking things offline with TV ads and direct mail?

It’s real easy and I will simply copy & paste again … ‘The “real” experience that the physical media provides means it’s better at becoming part of memory. It generates more emotion, helps to develop more positive brand associations, the materials have a more personal effect, and therefore aid motivation’

So here is what I’ve personally found over the 18 years I’ve been doing both email and direct mail.

Email is getting lost in all of the noise. Yes, you can email and hope someone will open and read and even better … act on your message but it is certainly never been harder to get a business built purely on email.

Think about it.

Facebook, Instagram, snap chat, browsing favourite websites, endless push notifications and more. The electronic web is giving your mind and your customer’s minds a real beating.

Amazon knows that. Google knows that. That is why they are upping their direct mailings because it works.

  • More response.
  • More opens.
  • More leads.
  • More sales.
  • The perfect thing with direct mail if it is targeted is this.

Most will open quickly and then put to one side to sit and read over a coffee. They will hold on to the mailer and read again more than once. They will put it on their desk and only after a couple of weeks if no action is taken they will throw it away.

Email most of the time is deleted without actually opening the email. There’s nothing successful about that.

Direct mail might be more expensive to produce but when you break down the numbers it is still highly profitable and way more responsive than email.

Email is free.

One piece of direct mail is a minimum of £1

0ne thousand emails are free

One thousand direct mailers can be £1000

Yet …

The huge difference in response rates, open rates and sales outweighs any cost because the reality is there is no cost just a very healthy return on investment.

There are other things I love about direct mail in relation to email.

I have a system for converting and pursuing one client (or a few clients). Those clients will be worth far more than 1000 clients yet the cost of converting the few can be so tiny in relation to the return on investment.

So it can be used as a laser sharp business tool almost like a sniper rifle. One target, one aim and one client to convert.

Direct mail can also give you the edge in a world that has slowed right down with direct mail in small business and in a world that is hell bent on emailing everyone and anyone.

There are huge lessons you and I can learn from Google and Amazon right now. I know of the planet’s most successful companies have gone back to direct mail isn’t that telling you something?

Pack Out Your Salon – Swipe Files, Direct Mail Letters and More

Direct Mail Or Email Inner Image

View Salon Extreme 21 – The Ultimate Salon Marketing Guide

Here’s 30-thoughts for you to chew over on direct mail vs. email

  1. Grab a coffee
  2. Sit and relax
  3. Feed your mind with good examples
  4. Brainstorm the campaign
  5. Get your targeting right
  6. Work out the acquisition cost
  7. Workout the lifetime value
  8. Work out your offering
  9. Create a stack system
  10. Understand the client mindset
  11. Work out the buyer’s path
  12. Hire good writers if you don’t have one
  13. Hire good advisors (this can save you tens of thousands)
  14. Create a strong angle for your message
  15. Make your offer irresistible
  16. Take your offer to the very edge
  17. Work out the packaging, envelopes and anything else for the mailer
  18. Know your breakeven
  19. Know your costing’s
  20. Work out your worse case scenario
  21. Work out your best-case scenario
  22. Understand direct mail isn’t a one-off hit it’s a long-term campaign
  23. Understand it will need momentum to build
  24. Be committed to a slow start just in case you have a slow start
  25. Be committed to testing your campaign
  26. Make any changes as it runs
  27. Do you have a back-end or follow service or product?
  28. Do you have a funnel in place?
  29. Do you know exactly what you want from this campaign?
  30. There are more questions but I hope what you’ve read here is enough to get your mind thinking into action.

Never forget the big boys know what they are doing. They set the way for marketers like you and me. We simply have to take apart their campaign and redesign them for our own campaigns.

Will you do that?

If you need help here are a few numbers I can share with you.

  • Neil – 11% conversion
  • Steve – 33% conversion
  • Rob 47% conversion
  • Neil – 83% conversion

ALL from direct mailers.

I have created literally dozen upon dozens of hugely successful campaigns over the years. From water filters to windows, from cars to shampoo. I’ve also been creating direct mailers since 1991.

If you need a respected, trusted and prolific advisor, mentor, consultant or copywriter that can put together a winning campaign for you – you know exactly where I am.

Text/WhatsApp: 00 44 (0) 7793 069 486

Email: alan @

Let’s talk soon.

Breakthrough Extreme Mentor

Alan Forrest sSmith

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