Direct Mail vs Email: Which One Should I Choose?

Direct Mail vs Email: Which One Should I Choose?

October 5, 2023

There’s no shortage of ways for marketers to reach their target audience. Email marketing and social media have become the hot strategies of late, and it’s easy to understand why—it’s easy to reach wide audiences in a cost-effective manner.

However, these methods come with their drawbacks. We’ve become so inundated with digital marketing messages that many of us turn our brains off for promotional emails that make it past our spam filter. This is just one of the many reasons why direct mail marketing continues to be such an effective strategy.

With platforms like Postal, the age-old practice of direct mail is getting a modern makeover, blending the tactile allure of physical mailers with the precision of automation. Discover the efficiency and impact of direct mail automation in our blog, where we'll delve into how this technology can streamline your marketing efforts and boost engagement.

Now let’s talk more about direct mail versus email, and how to choose between the two.

Direct Mail vs Email, what's the difference?

At the heart of marketing strategy lies the crucial choice between direct mail and email, two divergent paths each with its distinct advantages and applications.

Direct mail, characterized by its physical form, reaches the recipient's hands as tangible items such as letters, flyers, or catalogs, offering a sensory experience that digital means cannot replicate.

Email, on the other hand, is the epitome of digital communication, delivering messages directly to an individual's inbox with speed, efficiency, and the ability to track engagement metrics closely.

The decision to employ direct mail or email hinges on a myriad of factors including the target audience's preferences, the nature of the message, budgetary considerations, and the desired outcome of the marketing campaign.

Throughout this article, we navigate the nuances that distinguish these two mediums, exploring scenarios where one may be favored over the other, and shedding light on how marketers can make informed choices, blending strategy with creativity to achieve their objectives.


Benefits of Email Marketing

Email marketing’s ability to reach vast audiences instantly, coupled with impressive automation capabilities, has made it a staple in most marketing toolkits. But as the digital landscape becomes increasingly saturated, it’s worth asking whether email marketing continues to live up to its reputation.

Let’s go through some of email marketing’s key traits.


Most believe that email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient strategies. After all, without the expenses associated with printing, postage, or physical distribution, businesses can communicate with thousands, if not millions, of potential customers without breaking the bank. This cost-saving aspect is particularly appealing to small businesses and startups with limited marketing budgets.

However, this line of thinking ignores return on investment (ROI). Postal streamlines the direct mail process, reducing overheads and ensuring that every mailer sent is optimized for impact. When you factor in the higher engagement and response rates that direct mail often garners, the ROI can be substantial. Plus, with Postal's seamless integration capabilities and data-driven insights, businesses can further refine their campaigns for maximum effectiveness.

Curious about how Postal can provide a cost-effective boost to your marketing strategy? Connect with us, and let's explore the potential of direct mail together.

Real-Time Analytics

The digital nature of email marketing means that results are almost instantaneous. Marketers can quickly gauge the success of their campaigns by analyzing open rates, click-through rates, and conversion metrics. This real-time feedback allows for swift adjustments, optimizing campaigns on the fly.

Personalization and Segmentation

Modern email marketing platforms offer sophisticated tools for personalization. From crafting attention-grabbing subject lines to delivering content tailored to individual preferences, email marketing can create a sense of one-on-one communication. Furthermore, segmentation tools allow businesses to categorize their email list based on demographics, purchase history, or engagement levels, ensuring that the right message reaches the right audience.

Explore the art of direct mail personalization in our blog post, where we reveal the strategies and benefits of tailoring your messages to connect with your audience on a more meaningful level.

Integration with Other Digital Platforms

Email marketing doesn't exist in a vacuum. It can be seamlessly integrated with other digital platforms, be it social media channels like LinkedIn or e-commerce websites. This interconnectedness ensures a cohesive and consistent brand message across various touchpoints.

Email Marketing Challenges

Despite these advantages, email marketing faces its share of challenges.


With the ease and affordability of email marketing comes saturation and competition—the average office worker receives over a hundred emails daily. Standing out in such a crowded space is becoming increasingly challenging.

Spam Filters and Deliverability Issues

Advanced spam filters mean that not all your emails will reach your intended recipients. Even well-crafted, legitimate marketing emails can sometimes end up in the dreaded spam folder, significantly reducing their visibility and impact.

Decreasing Attention Spans

Because we’re overloaded with information, our attention spans are dwindling. Even if your email does land in the recipient's inbox and gets opened, there's no guarantee it will be read thoroughly or that the call to action will be acted upon.

Data Privacy Concerns

With increasing concerns about data privacy and regulations like GDPR, businesses need to be more cautious than ever about how they collect, store, and use email addresses. This has added an additional layer of complexity to email marketing campaigns.

While email marketing offers numerous benefits and remains a potent tool in the digital marketing arsenal, it's essential to approach it with a balanced perspective. It's not the silver bullet solution to all marketing challenges, and its effectiveness can vary based on industry, target audience, and execution quality.

To bolster their marketing efforts, an increasing number of companies are embracing the tried-and-true effectiveness of direct mail marketing.

Benefits of Direct Mail

In a time when screens dominate our attention, the tactile experience of direct mail offers a refreshing break. While email marketing has its merits, direct mail brings a set of undeniable benefits that make it an essential component of a well-rounded marketing strategy. Let's explore why direct mail continues to hold its ground in the marketing world.

Tangible Connections

There's an undeniable charm in holding a physical piece of mail. The act of opening an envelope, flipping through a catalog, or discovering a surprise gift creates a sensory experience that digital platforms can't match. This tangible connection fosters a deeper engagement with the content, making the recipient feel valued and appreciated.

Impressive Engagement Metrics

Unlike our distraction-filled devices, direct mail commands attention. Numerous studies highlight that direct mail campaigns often boast response rates that eclipse those of email marketing. The very nature of physical mail—its tangibility and permanence—means recipients are more inclined to interact with it. In an inbox cluttered with promotional emails, a well-designed mail piece stands a better chance of being noticed and acted upon.

Precision in Targeting

Direct mail offers a level of demographic targeting that's hard to match. Whether you're aiming for a specific age group, income bracket, or geographic location, direct mail campaigns can be tailored to reach the exact audience segment you have in mind. This precision ensures that your marketing message resonates with the right people, maximizing the chances of conversion.

Prolonged Brand Exposure

Imagine a beautifully crafted postcard or a detailed product catalog lying on a coffee table, waiting to be picked up and browsed multiple times. Unlike emails that can be swiftly archived or deleted, a compelling direct mail piece can linger in a recipient's space, offering repeated brand exposures. This prolonged presence not only enhances brand recall but also increases the likelihood of the recipient taking the desired action, be it making a purchase, signing up for a webinar, or visiting a landing page.

Bypassing Digital Hurdles

Email addresses change, spam filters become more stringent, and users can easily opt out of email lists. Direct mail, on the other hand, often enjoys a more stable recipient base. A physical mailing address tends to remain consistent, ensuring that your marketing efforts reach their intended destination.

Ultimately, direct mail offers a depth of engagement that's hard to replicate online. Its tactile nature, combined with the ability to target precisely and offer prolonged brand exposure, makes it a formidable tool in any marketer's arsenal.

Challenges of Direct Mail

Leveraging direct mail effectively used to come with its own set of challenges. These hurdles could range from logistical issues to measuring campaign effectiveness, and understanding them is crucial for marketers aiming to maximize the impact of their direct mail campaigns. We built Postal to simplify those challenges and make direct mail easy and affordable. The challenges listed below are what you can face with direct mail without using Postal

Higher Costs

Direct mail is often more expensive than digital marketing alternatives due to the costs associated with printing, design, and postage. This can make it challenging for businesses, especially small ones, to use direct mail frequently or at a large scale without significant investment.

At Postal we are on your side and we do everything to keep costs low. We built one of the biggest direct mail platform and our scale allows us to pass those savings onto you.

Targeting Difficulties

While direct mail can be highly targeted, compiling and maintaining a current, accurate mailing list can be challenging. Data on potential customers must be continually updated to ensure that mail is not sent to outdated addresses, leading to wasted resources.

With Postal this issue just doesn't exist - your recipients can manage their delivery address with a magic link. This way their address is always up-to-date.

Measuring Effectiveness

Unlike digital campaigns, where analytics provide immediate feedback on performance, measuring the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns can be less straightforward. Marketers must often rely on customer responses or use special codes to track the success of their campaigns, which may not always yield comprehensive insights.

Postal makes tracking and reporting easy. No more hacking your way around to get the data you need.

Longer Lead Times

The process of designing, printing, and mailing out a direct mail campaign can be lengthy. This can be a significant drawback in a fast-paced market where quick adjustments to marketing strategies are often needed.

With Postal, sending a direct mail campaign is as easy as sending an email. We take care of all the hard stuff, quickly and efficiently so your campaigns are delivered fast

Regulatory and Privacy Issues

Direct mail is subject to various regulations, including privacy laws and postal regulations. Navigating these legalities can be complex and requires careful planning to ensure compliance, adding another layer of complexity to direct mail campaigns.

With Postal, local regulations are built in the platform so navigating the regulatory landscape is not just easy: this is something you don't have to deal with!

Understanding these challenges is the first step toward crafting effective direct mail campaigns. By addressing these issues head-on, marketers can devise strategies to mitigate their impact, ensuring that their direct mail efforts are as effective and efficient as possible.

Should you choose Direct Mail or Email Marketing for your business?

Both direct mail and email marketing bring distinct advantages to the table. Rather than viewing them in isolation, consider how they can complement each other within a broader marketing strategy.

Here are some steps to help you navigate this decision:

Understand Your Audience’s Preferences

Your audience's preferences play a pivotal role in dictating the success of your marketing efforts. For instance, a demographic that values traditional communication methods might resonate more with direct mail.

Align with the Nature of Your Message

The content and urgency of your message can also influence the choice between direct mail and email. While direct mail can offer a tangible, immersive experience for detailed content, email shines when you need to convey time-sensitive information or quick updates.

Assessing the Financial Implications

Budget considerations are paramount. While direct mail, with its printing and postage costs, might seem more expensive at first glance, its potential for impressive response rates could offer a favorable return on investment.

Too many marketers overlook the efficacy and significant returns that come with direct mail. With all-in-one platforms like Postal, embracing a holistic offline engagement strategy has never been easier.

Harnessing the Unique Strengths of Direct Mail with Postal

At Postal, we champion the enduring impact of direct mail in an increasingly digital world. Our platform doesn't just facilitate sending mailers—it's a gateway to a myriad of offline engagement opportunities. Whether it's a meticulously designed direct mail piece that resonates with your audience or a thoughtful corporate gift that deepens customer relationships, we ensure every touchpoint is impactful and memorable.

As you chart the course of your marketing journey, don’t ignore the unparalleled benefits of direct mail, especially when integrated into a broader offline engagement strategy. With Postal by your side, you're equipped to forge genuine, lasting bonds with your audience.

Explore our article on the top direct mail marketing companies to find the best partners for your marketing campaigns. Also, if you're looking for direct mailer examples check out our curated selection to inspire your next marketing campaign and captivate your audience.

Eager to elevate your marketing approach and harness the unmatched potential of direct mail? Partner with us and let's craft compelling narratives that captivate and convert.

Alex Barca
Alex Barca

Alex Barca is the Director of Demand Generation at Postal, where she oversees paid acquisition, direct mail, corporate gifting, and inbound sales development. Prior to Postal, Alex worked across marketing functions at Bullhorn and Curata. Outside of work, Alex enjoys watching reality TV and spending time with family and friends in the NYC area.

Want to deploy and scale high-ROI direct mail campaigns?
Let Postal automate the boring stuff and build highly efficient direct mail campaigns in minutes.
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Want to deploy and scale high-ROI direct mail campaigns?
Let Postal automate the boring stuff and build highly efficient direct mail campaigns in minutes.
Show Me How