Print vs Email – Leverage both for a compelling ROI

The most important facet of any direct marketing campaign, whether it be print or online, is getting the reader to open it up. Now I’m not talking about bills and statements. These fall under a completely different category and the rules are changing daily as to how they are used for marketing purposes. What I’m talking about is good, old-fashioned direct mail.

When it comes to email marketing, you must have a compelling subject line. When it comes to print, you have to get the envelope opened. But then what? You’ve either gone to all the trouble of crafting the perfect subject line, one that is not blacklisted, has just the right amount of words, and is compelling and catchy, even on a smartphone. Or you’ve designed a stellar envelope, with an engaging creative element that grabs attention and entices the recipient to open it and see what’s inside.

Once you’ve captured someone’s attention you need a reaction. You need them to ACT. But how? Are you sending your prospect to a PURL (their own personalized webpage)? Do you want them to contact you via email or phone? Are they downloading content? Are they signing up for an event? Are they participating in a contest? Are they scanning a QR code or filling out a form?

The choices are endless but the objectives are the same: Generate interest and turn a prospect into an opportunity.

There are people out there who will say that print is dead. There are also people out there who will profess that people’s inboxes are saturated and messages are being lost and ignored.

I agree with both statements. And, to that point, I believe that there is a place for both tactics in your direct marketing arsenal.

Clearly there are pros and cons for each. First off, email is relatively cheap. There are no printing costs, no postage costs, it is very simple to test a variety of messages and measuring results is almost instantaneous. Plus, you can schedule your email down to the minute and day that it is sent. On the other hand, print is tangible, so you can touch it and hold it.  It is relatively simple to cultivate an address database since you don’t need personal email addresses, and it has staying power. There are endless varieties of envelopes, colours, sizes, and formats at your disposal and most printers are only too happy to work with you to develop the optimal printed piece. However, in many cases print can be cost-prohibitive, time consuming, and nearly impossible to track open rates.  So why use print?

Because it works. When executed properly, print is the perfect complement to email. Is it the be-all and end-all? Of course not. But as I mentioned, people’s inboxes are inundated with offers, newsletters, spam, contests, jokes, etc. It’s getting more and more difficult to cut through the noise. But print, that’s different. I’ve run simultaneous campaigns, where the creative, the messaging, and the call-to-action were identical between print and email. And you know what? The response to the print campaign was significantly higher to that of the email.

Yes it was in a colourful envelope and mailed during the holiday season, when folks are expecting to receive mail. But I ran the same campaign again, when it wasn’t the holidays, and it still outperformed its email counterpart.

Results vary between industries, geographies and target audience, and you need to be diligent with your testing and tracking. But if you’re not using print as one of your direct marketing tactics, you could very well be undermining your efforts and missing out on opportunities.

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