Direct mail marketing has always played a major role in the success of your chapter. How else would someone know about your guest night, or your next annual show? The other thing direct mail typically has a major role in, is the chapter’s budget. Between print costs, postage and mailing lists, direct mail can be a major expense, often with an ROI (return on investment) that is less than desirable. However, there is another way, and it’s cheaper and can be more effective. Email marketing vs direct mail marketing is a debate that will continue for some time – and I will throw in my $.02.
Direct Mail Has A Few Good Points
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It’s true, our audiences are of a generation less likely to use email, although, that is rapidly changing. Direct mail is certainly a way to ensure that those who don’t have email also are able to hear about your upcoming shows or events.
Direct mail can also be targeted well with refined mailing lists that have been purchased. For some reason, it’s less intrusive to get a piece of mail you were not expecting than email marketing “spam”. Perhaps it’s your frame of mind, or that mailboxes are inundated with “junk” daily. And, the laws regarding CAN-SPAM are fairly stringent, leaving your purchased email marketing list practically worthless.
Direct mail, be it newsletters, flyers, or postcards, can have a marketing impact, but at what cost? The printing and postage alone are a far cry above what email can cost to send to even just 100 people. Start dealing in the 1000’s, and your ROI for direct mail plummets.
Getting any feedback regarding your success of a direct mailing can also prove difficult. Most direct mailings have a simple form to fill out and mail in – which gives some indication as to how many received, and then acted on the mailing. But how often do we as marketers go in and determine how many pieces were not acted on? How do you really know if they are or are not? There are some ways, like specific URL’s that one can visit, or QR codes, but how many of you know how to set those up, or have time to learn the technology behind it?
Tracking is one major strength behind email marketing, and where I think it truly supersedes direct mail.
Email Marketing Is Not a Silver Bullet
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Don’t get me wrong – email marketing isn’t a walk in the park, where you hit send, and you are now the poster child for Marketing ROI. It takes effort. You have to collect email addresses – organically even. So what does that mean? There are plenty of tools that can be used online to capture emails from Facebook, or your website, but what about easier ways that you can start doing right now? Include email as a field for EVERYTHING! At your next show, do a door prize with only name and email address – this can provide an instant list.
Once you have your emails, the fun is just getting started though. You then need to select an email marketing service provider to send from. Most of you will have your needs served well by someone like MailChimp. It’s free up to 2,000 subscribers, 12,000 sends per month, and you just need a small tag at the bottom of your email. They have hundreds of pre designed (and customizable) templates, or you can find those online cheap if you don’t lie what you see – I use some place like ThemeForest.net. For about $15 you can get a well designed template that is reusable.
Now that you have gotten this far – what’s your content? Is it to announce a show, a guest night, your latest CD launch, or a weekly newsletter? Are you going to send just one email, or will you do a drip campaign with several emails over a few weeks? So many decisions – you can’t just create a word doc, and send it to your buddy who has a color laser printer in his office for printing. It’s going to take some EFFORT!
Finally – now that you have the hang of email, you get really comfortable, and you are telling everyone about events, shows, recent birth announcements, JimBob got a promotion at work – then you start seeing an increase in a number you weren’t watching before – unsubscribes. You see, unlike direct mail, people can actually remove them selves from your list. You can no longer send them anything! So while email is a great tool, and has instant impact – you have to monitor your usage, making sure to not overload your audience with information they don’t really need.
Overcoming the Odds
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Most likely, the odds aren’t in your favor. Email marketing is just not the way we do things around here. You market your show by sending out flyers, putting up posters, and hoping that you reach enough people to fill up your audience. As marketers, we are going to have to use some data to really sway people. The easiest way to determine if you should use email or direct mail – ROI. There are tons of resources on how to determine your ROI, but I will sum it up here quickly for you.
Let’s say you have 1000 people on a list. Your initial plan is to send direct mailings. To keep the math simple, you spend $1 for each mailer, costing you $1000 in direct mail. You also spend $250 on posters to put up around town. So far, $1250 has been spent marketing the show. Now you wait… and once the totals all come back, you will look at the show’s gross profit. So take the revenue in, subtract how much it cost to produce the show (including your marketing costs), and there you go. Again, to keep it simple – let’s say you made $5000 on the show. Divide that by the amount spent on marketing – you get a 4:1 ROI, or for every $1 dollar spent, you get $4 returned. That’s not so bad – right?
Let’s flip it around a little. Same scenario – only using email marketing and posters. The email marketing cost you nothing because you are using a free service, and you were able to drip the campaign over several weeks, potentially capturing additional tickets you wouldn’t have with direct mail. You have then spent $250, and the show made $5000. That would be a 20:1 ROI, or $20 for every $1.
If you haven’t started investing in email marketing, why not?