Postal Mail or Email?

Today, paper mail beats most email marketing.

If my postal mailbox in front of my house resembled my inbox in Microsoft Office, it would be the size of a house trailer. And don't even ask about the number of items in my trash folder.

I hear it all the time from non-profits: electronic mail delivery is it... it is cheaper and faster and the wave of the future. Flood prospects with enough messaging and they will get your point, right? Wrong.

Spray and Pray Marketing

Over the last 60 years it was called "spray and pray." Repeatedly sending identical mass quantities of marketing content was the only way to get satisfactory response. We did it because back then we didn't have the tools to hone content, eliminate unlikely respondents and target the likely respondents better.

But for email marketers today those tools exist. And putting together an email campaign is much easier than putting together a postal mail campaign. Plus, with email you can expose your recipients to much more customized information with landing pages and specific PURLS ("Personalized URLs"). This creates more opportunity to arouse recipients' interest.

But what I'm seeing with most nonprofits and vendors that cater to them is that this is not happening. Their email message is simply an electronic version of a pre-printed postcard from the 80's. It lacks targeting and it lacks energy. I recall a large university sending out the same email blast to its entire constituency. Believe me, the women who graduated from the nursing school were not as inspired by the sports pictures as were men in the football program.

As a result of such lackluster efforts, most recipients have become good at filtering email, deleting it or sending it to the spam folder, or placing it in a second- or third-tier folder as a "maybe read" for next week. I myself spend just as much time deleting unwanted email as I do reading the ones I want to read.

What's the Answer?

Simple: smarter postal mail. And to me this seems like a real opportunity. Even online companies such as Google and McAfee Antivirus are leaning more and more on postal mail.

The is not to compete with email. We just need to be better at paper mail. The cost of sending a poorly constructed email is much higher than communicating with a customer on paper.

  • Is your messaging right? Is it to the point? Is it donor centric? Does it have the right feel? Does it use humor? Anger? Pity? Shame? Guilt?
  • Is your mailing list the right mailing list? Is it segmented properly so you're mailing to the right audience? Are you targeting your loyals?

This is how you get your paper mail opened.

Here's another hint:

Because of the recession postal mail has a significant advantage that email doesn't - an uncluttered mailbox. Hang out where the competition does not.

By: Viken Mikaelian, Co-founder of and, published previously at Planned

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