Online Marketing or Direct Mail, Which Is Better?

As the owner of a marketing company that specializes in using the Internet and Social Media, Direct Mail companies are my biggest competitor.  I say competitor because small businesses don’t have an unlimited budget.  The owners of a small business have to make a decision whether to spend money for online marketing with us or with a direct mail and print ad company like my friends at Damion Hickman.

So is there a right answer?  Yes there is, but it isn’t the same for any business.  The business itself is one variable.  The second is the customer.  The business and the customer define the best media for connecting the two.  Neither side can select the right answer.

On the side of direct mail, think about a business like Cake Tahoe.  Cake Tahoe is a great little cupcake and custom cake bakery shop in Truckee, California.  The opportunity with direct mail is to send out post cards to the residents in Truckee with a coupon.  For instance they could offer buy one get one free, or buy a cupcake, get free coffee.

Volcano Cake from Cake TahoeThis is a great opportunity to reach out to new customers who had no idea they wanted a cupcake.  The postcard is an interrupter of their life that offers them something new they didn’t expect.  This is much more difficult to do online than it is with direct mail.  A great direct mail piece is fantastic tool to seek out new customers who didn’t know they were in your market.

The cost of Online Marketing to reach out and have the same effect can be significantly higher.  Some markets, like Reverse Mortgages, will see significantly better results with direct mail.  People don’t search online for the best Reverse Mortgage deal.  Instead, they get a flyer in the mail that introduces them to something they have never known about.  At some point the market might shift, but it might not.

At the other end of the spectrum are “needs” like a water heater.  When your water heater starts making very loud noises, you don’t look in your mail box for a plumber, you go to the phone book if you still have one, or go online and search for Water Heaters, Plumbers and a number of other keywords.  Online Marketing works in these cases, not so much in the case of Reverse Mortgages or reaching new cup cake customers.

Cake Tahoe could use online marketing to connect to current customers and find new customers who are looking for custom cupcakes, ice cream or coffee in Truckee California online.  They might even advertise custom cakes like the volcano cake.  The two customers are very different targets.  The key is to know your customers well enough to know which type of customer offers a better return on your marketing dollars.

Some businesses like TruSpeed Motorcars are able to use both effectively.  Direct Mail is used to remind existing customers of service intervals, and reach out directly to owners of exotic cars that are out of warranty.  Online Marketing is used to step in front of people searching for “Porsche Service”, or “Performance Porsche Upgrades”.  Each is a potential income source to the business, and each must be respected for who they are

When you truly know your customers, you can decide whether direct mail or online marketing is the best way to connect with them, finding a marketing company who will tell you that your money won’t be well spent with them might be another story.

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