Direct Mail vs Google Adwords

Direct Mail vs Google Adwords

At first, it may seem like an odd comparison. With Direct Mail being the leader in offline marketing and Google Adwords being the cornerstone in online marketing, you may feel at first that there is little to compare. However, the two are actually very similar; both are very accessible to small business and tight budgets, and both are fully accountable, allowing you to track and measure results in more ways than one. With that in mind, Direct mail vs Google Adwords, which one is likely to work best for you.

What is Direct Mail?

A well proven marketing tactic that allows you to directly target and reach out to individuals through a variety of different formats. Inc: letters, postcards, packets, etc. With Direct Mail, you invest upfront with your campaign and then wait for the orders/leads to come to you, it is because of this you need to have a follow up strategy in place.

What is Google Adwords?

It may or may not surprise you to hear that Google Adwords is Googles’ biggest source of revenue. It is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) platform in which advertises only pay when someone clicks on there promoted link. The amount you pay per click entirely depends on how much you are willing to pay. Of course, how popular the keyword you’re investing in is also a key factor.

Within the Google Adwords platform, you have three types of PPC advertising:

Search Advertising – Where your ad appears on a search page after someone types in a search phrase

Display Advertising – Where your ad appears on various websites, news sites and blogs across the vast Google network based on your demographic profile

Remarketing Advertising – Where your ad appears on the same Google network but only for those who have previously visited your website


This is possibly the biggest divide between the two. Starting with Google Adwords, all you are provided with is 3 lines of black and white text. To be more specific, it is 1 short headline and two lines of description. No images, no icons, minimal colour, its hardly the best way for creative designers to get their message across.

Direct Mail, on the other hand, is far more flexible.  Even the simplest format, a small postcard, is going to require a fair amount of work from a copywriter and a graphic designer.  A letter needs to be written, and designed in a way that it looks professional and gets the massage across, whilst larger formats allow for designers to show off their creative flair across multiple pages.

Entry Level Costs

From the outside looking in, it may seem like Direct Mail is the far more expensive option. The likelihood is that you’ve become accustom to articles produced by e-mail marketers who’s job it is to persuade you away from Direct Mail. However, when you actually filter all this out and carry out the necessary research you will find that the cost of sending Direct Mail isn’t all that much. Lets say you wanted to send out 100 letters, the cost per sending each letter is going to be around 54p, that’s a total cost of £54.00.

Now lets compare this to Google Adwords. You may see people boasting about how wonderful it is and how cheap it is to use. In reality the costs are far higher that you’d think. On signing up for Google Adwords you will be given the impression that you can spend as little as 10p per click. This is true for a select number of keywords. However, for the keywords that will actually generate leads for your business, you are looking at spending £3-5 per click. Now to keep it fair, lets say 100 people click on your advertised link that you have marked at £3 per click, that’s a total of £300. That’s a difference of £246 between the Direct Mail campaign and the PPC campaign, a chunky amount for a small company.

Start-up Timetable

If you’re running a direct mail campaign, you’ll need a fair amount of time to prepare. There’s writing, design, list preparation, printing, addressing, inserting and delivery. Don’t be too afraid as all work can be carried out by a mailing house in a way that suits you. In whole the entire process can take around 2 weeks.

Compare that with Google Advertising.  After you set up your campaign, your advertising starts as soon as Google approves your ads.  This could take an hour (if you’re an established account) or a day or two (if you’re new).  Your ad exposure will start slowly and expand over time.

Response channels

Unsurprisingly, the key to Google Adwords is the ‘click’. Therefore, it is vital that the click is obtained. The next thing the customer sees is important. It either has to persuade them to buy or creates interest in the product or service. The landing page has the challenge of converting a click into a lead.  This is not easy.  It may take some testing and tweaking to get it right so it is vital that this step is not overlooked.

In direct mail, landing pages are also used to capture leads.  Sometimes the landing pages are personalised with something called pURLs.  With pURLs, the landing page is unique to each person being mailed.  When prospects type in their unique URLs, they are taken to their own landing pages where their personal information is already populated.

Further, with direct mail, response is also available by reply mail.  Some Direct Mail users have dropped the reply card from their packages in favour of the landing page. In fact, reply mail is still a viable option and preferred by many prospects business as a way of securing physical responses.


The good news is both are fully measurable.
Google Advertising does most of the tracking and measuring for you automatically.  On your dashboard, you can see all of your campaigns, ad groups, individual ads and selected keyword phrases in one spot.  You can also see how many impressions and clicks each received – along with your cost per click and total expense.

With a little effort, you can set up conversion tracking which will help you see how many clicks became leads.

Direct mail takes some effort to code response devices, phone numbers and landing pages, but you should be able to track performance in a similar fashion, but with less precision.

In conclusion, there is no denying that Google Advertising is one of the best ways to test different aspects of your marketing on a very limited budget.  You can then use the results to invest more in your Google Advertising program – or even apply those results to other programs including Direct Mail. But when you know your target market, when you can identify your potential customers with precision, nothing beats Direct Mail.

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