The email "environment" is poor. Thanks to the spam avalanche, sorting through email messages is a real drag. That means your prospects are looking for messages from colleagues, family, and friends, and everything else is out. And fast.
Email messages have to be (relatively) short. When prospects are going through their email, they want information quickly. So long copy is out. Complex offers are out. Supporting facts and arguments are out.
Emails limit your creativity. An all-text email is obviously visually quite boring. The message is the whole ball game. Even in an HTML email, you can throw in some color and photography, but the look is never great. Let's face it. With email, your graphic designer is fighting with one hand tied behind her back.
Great email lists are hard to find. Yeah. List brokers promise you a high-quality "opt-in" list but you're often playing with fire. The simple fact is that the direct mail list business is a lot more mature and you can find ethical and helpful list brokers if you shop around.
Direct Mail Pros
The direct mail environment is a good one. Sure, people call direct mail "junk mail." But they use the term with a lot less anger than they do when they speak of "spam." When you read through your email, you're sitting at a desk staring at a monitor and you're busy. When you sort through your postal mail, you're probably much more relaxed and feel less put upon. This difference in receptivity is, in my judgment, incalculably important.
Direct mail gives you the space you need to tell the whole story. If you write a compelling letter, readers will stay with you. They will NOT stick with you in an email.
In direct mail, you can use emotion. In your letter or flyer you can inspire, frighten, cajole, convince, make cogent arguments, and motivate. Readers just don't want that in an email. They want you to tell them the facts and get out. Which, for a writer like me is very limiting, indeed.
In direct mail you can include different pieces you can hold in your hand. I'm talking about a colorful flyer, a testimonial sheet filled with raves, objective product reviews, you name it. You never know what's going to capture a reader's interest or attention. With an email you get pixels on the screen and nothing more.
Direct Mail Cons
The bottom line? Direct mail can be very cost effective but there's no question that your front-end costs are going to be higher. That's the only big "con" I think you have to worry about.
As you can see from the pros and cons listed above, email and direct postal mail both have their advantages. Lately, direct mail has been in a bit of a decline, partly because of the economy and partly because email marketing has made inroads. My own feeling is that direct mail will be making a huge comeback as spammers continue to destroy a legitimate marketing channel.
My advice? Keep on testing email but don't neglect the proven, money-making power of a letter package or self-mailer!
Ivan Levison is an award-winning freelance direct response copywriter who creates direct mail sales letters, emails, and ads. He publishes a free monthly newsletter. Visit his website at http://www.levison.com.