It is commonly said that email marketing has the best return on investment (ROI) of any marketing medium. It’s true for many reasons, and can be true even when there’s not a measurable “sale” involved.
Since I work for a non-profit university, I know full well how effective direct mail–in the form of printed brochures and newsletters–can be. And I’ll be the first to tell you not to abandon direct mail altogether, but to remember to give your customers (internal or external) a choice of how to receive your messages.
But if you haven’t considered using email for information distribution, here are four reasons why you should be using email now:
1. Cost Savings
This is the obvious advantage. I have extensive experience in writing, producing, and sending direct mail campaigns. Direct mail is a very expensive channel. Email is extremely cost-effective. Here’s a great example:
You have a list of 5,000 individuals. You want to send them a newsletter once a month.
If you’re sending a printed newsletter, you’re likely looking at what constitutes a 4-page newsletter (an 11″ x 17″ spread front and back). Let’s break down the likely costs:
- Printing costs: at 23 cents a piece, $1150
- Design costs: Anywhere from $150 to $500 is my guess. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say $250.
- Postage: In the case of for-profit companies, standard postage would apply. Postage is currently 44 cents a piece. At that rate, you’re looking at $2200. (Non-profit institutions can pay non-profit rates. I believe that’s 28 cents a piece. So = $1400)
So let’s do the math: $1150 + 250 + 2200 = $3600 for one newsletter. The cost per recipient? 72 cents!
Now let’s look at email. Let’s consider that the cost of design and the cost of creative (not covered in my equation) will be constant.
With email, you’re removing print costs. What you’d pay as “postage” for email are actually sending costs through an email service provider (like Inbox Group). The “postage” cost per message for email is usually between 5 and 25 cents each (at most).
So you’re looking at [edited by comment call-out] a third of your current costs at a minimum. Not too shabby.
2. Speed of Delivery
Email is practically immediate. Direct mail is a process. In my time sending direct mail, from start to finish, it’s usually a two-week process. Between content creation, design, press time, and the postal service, there are many pain points that can create a delay.
Email removes the press time and the postal service and allows you to send messages to your list within minutes of finalizing the creative.
Why is this a positive? With email, you’re able to react immediately to any sort of changes that may occur. For example, if your list consists of a group of your salesman, you can alert them quickly to changes in your product line, whether it’s a recall, a new version, or a new product.
Another positive of the speed of delivery is that you’re able to better act on a “hot lead.” The behavioral data you gather through the interactions with your website and emails can define triggers in your program that allow you to react accordingly.
Speaking of data…
3. Trackable, versatile data
The big issue with direct mail is that tracking data is only available in three forms: self-reporting on phone calls generated (or a “whisper” phone number), visits through a specified website URL in the piece itself, or returns of business reply cards (BRCs). Otherwise, unless you get a sale (which is great, of course), you don’t know whether your message was opened, tossed out, ignored altogether, or any sort of behavioral data.
Email lets you track just about everything you can think of, including:
- Opens (raw number and percentage)
- Clicks (through links you place in the email)
- Conversions (as a result of said clicks)
- Forwards (sharing with friends, etc.)Unsubscribes (those who don’t want to receive your messages)
- Spam complaints (giving you an idea of how your messages are being received)
This data gives you a solid impression of how your campaign was received by your audience(s). Over time, you’ll be able to get an idea of what types of content work the best.
Also, with that data, you can make better educated decisions about:
- Content–in terms of deciding who receives which content when
- Cadence and Frequency–deciding on what messages are sent at what times in the cycle
- Triggers–specific steps in a buying process that would change content, cadence, and frequency in kind.
Essentially, with email, the sky is the limit in terms of what kinds of data you can gather. This data can create value out of email campaigns that don’t have immediate sales as a result.
You know all that data I was just talking about? You know what else you can do with it? Use it for testing purposes. In email, you can test just about everything in your campaigns, including:
- Subject lines
- Text-heavy versus image- or HTML-heavy creative
- Specific content layout (for example, the order of stories in your newsletter)
These are just a few of the ways you can test your email campaigns. But here’s what makes email such a useful mechanism: The ability to not only A/B or multivariate test, but also the ability to “throttle” (a.k.a. manage how many messages send at one time) your campaign send so you can:
- See how the versions of the campaign each perform; and
- Based on performance, have the remainder of your campaign send the “winning” campaign.
This way, you know you’re sending the best message at any given time. It takes a great deal of work to create multiple versions of campaigns and monitor the results, but it’s well worth the effort!
So let’s review
By using email, you can:
- Cut your “mailing costs” by over half;
- Test multiple versions of your campaigns and send only the best-performing messages to your customers;
- Be more reactive to change on both sides of the “conversation,” whether it’s customer data or company changes; and
Gain access to tons of data to tailor your campaigns to the needs and wants of your customer base.
So the real question now is, what’s stopping you from using email?