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Want to Create Email Marketing Value? Check Out the Direct Mail in Your Mailbox

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In this article, you'll learn how to...

  • Apply successful direct mail practices to your email campaigns
  • Craft subject lines, offer valuable content, and nurture your recipients

Though direct mail certainly isn't as popular or as effective as it once was, email marketers can apply many of the theories used for direct mail campaigns to increase the value of their email marketing campaigns.

First impressions are important

Picture what you do when you get home after a long day of work. You grab the mail and shuffle through it; "bill, bill, circular, overdue bill, credit card offer...." It takes a special type of mail to excite someone these days.

Now picture your inbox when you get to work in the morning; "SPAM, SPAM, email newsletter, SPAM...." The difference is you're not sifting through five pieces of mail, you're sifting through 25. (Some of you might be thinking, "Only 25? More like 225!")

Let's face it... in the midst of all that "junk," a white envelope with a simple return address doesn't cut it. The same goes for an email. Keep in mind the first few things a recipient sees:

  • Subject line. Does the subject line accurately describe what the message is? Is there some value in the subject line that will make the recipient want to open the email? (e.g., "Special 20% Off Coupon Inside!")
  • "From" address. Is the sender someone the recipient knows and is familiar with (company or person), or is it a random or generic email address that the recipient has no connection with? (e.g.,
  • Graphics/layout. If you looked at your email for only two seconds, would it catch your eye? Does it have a good mix of graphics and text? Is the text separated into chunks that are easy to read?

Give me something of value

Every once in a while, I get an unsolicited mailer in my mailbox promoting a new real estate agent in town. I'm a new homeowner, so the odds of me needing a real estate agent any time soon are slim. However, one of the real estate agents sends me a well-designed mailer that has home-maintenance tips, mortgage-rate trends, and information about the area we live in. Now that's useful!

When crafting the content of your email, focus on sharing information that provides value to the recipient. Consider using the following:

  • Monetary value. Sharing valuable coupons, discounts, or offers with your audience gives intrinsic value to your message.
  • Informational value. Rather than sending me a press release about a new hammer you're selling, tell me how I could use it. Show me how to build a bird house with it. I could be discovering a product that I never even knew I needed!
  • Opportunity value. Give me something that not everyone can get: a pre-screening of a movie, a sneak peek of a cool new product, an event that's not open to the public. I want to be an insider, and I want to feel special.

Be considerate

If you're like many people, and if you saved your mail for a while, you could probably build a small home out of "20% off" coupon postcards from Bed Bath & Beyond. But like many people, you likely drop those postcards promptly into the trash. Most mass direct mail follows that same path in millions of homes.

If you're an email marketer, however, you have the upper hand in deliverability and conversion.

Here are a few ways to nurture and engage your email subscribers:

  • Always use opt-in and stay CAN-SPAM compliant. Doing so will ensure that you're reaching people who want to be reached and you're not doing harm to your brand or your sending reputation.
  • Always segment. Sending relevant messages to relevant segments is one of the keys to email success. Segment your list by demographics, recipient preferences, engagement, or other useful criteria.
  • Never stop testing. Compare subject lines, use different layouts, and test with different audiences and segments. You'll be able to continually improve your campaigns by making analytics-driven choices.
  • Always let them leave. What if you were in a store and the salespeople wanted you to buy something so badly that they locked the doors and wouldn't let you leave? Sounds horrible, right? Don't lock the doors on your email recipients... allow them to easily change their email preferences or opt out.

Email marketers can learn a lot from direct mail practices. Applying just a few direct mail principles will drastically increase the value of your email marketing campaigns.

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Ryan Morgan is an online marketing coordinator for ERC, an HR services company. He also serves on the board of the Cleveland Web Association.

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  • by Dan Tue Jul 12, 2011 via web

    A well written informative article

  • by Aaleyah Thu Jul 14, 2011 via web

    As direct mail continues to lose its popularity as the primary method of reaching consumers, email marketing, in its place is skyrocketing faster than businesses can keep up! Unfortunately not all email marketing reaches the intended audience. Naturally, this has presented many issues for businesses. As the author mentioned “it takes a special type of mail to excite someone these days”. In order to ensure good deliverability, marketers must modify their strategy campaigns. I found a very informative article relating to this exact topic.

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Jul 20, 2011 via web

    You may be interested in the results of a new study that shows postal mail is the most effective marketing channel.

  • by Cari Sun Aug 7, 2011 via web

    This advice is very useful, but applies mostly to companies with a product to offer. What would you recommend doing for professional services organizations?

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