Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing – Which Should You Use?

Everyone has an opinion on whether you should use direct mail vs. email marketing to promote your business. Opinions on this topic are like noses – everyone has one and they’re all different.

You know you need to promote your business, but you want to use your marketing dollars effectively. As a small business owner, you may have a small marketing budget and need to get a big bang for your buck.

With that in mind, let me walk you through some examples, which can help you determine what the right strategies could be for marketing your business.

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing: Pros to Consider

Direct mail can be used for both B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing. You can get a viewer’s attention by using thick card stock on a postcard and/or a picture that has strong visual impact.

Another tactic is to have some kind of giveaway in a small package that makes the package lumpy. Like a Cracker Jack box, people want to see the prize inside, and so they’ll open it.

Also, who else gets hundreds of emails a day? Direct mail may actually get your attention.

Below are some specific benefits of using direct mail vs. email.

Pinpoint Targeting

With direct mail, you can proactively and precisely target households or businesses in a specific geographic region. Utilizing your mail piece, you can then drive respondents to a website or physical location to continue the sales process.

Marina Erulkar, marketing expert and the founder of Hampstead Solutions, says, “An ecommerce business may rely on direct mail for awareness and then drive respondents to their website. They start with direct mail to break into consumers’ consciousness and then drive respondents to websites to review the full offering. If they can capture an email (or a sale), all the better.”

If you have a store, restaurant, or some other type of brick and mortar business, direct mail by zip code may be ideal to generate awareness in your community. The USPS offers the Every Door Direct Mail service.

You can include a coupon that customers can use for a free appetizer at your restaurant, a free manicure with your purchase of a manicure, or any other enticing offer to get them in the door.

A store might offer 10-20% off a first purchase. A chiropractor could offer a complimentary posture analysis. The options are endless.

Complex Message

If you have a product or service that is new, disruptive, or requires explanation, direct marketing might be a good option.

Erulkar explains, “Direct mail is preferable if you have a complex message, are introducing something new, or if you want to target prospects while staying under the competitive radar. For those reasons, I am a big fan of direct mail for awareness messaging. You can target prospects with laser focus, you get the time and space to present your value, and can then drive respondents to landing pages, etc. and have digital take over the sales cycle.”

Budget and Commitment

Direct mail vs Email Marketing Infographic

As you may already know, traditional direct mail can require a significant budget commitment. And you have to spend a lot of that budget up front. This means that business owners have to commit to the message, creative, targeting, production shop and mail house, postage, etc. That takes a lot of certainty.

Increasingly, there are options by office supply stores and mailing services retailers that mitigate some of that cost and risk by offering mailing templates, etc. – but these also come with limits, including where to place the logo and copy, limited selection of paper stocks, minimum quantities, advance notice for printing, etc.

Still, this can be a great option for companies that want the impact of direct mail while limiting their investment.

Regarding budgeting for direct mail, Erulkar says, “Remember that there are two major drivers of direct mail cost: postage and distribution. Postage typically accounts for 50% of direct mail budget. There are few ways to bring down postage costs, including postage class, volume, sorting, etc.”

More Trusted

Because direct mail is trusted over email, some industries rely on it heavily. Some examples are insurance, financial services, and other industries that require disclosure of personal or sensitive information.

Some industries already have to mail consumers due to regulations. For example, financial services organizations must mail privacy notices.

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing: Cons to Consider


Remember that you have to have permission to market via email. Companies use inbound marketing to entice respondents to submit their email address so they can continue the sales process via email marketing campaigns.

To achieve that, prospects have to become aware, recognize value, be interested, respond, and submit their email (all while processing a zillion other messages daily).

Basically, a lot has to go right.

Email marketing can work really well if your product is quickly recognizable, established or is splashy.


One of the great things about email campaigns is the ability to track who opens what message and if they take an action. This enables you to adjust your messaging, frequency, call to action, etc. in order to boost your results.

You can’t see if someone opened or read your direct mail piece, but you can get some indication by tracking if they brought in their postcard with the coupon, entered a promo code on a web page, etc.

Email Drip

Email drip campaigns can be a great way to maintain connection with your prospects or customers. You can pre-load follow-up messages on specific topics that your prospects or clients would be interested in over a set timeline.

One suggestion though: don’t hard sell in every email. People will stop opening them quickly. Give good value and make offers when appropriate. This way, people will continue to open your emails.


In this case, it’s not a much-maligned mystery meat.

Email makes it easy to send mass messages BUT you need to have permission to do so. Make sure that you read, understand, and abide by the CAN-SPAM regulations so you don’t get into trouble. Fines get expensive fast.

Utilizing a Combination of Direct Mail and Email Marketing

Utilizing a combination of both marketing tactics, direct mail and email, is potentially a one-two punch for your marketing,

Victoria Cook, the founder of The Center for Guilt-Free Success and a business and marketing coach, puts it this way, “I don’t believe it’s direct mail vs. email marketing. With often a 1% return rate on direct mail, if that is your ONLY strategy, it can take a long time to see results and get a return on your investment.  Email marketing is less expensive and can be sent out more frequently to stay top-of-mind. Strong marketing plans include an integrated campaign using several types of touches.”

So, as you’re putting together your marketing strategy, you might not want to think of it as direct mail vs. email marketing. Instead, you might want to see if you can maximize your impact by utilizing a combination of the two tactics.

By | 2018-01-09T06:15:32+00:00 February 22nd, 2018|Categories: Growth and Expansion|Tags: |0 Comments

About the Author:

Carol Roth
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File legacy planning system, "recovering" investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, business advisor, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. Carol "plays herself on TV" weekly, having been a reality TV show judge (Mark Burnett's America's Greatest Makers on TBS), media contributor to outlets ranging from CNBC to MSNBC to Fox Business, and host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy. She's recognized internationally as a business expert and has worked with startups to the biggest companies and brands in the world on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to billions of dollars in capital raising and transactional work. Learn more about Carol at

Leave a Reply