The Pros and Cons of Direct Mail in the Digital Age

  • by Shala Graham
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Most organizations have their own favorite ways of handling things like sales, marketing, and fundraising. And, so long as the results are steady, most business owners and executives will prefer to "stick with what works" rather than venture too far into trying something new if they can avoid it.

That can lead to some pretty interesting, and strong, opinions on direct mail. Some businesses and organizations absolutely love it, and wouldn't dream of conducting their campaigns without it. Others wonder why their peers are clinging to direct mail in the so-called digital age.

Which group is right? That really depends on the perspective you take when answering the question... not to mention your audience and the results you’re trying to achieve. To help sort through all of this, let's consider the pros and cons of using direct mail in the digital age.

The “Pros” of Direct Mail

  • It’s generally more engaging than email and other marketing
  • Direct mail pieces feel more “real” and bring more credibility
  • You generally have more space and attention with direct mail
  • Some people prefer direct mail

Even marketers who don't like direct mail would have a hard time arguing with these points. For some people, a printed piece just seems more substantial than something on a computer screen. Readers are usually more willing to flip through a few pages than they are to scroll through screen after screen, and it's no secret that senior citizens and some other groups prefer printed mail to email and electronic communications.

The “Cons” of Direct Mail

  • Direct mail gives you fewer design choices
  • Printing your pieces locks you into design and messaging choices
  • It’s sometimes harder to split test direct mail pieces
  • Printing and sending direct mail costs a lot more

These are the points that make the digital crowd so excited. You can't do nearly as much, strategically, in print as you can online. Once you've printed thousands of pieces, changing them is difficult or impossible (which also makes it harder to test different versions of a message). And, of course, you're going to spend some money on printing and postage that you could have saved by reaching people online.