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Direct Marketing Vs. Email Marketing

April 11, 2008

We're often asked, what is the difference between email marketing and traditional methods of direct marketing (DM)? When we are we can wax lyrical about the benefits of email marketing and the reasons as to why a company should make it a part of their marketing mix. The reason is that there are some fundamental differences between the two methods. Email marketing has a number of unique attributes that make it an invaluable method of communicating with your customers and prospects. So just what are the differences?

Generate an action!

Email generates an action quickly and easily. The recipient of your message should simply click on a link or hit reply and the action you request should be easy. We dealt with a computer games company that had executed a campaign where the call to action was where the recipient had to print out a coupon and take it to a computer superstore to get £5 off of a new release.

The response was less than 0.5% which in email terms is exceptionally low. If the action was say, a click through to a web site where the game could have been ordered or even better downloaded then the response rate would have been in all probability 5 to 20 times higher. Take advantage of the immediacy of email and make it work for you.


You can track what the recipient of your email does. At extravision all of the campaigns that we implement have some form of tracking. We can see the identity of the person who has opened an email and who has clicked onto which link and when. This allows you to either create an event to trigger a call from a telesales person or profile a customer. 

If you have offered a product or service via email with a click through to your website and you’ve seen a recipient (or several hundred) click through but not take any further action you could email them with a more compelling offer. Unlike traditional mail you gain knowledge of your customers and how interested they are in your proposition. This knowledge can be converted to business.

Response Times

In the DM world it’s typical for a campaign to take many months. There are many time consuming processes from printing, mailing, return processing, etc. Not so with email marketing. A piece can be emailed out and your peak response will be within the next 24 hours with over 85% of all the responses being received within 48 hours. Maybe this is not quite as exciting in a nail biting way but it’s great for business.


As campaigns can be created and executed quickly, you can react much more quickly to market conditions. If it’s Thursday and you want to promote something that’s happening on Saturday then email is pretty much the only method you can use to do this. With email, companies create smaller more focused campaigns which in turn deliver great response rates.

Response rates

We’ve covered this before and no doubt will do so again. Response rates in email marketing are phenomenal when compared against DM. 20% plus is fairly typical for a well prepared and executed email campaign. This is at least an order of magnitude higher than the 0.5% to 2% response rates seen in the traditional DM world.

Writing the copy

When you’re writing email copy you need to do some things differently. One of the main reasons for this is that people feel very differently about their email inbox than they do about their letterbox. They treat it as a personal space and are very protective of it.

When you’re sending an email keep the content friendly, concise and the reason for your sending the piece, clear and compelling. When we’ve tested campaigns it seems that three or four short paragraphs having a very relaxed feel yet with a strong message generate the highest response rates. Avoid at all costs, making your email look like spam. Use of statements along the lines of ‘fantastic offer’, ‘unbelievable’ and such like will have your email heading directly for the trash and an unsubscribe request heading back to you.

If you would like any further information, please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Paul Latham

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