So which is more effective, marketing via the Net or
marketing via paper? That brief but loaded question has been the
subject of endless discussions and debates during the past decade. To
keep the argument floating, three leading experts on the subject of
e-marketing and paper-based marketing were asked for their
professional opinions. The experts are:
Robert W. Bly, independent copywriter
and author of the books "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing,"
"The Online Copywriter’s Handbook" and "Quick Tips for Better Business-to-Business
Charles Pappas, independent media consultant, former senior editor of
Home Office Computing Magazine and former new media columnist for
Yahoo Internet Life.
Jim Logan, co-founder of TopLineCreators, Inc., a business
acceleration and revenue growth company, and a writer who comments on
business and marketing issues at JSLogan.com.
What are the basic advantages of e-marketing over paper-based marketing?
The huge benefit of e-marketing is its very low cost. Paper direct mail production has
problems with expense and it seems to get worse every year.
The obvious answer is cost. But the real answer is: waste. If you can send one million
emails at virtually no cost, you have the luxury to waste 97 or 98
percent of your effort to get the two or three percent response rate
that’s considered the Lexus of direct mail standards. E-mailing
marketing also has a huge advantage over dead-tree marketing because
it has been possible to tell if an e-mail was opened – though blocking
technologies at the user level make this more difficult now.
It occurs in real time and is much faster. With e-marketing, there is the ability to adapt
your messages more quickly. There is no need to go back to reprinting.
Distribution is also superior. You can take a piece of e-marketing and
distribute it through a number of different services (your web site,
electronic press releases, etc.) with none of the costs associated
with continually reprinting materials. The breadth of the audience is
wider – you can reach people all over the world. With traditional
print, it is difficult and costly to do things on a very broad basis.
With e-marketing, you can go coast-to-coast in the United States or
globally all at once.
What are the basic advantages of paper-based marketing over e-marketing?
Paper is a much more effective way to acquire new customers. I believe there was an article
in DM News in which they conducted a survey and they found the average
person opens e-mail from 16 sources only. But people will open a paper
direct mail piece if it looks interesting. Also, it allows you to have
a quicker response. In a paper direct mail pack, a reply card is a
separate piece that can fall out. You can go right to the reply card
and not have to read the entire letter. But online, I go to the
landing page and I have to scroll through that letter to find the
reply icon. Although some e-marketers are putting little buttons that
say "Click here to order now" earlier in the landing page letter.
Authenticity. It’s hard for me to get worked work up over a bunch of pixels on the screen.
Paper is real. It’s the difference between a telemarketer and your
trusted family lawyer. One is weightless, the other, by comparison,
has gravitas. When it’s done right, it’s a work of art. Paper is
harder to throw away for the same reason it’s harder to walk away from
a face-to-face conversation that it is to hang up a phone. I know most
will say paper is tossed anyway, but the fact is, when it’s customized
with an intensity that approaches art, it works. And other than paper
cuts, you can’t get a virus from dead tree ads – but your data can be
nuked by an e-mail you shouldn’t have opened. Imagine if we feared
paper-based marketing the way we do email marketing!
I’ve found it to be very effective in targeting business-to-business audiences. For example, if
you are selling to Fortune 1000 executives, a direct mail piece or a
print advertisement in an industry-specific publication will get right
to them. But it is very difficult to get e-marketing into corporate
America, with executives in particular. Legitimate messages are often
picked up by spam filters and never delivered.
Can paper-based marketing and e-marketing be combined to produce
The diversity of lists is better offline than online. E-marketing lists are usually less
effective in ROI than paper-based lists. But if you can gain a
customer by postal mail and you get their e-mail address, then a new
relationship is established and now you can communicate with them
directly and frequently through e-mail. Through this method, you can
greatly increase the profitability and lifetime value of your
It can. Currently, opening rates are declining for e-mail (again, thanks to filters and
blocking technologies) but conversion rates are climbing. Sale per
order may be dropping too, but that may be a sign of a maturing
marketing as people get used to ordering every little thing online,
much as they use their debit or credit cards for minor purchases now.
For example: today you see coupon clippers tending more toward online
offers. While about 95 percent of people surveyed in one study collect
coupons, about 51 percent of them actually redeem the coupons – that
an incredibly powerful way to touch a consumer. While about 60 percent
find their coupons in the newspaper, and about 10 percent find them
online via web sites or e-mail, and at least 22 percent want to find
more offers online. That means they don’t want to hunt for it; they
want legitimate offers sent to them. Retailers also need to
personalize their messages more – just 25 percent do it now – and that
25 percent are personalizing the e-mail with obvious stuff like a
customer’s full name. They need to send a confirmation message and
push customers to online registration, and acknowledge that
registration the same day. If they do that, paper marketing can
reflect and enhance the accumulated information by customizing offers
at the local J. C. Penny, for example.
I use them together. I use postcards a lot – I get a target list, create a postcard as an
introductory piece to open a conversation or a line of thought, and
that’s continued to a landing page on the Net where the dialogue is
continued. But you need to keep the look and feel of the two pieces
similar – the colors, fonts, layouts – when you are building out your
story. You need to have that consistent message in paper and online.
Will the USPS, with its early 2006 postal rate increase, incur damage
to the world of paper-based marketing?
Postage increases are always bad for postage direct mail, but what specific effect the
latest increase will have I cannot say.
Yes, it will. In fact, each postage increase acts like an extra dose of arsenic to the body
postal. As e-mail increases in sophistication (e.g., HTML gets an 84.6
percent click-through rate as opposed to the 97-pound weakling 3.8
percent rate that text-based e-mail gets), it will appeal to marketers
more and more. And by "appeal" I mean they will have no choice.
No, but financial barriers keep a lot of unscrupulous people of different businesses.
For the legitimate companies that use direct mail for marketing, it
will not have much effect at all.