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Email vs. Direct Mail Marketing: Pros and Cons for Community Banks | Community Bank Marketing

These days, it seems as though every aspect of life is migrating to the digital world, from our banking experience to our social interactions. Digital platforms can be a great asset in marketing as well, providing attention-grabbing and trackable pieces of advertising to prospects. But should all your marketing efforts be digital? Email marketing is a great tool to reach your audience, but there’s also something to be said for the tried-and-true direct mail method. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each for your bank.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful form of direct marketing that involves promoting products and services via email. The first step is to build a list of your customers’ and prospects’ email addresses—if your bank offers online banking or e-statements, you likely have this information on-hand already.     Then you’ll want to divide your list into customer segments and build content around the products or services that would be of interest to them. Email marketing platforms like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or others can help with segmentation, email design, and automation.

Pro #1: It’s Fast and Cost-Efficient

When getting a message out to your customers and prospects, faster is better—you don’t want to risk your competitors getting to them first. Messaging doesn’t get much more instantaneous than email. Your message can appear in your customers’ inbox seconds after you hit “send.” If you choose to use an email marketing platform, you can even set emails to send automatically at a predetermined time, or when a customer takes a predetermined action on your website (like subscribing to your blog or requesting more information). You can access many of these platforms for a small monthly fee. In exchange, you can communicate with hundreds to thousands of customers and prospects with the click of a button.

Pro #2: It’s Trackable

Data is the bread and butter of marketing. With it, you can measure success and optimize your future efforts. Email marketing is highly trackable and can offer valuable insights. Through many email marketing platforms, you can access data such as how many recipients who opened your email, how many clicked on any links you included, how many unsubscribed, and more. With this information, you can paint a detailed picture of what your customers want, what you’re doing well, and what could be improved.

Con #1: It May Get Lost in the Shuffle

How many unread emails are in your inbox right now? How many of those emails will go straight to trash? Enough said. Customers and prospects with full inboxes may delete any emails they deem to be ads before even reading them. However, any messaging from you on any platform runs the risk of being ignored.

Con #2: Recipients Can Opt Out

Legally, you must give your customers and prospects the option to ignore you. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 established the United States’ first set of standards for the sending of commercial emails and requires the FTC to enforce its provisions. One of those standards is that your recipients must be given the option to opt-out of future messages, and that your company must honor their wishes. Not doing so can result in damage to your online reputation and even your website being blacklisted. While giving prospects the option to stop hearing from you may seem counterintuitive, it can actually be a positive thing for your bank. Over time, your email list will come to consist only of loyal customers and warm leads who are truly interested in what you have to offer.

Direct Mail

Direct mail marketing is the practice of sending promotional materials to potential customers through the postal service. Promotional materials can include product or service brochures, event invitations, announcements, coupons or vouchers, branded items, and more.  The first step involves collecting the physical addresses of customers and prospects, which you should already have at your disposal. Then, like with email marketing, you may want to segment your mailing list by needs and interests. You’ll also want to begin a relationship with a graphic designer and a printing service to help create your materials.

Pro #1: It Gets Noticed

The challenge inherent in any marketing campaign is to first be noticed. In the digital space, that can be a difficult task. However, the data suggests that it may be a little easier to be noticed on paper. According to Xerox, 70% of direct mail is opened, and 79% is read for one minute or more. Also, direct mail doesn’t require an opt-in and isn’t competing with hundreds of email messages in an inbox for your prospect’s attention. In a workplace setting, a piece of direct mail can sit on someone’s desk for weeks, making it a great option for B2B marketing.

Pro #2: It Can Convey a Personal Touch

If done right, a direct mail approach can convey a more personal touch than any messaging read on a screen. For some mailers, a handwritten message or address label can be a nice addition. Our own account executive team has added handwritten messages to printed postcards, signaling care and effort to their prospects and making their message harder to ignore.

Con #1: It Gets Expensive

Compared to the speed and minimal costs of email, direct mail can be a costly approach. If you don’t already have someone with graphic design capability on staff, you’ll need to hire a contract designer to create direct mail pieces for you. Then comes the costs of printing and shipping. If you choose to incorporate direct mail into your marketing plans, be sure you’ve budgeted for its associated costs.

Con #2: It May Still Get Lost

While the postal service is pretty reliable these days, losses still happen. Your mailer could be lost in the mail or delivered to the wrong address. Unlike email, there’s no guarantee that your message will go where it’s supposed to, and limited ways to track if your recipient takes the desired action.

Every marketing tactic has its pros and cons, and email and direct mail marketing are no exception. Before investing time, labor, and money into one approach, be sure to weigh the needs and goals of your institution. Will your efforts provide enough value to surpass the costs? Will your target audience stop and pay attention? Considering these questions with the input of your team will set your marketing campaigns up for success, whether digital of physical.

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