Not by E-Mail Alone

When did you last receive a letter? You know, paper folded into an “envelope” with a “stamp” signifying payment for transportation to the destination. A handwritten letter, sent to you, personally. Apart from Christmas greetings, I can’t recall the last time I received a real letter. Whenever it was, I’m certain it was the event of the day.

Ironically, technology we’ve nurtured to enable faster, more effective, cheaper communication is experiencing a backslash. Not long ago, email was hailed as the discovery of the century. Any organization with a modicum of interest in innovation began offering cheap, instant communications. We’ve been swept along, busily transferring the conventions of traditional letter-writing to email composition.

The email maelstrom rages. Increasingly smarter email messages bypass security systems and claim to be free of viruses. Meanwhile, expensive attempts to engage in unique communication styles blind us to the fact we’re all doing exactly the same thing.

Stop! Consider: E-mail may no longer be it. While everyone competes for consumer attention with direct email, we don’t see the technique may no longer work. I’m willing to bet a campaign aimed at getting people to buy is more effectively conducted offline.

In the long run, you’re better off posting a letter. Spend the money making your communication tactile. Perhaps include a real signature or, better yet, write the letter by hand. Your message would be delivered with 1,000 times more potency. The cost would be only marginally higher than an emailed version.

This is only part of the story. Aside from selling products, such a tactile approach would build your brand, too. Recipients would remember the letter; they’re unlikely to remember one email out of who-knows-how-many per day. Can you name the last five commercial email messages you received? Can you remember even one of them?

I’m not telling you to dispense with email altogether. But think about combining channels more. Be less focused on the short-term attraction of cost savings made possible by the ability to send millions of email messages free of charge. Think about the fact that, although we can send millions of free email messages, hardly any will be opened. There are just too many of them. Many arrive with the perceived risk of a virus. Direct email messages are more likely to be deleted in fear than greeted with cheer.

Direct marketing of the future will combine email and letters. The greater weight will be lent to letters. Until electronic mailing reaches a new level at which threats of virus transmission and odious scams are things of the past, direct email is of limited benefit when used exclusively.

This will take time. Some may claim such remediation will never happen. Instead of waiting, reconsider your email strategy. Combine it with the good old offline world, and start posting those old-fashioned things with stamps on them. Transmission might be slower, but I’m certain your message will be received quickly and will leave a memorable brand impression.

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