Email Versus Snail Mail
Partial to Print or Eager for Email?
Informative and entertaining, printed and emailed newsletters allow you to stay connected to your audience, inspiring loyalty, spawning referrals, and (best of all) generating revenue. When crafted well, they enhance your brand and help position your organization. Before initiating a newsletter program, you’ll have to decide your method of distribution—email versus direct mail.
Each month I receive a printed newsletter publication from my university. Every issue features a powerful speech from an influential guest speaker at the school. It’s lengthy and meaty in content about important affairs of our time. I’m so glad it’s delivered in printed form because I can take it with me to a quiet space where I can relax and absorb the content.
When I’m at my computer, I’m in task mode. I don’t want to take a break from my productive day to read a lengthy publication. Just give me the bullet points, direct my next move, and let’s get on with things. Under Armour does this really well. They have an enormous blog full of articles that provide training tips, nutritional advice, delicious recipes, inspiration, and (bonus) discounted products. Their newsletters provide a list, and I can quickly access the article that interests me. When I get to the blog, the article is easy to scan for content, but that’s another article.
Email has the power to facilitate immediate action through call to action. They can inspire the recipient to “buy now” in your e-commerce store, set up an appointment, or simply reply to start a conversation. Generally speaking, emails require action. The recipient is in task mode, expecting quick information and directives.
Print, on the other hand, is a more passive medium where the reader expects to be educated and entertained. Stories are woven with pointed examples, graphics, photos, and narrative anecdotes. Your goals, message, and audience will dictate the medium by which you choose to communicate.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each medium.
Cost Effectiveness — Email is highly cost effective. And it’s green. You may choose to invest in software or subscribe to an online service, but either way you’ll save on print and postage costs. There’s no need for address labels. And the envelope stuffer gets the day off.
Easier to Create — Both email and print entail content development, but the nature of email requires less text. While print calls for fully constructed sentences, email communicates sufficiently with fragments or bullet points. Since your viewer is busily scanning numerous demanding emails, write like a minimalist.
Reader Feedback — Online services assist with email design, mailing list management, delivery, and data tracking. You can get familiar with reader behavior, as most client software offers reports that illustrate open and click-through rates, revealing what most interests your subscribers. A campaign can direct subscribers to online surveys and polls about current topics. Results may provide you with future content.
Viral Marketing — An email newsletter can be self-propagating, as recipients easily disperse it to other interested parties. Subscribe and unsubscribe functionalities help you grow and manage your mailing list of qualified individuals.
Junk-Trash-Spam — Email can be perceived as an intrusion, contributing to your subscriber’s inbox, which can be a lengthy to-do list. The path of least resistance may lead a person to send your unread newsletter directly to the trash. That is, if your newsletter makes it past the spam filter in the first place. Online services help navigate some spam filters.
What You See Is Not What They Get — Image suppression may restrict your readers from viewing your attached images. If your message is heavily weighted with pretty pictures, they just won’t get it. Balance HTML with text.
SNAIL MAIL PROS
Stand Out — A traditional newsletter delivered by the postman? Now, that’s novel! Many organizations have abandoned postal delivery, making the old printed version even more unique. I am partial to the printed page because there are so many more interesting things that can be done with it.
Brand Out — Through vision and voice, print allows you to create an experience for the reader, serving as a stronger medium to deliver your brand message. The physicality of it appeals to a broader range of senses. With proper use of paper, design and packaging, you have a greater opportunity to establish a sense of brand and quality.
Content Volume — The printed newsletter recipient expects to be educated and entertained. Take advantage of the expanded real estate to tell a story, showcase your organization, educate, introduce new products, extend special offers, and list events.
Accessibility — Believe it or not, some people still don’t have Internet access, and others simply don’t like it. In my experience, the senior audience still likes to receive mail. The old tree pulp is highly transportable, making it easy to take with you to read at a more convenient time.
SNAIL MAIL CONS
Costly — After your piece is printed, mailing labels have to be created, envelopes stuffed and stamped, and you must still incur the cost of mailing.
Labor Intensive — The more real estate you have, the more work it is to fill it.
There’s no doubt that a newsletter will result in benefits for both the sender and the receiver. Ultimately, goals, budgets, content volume, and audience will all factor in as you determine the method that’s most effective for your message. For greatest impact, consider alternating between snail mail and email. Communicate in detail through print and deliver timely news via email.
Regardless of your canvas, make a firm commitment. Establish a publishing calendar complete with topics for each release date. When developing a mailing list, remember that quality is more important than quantity. Design the layout so it’s easy to scan and read. Deliver a brand message that’s consistent with other marketing materials. Finally, encourage viral marketing by inviting the recipient to “Pass it on!”