Direct Mail vs Email Marketing

Is Direct Mail more ‘trusted’ than Email?

When it comes to marketing, businesses have a choice between two popular channels: direct mail and email marketing. Both offer unique advantages and drawbacks, and the decision of which to use depends on various factors. In this blog, our Business Development Manager, Kevin Wilson, explores the differences between direct mail and email marketing, their respective benefits and drawbacks, and which method may be considered more ‘trustworthy’ by consumers.

What Is Direct Mail?

Direct mail is a traditional marketing approach that involves sending physical promotional materials, such as postcards, brochures, or catalogues, through the postal service to a targeted audience. This method allows businesses to reach customers in a tangible and personal way, as recipients can physically hold and interact with the marketing materials.

Benefits Of Direct Mail


Direct mail offers a physical, tangible experience that can be more memorable and impactful than digital communications.

Targeted Reach

Direct mail allows businesses to target specific geographic areas or demographics, ensuring the message reaches the right audience.

Higher Response Rates

Studies have shown that direct mail often has a higher response rate compared to email marketing, with the Data & Marketing Association reporting an average response rate of 4.4% for direct mail, versus just 0.12% for email.

Drawbacks Of Direct Mail

Higher Costs

Direct mail campaigns can be more expensive due to the costs of design, printing, and postage.

Longer Lead Times

The physical nature of direct mail means that it can take longer to plan, produce, and deliver compared to email marketing.

Environmental Impact

Direct mail can have a larger environmental impact due to the use of physical materials and resources. Though at Central Mailing Services, we have joined the West Midlands Net Zero Business Pledge to commit to a sustainable future for the business.

Is Print Still Relevant In Today’s Digital World?

Print Defeats Digital In IPIA Debate

The Independent Print Industries Association (IPIA) hosted a debate at Portcullis House in Westminster, where the printed word faced off against digital media. The motion was “Printed paper is the preferred medium of record, whilst also a sustainable marketing communications format”.

The proponents of print, Richard Pepper and Jonathan Tame, highlighted advantages such as targeted marketing, tangible impact, and universal deliverability. They also raised concerns about the security and reliability of digital media as a “medium of record”.

The opposition, John Booth and Emma Newman, argued that digital media’s ability to be easily updated was an advantage. However, the IPIA’s Brendan Perring defended the static nature of print as not necessarily a drawback for a medium of record.

Ultimately, the proponents of print successfully defended their position, with print ultimately “defeating” digital in the debate. More of the debate can be found here.

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing, on the other hand, is a digital marketing strategy that involves sending promotional messages or newsletters to a list of email subscribers. This method allows businesses to reach a large audience quickly and cost-effectively, with the added benefit of being able to track metrics like open rates and click-through rates.

Benefits of Email Marketing


Email marketing is generally more cost-effective than direct mail, as it eliminates the need for printing, postage, and other physical materials.

Faster Delivery

Email messages can be delivered instantly, allowing businesses to respond to time-sensitive events or promotions quickly.

Measurable Results

Email marketing platforms provide detailed analytics, enabling businesses to track the success of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions.

Drawbacks of Email Marketing

Deliverability Challenges

Email messages can be caught in spam filters or overlooked in crowded inboxes, reducing their effectiveness. How many times in the last week, or even month, have you opened and then actioned a ‘cold’ email?

Potential for Annoyance

Some recipients may view unsolicited email messages as intrusive or unwelcome, potentially damaging the brand’s reputation.

Limited Personalisation

While email marketing can be personalised, the level of personalisation may not be as high as with direct mail. Given the recipient doesn’t receive anything physical, the connection of personalised material is often not fully appreciated.

Email Marketing vs Direct Marketing

Considerations When Choosing A Method

When deciding between direct mail and email marketing, businesses should consider factors such as their target audience, marketing goals, budget, and the desired level of personalisation and engagement. An integrated approach that combines the strengths of both methods can often be the most effective strategy.

In conclusion, both direct mail and email marketing have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The choice of which method to use will depend on the specific needs and goals of the business, as well as the preferences and behaviours of the target audience. By understanding the differences between these two marketing channels, businesses can make informed decisions and create effective, ‘trusted’ campaigns that resonate with their customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which method is more ‘trusted’ by consumers?

Both direct mail and email marketing have their own strengths when it comes to building trust with consumers. Direct mail’s tangibility and personal touch can contribute to a sense of trust, while email marketing’s ability to provide detailed information and personalised content can also foster trust. Ultimately, the ‘trusted’ method may depend on the individual consumer’s preferences and experiences.

Can direct mail and email marketing be used together?

Yes, an integrated approach that combines direct mail and email marketing can be highly effective. By using both channels, businesses can reach a wider audience, reinforce their message, and create a more cohesive and engaging customer experience. We actually recommend this at Central Mailing Services, along with considering other digital marketing methods for a true omni-channel marketing approach.

How can I measure the success of my direct mail and email marketing campaigns?

For direct mail, key metrics to track include response rates, conversion rates, and return on investment (ROI). For email marketing, important metrics include open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates. By monitoring these metrics, businesses can optimise their campaigns and make data-driven decisions.

About the Author

Kevin Wilson | Senior Business Development Manager

Following a career as a professional photographer, Kevin has been involved in the printing industry for more than 25 years. His experience has spanned the likes of; security print, complex business forms, continuous and flat-sheet lithographic print. Kevin holds a passion for all things direct mail, especially when it comes to cost saving and eco-friendly innovations such as paper wrapping. He has helped countless clients with their marketing, fundraising, mailing and production needs.

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