Not all forms of email marketing are created equal. There are two types of email marketing. Marketing to your house list (a list of customers and future customers for whom you have an email address) or you rent an opt-in email list from a vendor who has gathered names and email addresses from various legal sources on the web. Unlike direct mail, these vendors never send their list to you for distribution; list rental pricing includes their cost for distribution. Organizations use rented lists to increase traffic and capture information from respondents for future marketing. The effort to expand house lists and acquire new customers is called acquisition marketing.

Emailing to a house list is seen as having little or no cost by most companies. Vendors that help these companies (with templates and the distribution of an in house email list) charge around $30.00 per month for lists between 500 and 2,500 addresses. Therefore a 500 name list costs $0.06 each email sent if the list is mailed once a month. The monthly fee allows you to do email blasts to your marketing list an unlimited number of times. Unfortunately, most people find it difficult to produce an email campaign more than once a month.

The problem with monthly fee pricing is that it is automatically charged to your credit card whether you use the service or not. These services are not exactly free, but still an inexpensive way to stay in touch with customers. Open rates (when a customer downloads the graphics in an email) for small lists of fewer than 500 addresses range from 16.6% to as high as 51.6% (see - load from your desktop!). So how do you quickly build an in-house email list and start selling stuff?

Acquisition email marketing can be used to drive traffic to your website. Though the primary goal is to sell this new traffic something, a strong secondary goal should be to collect name, email, and postal address information so it can be added to your marketing database. This information becomes your in-house list for future campaigns. The problem is the more information you request the less information you will get from consumers. In fact most people won't provide information about themselves unless there is a good reason (other than benefitting your marketing efforts) for you to have it.

Bottom line using direct mail as an acquisition tool is a better use of scarce resources. It is a less expensive, more effective method of driving traffic and building an integrated database than using acquisition email. The first obvious benefit is that to use direct mail you generally start with one of the most difficult pieces of information to get from respondents to a rented email list, their physical address. With this foundation, you can build a robust in-house marketing database by adding names (if you do not have them), email addresses and other pertinent information that will help target products and services to your customers.

The cost comparison between direct mail and acquisition email
The easiest way to compare the costs of direct mail and acquisition email marketing is to compare the costs of delivering a fully functional (graphics included) marketing message to consumers (business or individuals). Without graphics, most emails are not readable and none deliver the marketing message the way it was intended by the advertiser. On the other hand, direct mail is 100% readable when delivered to your targeted list and according to postal studies, 80% of all direct mail is either scanned or read before being deleted (thrown away). A read/scan rate unmatched by any other medium!

Some background information is necessary for an accurate cost comparison. tracks the average cost of Business to Business and Business to Consumer email lists. The current cost for BtoB lists is $250/m (thousand) with BtoC lists being $75/m. The V12 group on their webpage has a piece entitled "Email Marketing Overview". On the piece they have a chart that "depicts 2011 campaign results for acquisition email marketing." This chart lists 17 industries averaging a 2.75% "open rate".

Email has a functional advantage over paper based direct mail in that it can provide clickable links to the Internet. But if a QR code (or similar symbology) is printed on a direct mail piece, direct mail can carry live links also! This enhanced physical piece can be entered into the postal mail stream for as little as $0.50 each, including printing, list cost, and postage.

Direct mail has a functional advantage over email in that 100% of direct mail pieces are fully functional (readable) at the time of delivery. On average, only 2.75% of email messages (according to V12) have their graphic elements downloaded by consumers. Since the graphics in most acquisition emails are not downloaded, 97.25% of all emails do not deliver their marketing message as intended by the advertiser (you). The only thing these emails deliver are empty boxes with an "x" in them.

If the cost of sending 1,000 emails is $250, and 27.5 emails (2.75%) deliver their intended marketing message, the cost per readable message is $9.09 each ($250/27.5). If the list cost is $75, the cost per readable message is $2.73 each. The comparable cost of delivering readable messages (graphics included) using a digitally enhanced direct mail piece is $0.50 each. So for significantly less than the cost of email marketing, you can distribute a fully functional, digitally integrated marketing piece.

Good marketing starts with essential consumer information
When you rent an email list you never see the data. When you rent a direct mail list you get the data. Whether you pick specific demographics (income, home owners, kids, age, gender, phone numbers, etc.) of your target market or decide to mail to a specific geographic area (such as a one mile radius around your location, a specific zip code, or state) into which you want to market, you get the use of all of the data. Data available to the direct mail industry is more accurate and in-depth than a database of opt-in email addresses. Full coverage of your neighborhood is not possible with acquisition email campaigns, nor is mailing to the head of the household, in a specific zip code, with an annual income of $75,000.

With the data available to direct mail users, the only information needed from respondents to a promotion is their email address. And their email address can be easily purchased from them by providing a discount coupon to be emailed to them for use on their next purchase. Good marketing requires good data; rented email lists do not provide any data.

Open your doors to mobile marketing
QR codes are being used to link consumers with the web through their smart phones. The simple fact is that most mobile marketing starts with a physical piece. Something has to carry the QR Code so consumers can take a picture of it. If you want low cost mass distribution of your QR Codes, you have to use direct mail. If the QR Code printed on your direct mail piece is unique to each recipient (a personalized QR code), data entry into a smartphone can be captured and matched back to the original mailing address and its associated demographic information. Direct mail with QR codes not only helps in collecting missing information for your marketing database, they also expand the value of the direct mail piece by providing a digital link to your mobile web site. Utilizing direct mail with QR codes is a simple, cost effective way to leverage mobile marketing for higher sales and greater interaction with consumers.

Todd Butler, Butler Mailing Services, can be raeched at 513.870.5060 or toddb@butlermail.comMaking postal delivery, an interactive mobile experience!