If you’ve abandoned good ol’ fashioned “snail mail” in favor of email, as your primary way to reach out to customers, you’re probably leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table.

You see, email open rates are below 15 percent and dropping. Snail mail open rates are on the rise. 

In addition to the “spam effect,” which causes us not to open email, even when it’s not spam, there is also the inherent difficulty of getting people to open a document with just a few characters of introduction in a subject line. And since the headline (or subject line) is the ad for the ad, if you can’t get people to open your email from your subject line, it ain’t gonna get opened at all.

Contrast both of these inherent weaknesses of email with snail mail. 

While email is sorted at the sender or subject line level, every piece of mail that comes into your home commands at least a glance from at least one person in the house. Whether you make the “must open” or “maybe open” pile, at least you got your shot. Not so with email.

With snail mail, you’re not limited to a few characters, blandly presented just like every single other piece of mail in your inbox. No limitations on size, font, style, length or materials. You can use color, illustrations or photography, shape, dimension and bulk to get your piece opened. Email can’t match that.

Email open rates are below 15 percent and dropping. Snail mail open rates are on the rise.”

Now, I understand the expense arguments. When you’re looking at almost unlimited emails for $15 a month, and a single snail mail envelope can cost 89 cents or more, the temptation is to forget the snail and stick with the “e.”

But snail mail remains a proven winner for small businesses, in particular, and the costs of acquiring transactions through direct mail remain lower than almost every other kind of marketing.

Finally, the passion people have for their pets dramatically increases the attention direct mail solicitations targeted to pet owners will get. You can do more with a postcard, for example, than a carpet cleaner or a jeweler or a real estate agent can. Your target audience is simply more predisposed to pay attention.

So, here are some tips for lowering the cost of acquisition of a transaction using snail mail: 
  • Test a postcard against an envelope package and see which pulls best.
  • Don’t use a #10 envelope. That’s the standard size of “business” mail and open rates will go down.
  • Do use “announcement size” or greeting card-size envelopes. Doing so could increase your open rates by a factor of 10 or more, which, with a good offer, could dramatically decrease your cost of acquisition.
  • Consider personalizing your mail. “Dear Bobbie,” instead of “Dear Customer.”
  • Focus on your existing customer lists and specific segments of it for specific offers. This is a “small ball” approach that can yield big dividends. You can send a promotion to dog owners, another to cat owners, and another to bird owners. You could mail to as few as a couple dozen or to as many as a few hundred.
  • When you find something that works, keep using it. Don’t make the mistake of doing something successfully and then asking yourself, “What do I do now?” Do the same thing again ... and again ...
  • Test small and scale up when you achieve success. If something works on a small scale it will likely work on a larger one. 
  • Keep tweaking and testing to “genetically engineer” your marketing for ever-increasing success.

These aren’t the only things you can do, but they’re a great start. As you experiment and refine, I’m guessing your shift back to snail mail will put a nice stamp on your success.

Jim Ackerman is a marketing speaker, marketing coach, author and ad writer. He is offering Pets+ readers a free Marketing Fitness Check-up to find and fill the holes in your marketing and advertising efforts. Send your request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For speaking services go to marketingspeakerjimackerman.com. Subscribe to his weekly marketing videos at YouTube.com/bizkaboom.


This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of PETS+. 

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