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Digital Marketing vs. Direct Mail: Complimentary Strategies For Greater Growth

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While it’s tempting to compare digital marketing and direct mail to find out which one is “better,” that’s not actually a helpful approach. Every business has to develop their own mix of marketing channels and tactics that provide the results and the ROI they need to succeed. Companies that disregard direct mail as a part of their strategy are missing out. Direct Mail is viable and powerful, providing different opportunities than digital marketing, which has some serious challenges that often go unrecognized.

Is your current marketing plan limiting your reach by not taking advantage of the contrasting strengths of these approaches? How does direct mail compare to and compliment your digital marketing strategies?

Most companies and marketing leaders know that they should not rely on only one channel. This isn’t about whether one is better than the other, but how they are different and how they can best be used as part of an overall marketing strategy.

Let’s look at some considerations for creating expanded results by leveraging direct mail in addition to digital marketing.


Digital marketing is a very broad term that encompasses many platforms and strategies, whereas direct mail is a much more specific tool, designed to drive immediate action and results.

In fact, there is confusion, even amongst digital marketers, about what constitutes online marketing, content marketing, or digital advertising. The terminology is almost as scattered as the elements of a digital strategy. Marketing online includes everything from your website, landing pages, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, display advertising, content, and social media. Keeping up with all the platforms and options can become a drain on your marketing budget and resources.

One benefit of a specific outbound strategy like direct mail is that it is easier to test and prove on a project basis because it drives immediate response and sales results. Once you have a proven direct mail approach you can repeat it and scale to your budget and needs.


Both direct mail and digital marketing allow you to target certain audiences in different ways. Online targeting is great, but there is still a large segment of the population that isn’t active online, doesn’t engage in social media, and certainly isn’t looking for your company’s website.

By leveraging direct mail, you can target a specific and highly responsive audience at scale with physical address and modern “big data” datasets. You can reach a different, unique group of buyers that may not otherwise respond to digital media.

The more tightly defined your audience target, the higher the response rate and the greater your ROI. Direct mail targeting specifically leverages databases that contain in depth information for predictive analytics or modeling to determine and reach those who are most likely to respond. Advanced methods such as A.I. powered predictive modeling allows you to focus your marketing spend and eliminate waste.


These days, online advertisements flash before our eyes at blazing speeds. Each time we search, stream, watch, read, scroll, click, or swipe, we are bombarded with ads and marketing.

The problem with digital marketing is over-saturation. There are too many ads competing for people’s attention. Experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. In order to maintain our sanity, consumers have developed the mental ability or screening process to ignore advertisements. Not to mention that we have learned to question everything we see online and approach with skepticism rather than trust.

As an estimate, only about 2% of advertisements garner our valued attention each day. That means, only about 100 out of every 5,000 ad exposures have any meaningful impact on consumers.

Mail, on the other hand, gets past all the online clutter and straight into your prospect’s hands. It’s intrusive and personal. And it can have a much longer shelf-life than a fleeting digital message. Plus, it has a higher level of credibility to prospective customers.

No other medium captures more undivided attention and interaction from your audience. Because it is separate from the online world, it allows people more uninterrupted time to think and consider your message.


Many digital strategies are considered to be “Inbound” marketing, allowing prospective customers to come to you. They find your website when they are searching, they engage with your content when they are thinking about it. And that’s great.

However, a more “Outbound” approach is required if your product or service doesn’t solve an urgent problem, or if you are trying to gain market share from significant competitors. If your customers aren’t looking for you, then you must find them instead. In direct mail, we call this “Demand generation.”

In order to create demand, you have to reach your customers and show them that they really want and need what you have to offer.

Direct mail is an ideal medium for this kind of message. You can use it to communicate that your product or service solves a problem that they did not even realize they had. In which case, Direct Mail is proven to generate results far better than digital marketing.


Direct mail has long been a staple of the marketing and advertising worlds. As digital options have grown, direct mail has become underutilized. Therein lies opportunity!

As the online marketing landscape becomes more saturated and digital ad results decline, marketers should consider turning back to what works. Direct mail, when done through a strategic and data-driven approach, is even more important and effective than ever.

Of course, no group of prospects will universally connect with one singular marketing channel. To design a truly successful approach, you must consider all of the different ways to engage your prospects and work to integrate them together for maximum impact.

Build direct mail into your mix and take advantage of its many competitive advantages to help reach your marketing goals.