While there are many similarities between e-mail and direct mail copy—such as e-mail subject lines and envelope teasers, subheads and lead paragraphs working in both channels, and offer expiration dates that can be effective in both as well—understanding the key differences will help you run a truly effective multichannel campaign.
1. The offer
"While [both channels] require the same understanding of direct marketing principles, there are differences in creative tactics—and e-mail requires even more emphasis on the offer than direct mail," explains Lee Marc Stein, copywriter and author of "Street Smart Direct Marketing." E-mail prospects are not going to take the time to read the copy and respond to the creative like direct mail prospects, so cut to the chase—"what's the offer?"—is even more key in e-mail, he explains.
2. Incorporating the news
"Direct marketing copy that reflects current news and events usually outpulls copy that is not written with references to current affairs," says Bob Bly, copywriter and author of "The Copywriter's Handbook." He adds that incorporating news into copy is even more important in e-mail marketing than it is in direct mail. "In promoting investment newsletters, for example, if the Fed is going to announce a rate hike this week, your e-mails virtually have to be built around that theme," describes Bly.
3. Direct mail is a more forgiving medium
"The direct mail piece has a much longer shelf life, for it may still be getting a significant response several weeks later," comments Michael Bloom, vice president of direct marketing operations for Datran Media. "With e-mail, that is not the case. It's not terrestrial; you can't put it on the shelf; you can't take it with you." E-mail can quickly get buried in an e-mail folder to never resurface, be sent to the junk dungeon or make an impression that's fleeting at best. That's why it's a worthwhile test to follow up a direct mail contact with an e-mail effort to capitalize on latent interest.