Direct mail vs email marketing for SMEs

Direct mail vs email marketing for SMEs

Every time a new invention comes along, someone invariably predicts the demise of the old one. Sometimes they are right, for example, you don’t tend to see many VHS recorders these days, but sometimes they are very wrong and either the new invention flops (Minidiscs, anyone?) or old and new come to coexist, each with their own niche.

For example, even though digital music rules the airwaves, real music aficionados still love vinyl records to the point that makes it worthwhile to create new releases on vinyl. Translating this into marketing terms, while there are a lot of benefits to online marketing, direct mail is very far from disappearing without a trace and the festive period may be the ideal time for it.

The case for direct mail

Possibly the single biggest case for direct mail is that people are guaranteed to see it, which is a prerequisite for getting them to take action. This is particularly true over the festive season because it’s the one time of year when people are likely to get a significant quantity of mail they actually want and open up just about anything that comes through their letterbox, particularly if it looks attractive and enticing.

A further advantage is that you can get a bit creative with what you send. Many marketers use old-school tactics like including a low-value coin, a free pen or address labels for inexpensive ways to entice people to open up that envelope.

The case against direct mail

Direct mail is significantly more expensive than email marketing. What’s more, it’s at higher risk of damage, delay or loss, especially around Christmas time when the weather is usually at its worst and all delivery companies are invariably at their busiest.

In addition, it takes planning. Whereas you can send a last-minute email promoting your pre-Christmas sale, doing the same with direct mail takes time and printing resources and you may miss your moment with all the prep.

The case for email marketing

You only need to create an email once and you can then send it to as many people as you like at very little cost. Not only that but these days email delivery is so efficient there is practically zero chance of your message being damaged, delayed or lost. This means that it is really the only practical choice if you are running a promotion with a tight deadline.

Email marketing can also be more spontaneous. It doesn’t matter if you send a mail that doesn’t really inspire your customers, whereas a direct mail campaign that lands flat might have cost quite a bit of money.

The case against email marketing

For many of us, email overload is one of the banes of modern life and inbox zero is just a beautiful dream. This has led to the rise and rise of email-management tools such as automated filters, sandboxes and apps such as This means that even if your email is 100% GDPR compliant and totally legitimate, it could wind up never making it to a person’s inbox, let alone being read or actioned.

In short

Even though direct mail is relatively expensive, it can be a great way of building and strengthening relationships. You need to put in a bit of effort in order to see a reward so be ready and willing to put some thought and money into your direct mail campaigns. Email can be a great way to keep relationships going all year round but remember you really need to produce consistent, quality content time after time to stand a realistic chance of having your emails read and remember that this content must display well on mobile devices.