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Whether 'E' or 'USPS,' Direct Mail is Direct Mail!

By Brad Chrysler

At some point, every business faces the same question: direct mail marketing or email marketing? While each has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as passionate supporters and detractors, the debate surrounding these two powerful marketing tactics has missed an obvious -- and vital -- point:

They are both forms of direct mail. Period.

You heard right: Though everybody talks about their differences, the similarities between the two are many, and convincing. Consider: both speak directly to the recipient as a person. The most sophisticated forms of both even include the prospect's name. Both reference something personal about the reader. ("Hey Brad, we're running that same sale on the fishing rod you bought last year!") Both are denigrated as "junk" or "spam" -- until the email offer or direct mail piece which comes at just the right time. (Then both are seen as money-saving coupons!) Finally, both ask the reader to do something by a certain date, and offer a "carrot" for doing so.

Rather than beating up one or the other, savvy marketers are simply using both. And the savviest of all are employing them together in the same campaign. In other words, the war between them is over and they have joined forces in the battle for the consumer's attention. The two enemies are now allies in the same foxhole!

Why? Because, just like soldiers in the same army, both offer what the other can't. While one can blitzkrieg through the data lines and conquer the inbox in a just a few moments, (and just as quickly disappear with one click), the other can slowly but inexorably crawl to the mail box over a few days, then capture the battleground of the kitchen table, counter, or desk for days, even months, if the offer is valuable enough. While email must be so truncated, it risks not communicating the whole story, the other provides heaps of information for decision-making. And while one is more pricey to make and mail, the other is almost comically cheap.

The differences are numerous. But the opportunities for partnership are limitless. For example, conventional mail can include an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) that can be read and tracked as it moves through postal sorting machines, which gives marketers accurate information about when the piece should arrive at the target address. This allows them to email a "rife shot" (as contrasted with an email blast) to the prospect with the same offer on the exact day the direct mail piece arrvies. (Or shortly thereafter, whichever strategy works better.)

There are many more opportunities for synergy. The take-away is this: with all these off-setting advantages and disadvantages, the two direct mail tactics pack a powerful one-two marketing punch!

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