Like most people in the business world, the first thing I do when I get to the office is check my e-mail. It’s simply an essential and ongoing part of the business day. My spam filter eliminates most of the offensive material, but also grabs some important information sent directly to me by business associates or sources I’ve given permission to contact me. I have to go into my spam filter to retrieve those isolated messages, basically defeating the intended purpose of the filter. Spam will continue to have an adverse effect on e-mail marketing response rates until more sophisticated filtering technology is developed.
Postal Reclaims its Place
We also are simply past the early novelty of e-mail communication. The enormous number of daily e-mails we receive increases the likelihood that response rates will continue to soften. If you factor in the relatively high CPM on e-mail list rentals—which held up well when response rates were considerably higher—response rates are reverting closer and closer to the response rates for postal direct mail.
As always, strategic analysis and careful selection of lists will result in improved response rates, regardless of delivery method. B-to-B marketers were smart to shift dollars to e-mail when response rates were higher than postal response rates. However, unless and until the present obstacles that affect e-mail response rates are overcome, we will continue to see a shift of marketing dollars toward postal direct mail and other areas, such as search-engine marketing. The shift will be more incremental than drastic, but in my opinion, it will benefit marketers as they return to a marketing vehicle that suffered because of a unique convergence of factors.
E-mail direct marketing has a solid foundation, and has been an excellent marketing tool for B-to-B and consumer marketers. But the stage is set for B-to-B marketers to return to where it all began—the rental of postal mailing lists. Technology brings new options to the table, and you should be thankful that e-mail marketing has had a successful impact on the industry. As e-mail marketing takes its place in the direct marketing mix, traditional direct mail will make its resurgence, either as the primary vehicle or as an integral part of the multichannel marketing efforts of B-to-B and consumer mailers alike.