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Handwritten vs Direct Mail vs Email Marketing - Which Is the Most Effective?

Modern marketers have an enormous range of options open to them. Classic mediums, like television, radio, print, and direct mail are still available and are used extensively.  Though not at the levels they used to be.

Many marketers have abandoned these old formats for the myriad digital marketing channels, like email, social media, banners, pre-roll video, and more. Email marketing, the most heavily used of these formats, delivers a high ROI and decent open rates.

However, one format outshines every other: handwritten mailers. It takes advantage of the rarity of handwritten cards to drive extremely high open rates, generally around 99%! Handwritten direct mail also features response rates an order of magnitude better than standard direct mail and email campaigns.

We explore the open rate of handwritten mailings, compare direct mail vs email campaigns, examining engagement rate, response rate, and return on investment to demonstrate the power of handwritten notes when trying to reach consumers.


Email Marketing Open Rate and Effectiveness

Email marketing is the darling of the digital marketing world. Numerous studies, both formal and informal, have found it delivers the highest ROI among digital tools available. Open rates and response rates for email marketing are less impressive.  However, still good.

According to MailChimp, a leader in the field, email marketing enjoys a 22.7% average open rate and a response rate (measured as click-through rate) of 2.69%. However, the main benefit of email marketing, but also its downfall, is its low-cost relative to other digital methods. 

Email generation is nearly free. Costs associated with the medium come from the design process, prospecting, CRM fees, and related costs surrounding accumulating and maintaining an email list. These costs, amortized out over a large mailing, are exceedingly inexpensive. With such low costs, any response can quickly drive ROI. One study found that for every dollar spent on email campaigns, $38 dollars are returned. More conservative estimates put the ROI at 124%.  While impressive, both require contextualization.

These figures assume the highest quality mailing list possible.  Culled almost exclusively to people that have already shown interest in the product or service in question and already have a favorable attitude toward the company. Creating a list like this that’s large enough to support substantial email campaigns takes quite a bit of time and dedication.

Therefore, total investment, open rate, and engagement rate are so important. On the face, email marketing’s open rates and response rates are good. The ROI email marketing translates sounds impressive.  Sadly, the extremely low cost undercuts your results. 

You might only spend $150 per month to reach your entire list. At $38 returned for every dollar spent, you would generate a return of only $5,700. An impressive ROI, but not an impressive figure in general. Very few organizations would consider $5,700 a month good revenue. A 37-fold increase on not very much is still not very much.

How does standard direct mail measure up to email marketing?


Direct Mail Marketing Open Rates and Effectiveness

Direct mail was once one of the most common print marketing channels.  Then the internet stole away a fair portion of total spending. However, in recent years direct mail usage has started to rebound.

Due in large part to the ubiquity of email, a perception of its cheapness, and a general fear of online data breaches, many marketers have been reexamining traditional marketing methods.  Including direct mail marketing. Contrasted against email campaigns, direct mail is judged to be more authentic and more personal.

Direct mail response rates seem to bear out this perception. Compared to email’s 2.69% response rate, direct mail response rates pulls 2.9% for prospect lists and an impressive 5.1% for house lists. Considering that email marketing achieves its maximum with the equivalent of a house list, direct mail nearly doubles its effectiveness.

This seems impressive, but it’s important to remember that direct mail campaigns are significantly more expensive to run.  Translating to a lower return on investment.

Direct mail campaigns, on average, return roughly 29%. Compared to email marketing estimates, which run between 124% and 3,700%.

The open rates that drive these results are decent but pale in comparison to the last item on our list, handwritten direct mail marketing.


Handwritten Direct Mail Marketing Can’t Be Beat

Email is cheap.  That’s how it’s perceived. Which is why most people refer to email marketing messages as spam.  And today much of it gets culled by filters and never read. 

Direct mail has a slightly higher perceived value, but the lion’s share of direct mailers share the same fate as their digital cousins.  Getting chucked in the garbage without being opened.

Handwritten direct mail is entirely different. They have become exceedingly rare in the modern world.

On average, most American households receive only 10 handwritten pieces of mail each year. This rarity translates to a perceived value far in excess of generic, printed mailings. Handwritten cards require personalized effort, and consumers appreciate it.

That’s why handwritten and hand-addressed mailings enjoy a staggering 99% open rate.

To put that in context, for every 100 handwritten cards sent out, only one of them is thrown away unopened. Imagine if email or direct mail campaigns enjoyed that sort of attention.

With open rates that high, impressive response rates are nearly assured.  The format doesn’t disappoint.

Depending on the campaign, you’ll frequently see response rates between 8% and 20%. On the high end, this means handwritten direct mail marketing campaigns are four times as effective as the best standard direct mail campaigns.

Nothing is more effective at retaining customers than simple, handwritten thank you notes. Direct mailers feel far less like sales messages when they’re accompanied by handwritten messages.


Automate your handwritten direct mail marketing!

Surely the time and effort required to handwrite and hand-address thousands of mailers renders these sorts of campaigns unrealistic. Well, yes. If you had to handwrite them. But with robotic handwriting automation, the time and expense required to create them are comparable to standard printed mailers.

That’s the power of the automated handwritten mailers you get from Simply Noted. Not only do our robotic writing devices use actual ballpoint pens, but we also scan and recreate your handwriting. We generate large numbers of personalized, handwritten mailers that are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. 

You’ll enjoy the astonishing open rates that only handwritten communications enjoy, at a similar cost to standard, printed mailers.

Direct mail vs email marketing?  Increase your success with Simply Noted’s handwritten direct mail service.

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