OK, I admit it: I'm a closet print lover.

Always have been and, I guess, always will be.

Nothing can compare with the heft of fine paper, the beautiful typography, and the exquisite tonal reproduction of a well-crafted publication.

Just try getting the same effect using the Internet.

"But," I hear you ask, "what has this got to do with e-mail?"

E-mail is, after all, supposed to be the subject of this column.

Two Good
Well, there is a point. For too long we've had a tendency to view e-mail and print direct marketing as distinct and separate entities. This might be realistic in a world in which any single customer only ever used one medium or the other.

But the truth, regardless of what the technology industry might want you to believe, is that customers aren't going to stop using paper -- now or ever. And nor should you, the marketer.

Print and e-mail, when used together, can create a better experience for the customer and, correspondingly, a better result for you.

So when and how should you use each? Rather than try to come up with a definitive list of applications, let's focus on the key benefits of each medium. From there it should be a natural process to figure out which combination of print and e-mail will work best for your future campaigns.

Benefits of E-Mail
Most marketers tend to think "cheap" when they think of e-mail. Wrong. While e-mail is, indeed, typically cheaper to deliver and analyze than print direct marketing, a good e-mail campaign still requires the same attention and cost to create effectively.

In fact, the cost of creating a good rich media e-mail message can easily exceed $10,000 (U.S.). Even a well-written and well-designed HTML e-mail message is going to require focused creative and technical resources.

So what are some of the key benefits of e-mail versus print delivery?

Ease and speed of response. Recipients of e-mail messages typically respond to them soon after receiving them. In fact, a survey we conducted found that in excess of 80 percent of all responses are made within the first 48 hours after the e-mail is sent.

Information capture. HTML formatted e-mail is ideal for delivering forms to your customers and prospects, for example, satisfaction surveys, registration forms, and order forms.

Archiving. E-mail messages can be filed easily for future reference. This, of course, has the downside that they may be "filed and forgotten."

Personalization. Every e-mail message you send can be customized to a specific customer. This means that not only can you deliver content specific to the interests of each customer, you can use this capability to provide a customized and encrypted "key code" for each customer, which can be redeemed only by the intended recipient.

Rich media capability. E-mail messages can now contain sound, video and animation, features you'd be hard-pressed to include in your print campaign.

Benefits of Print
But, despite all these advantages, print-based direct marketing still has a number of compelling advantages over e-mail.

Ubiquity. Almost everybody has a postal address. This is not the case with e-mail. Not only is e-mail penetration still relatively low but the churn rate is high. By some estimates, up to 30 percent of all e-mail addresses go "bad."

Also, the e-mail list market is still in its infancy and its progress is slowed by users' privacy concerns and by overmailing by list vendors. And e-mail change-of-address services are still a long way from reaching critical mass.

Quality and credibility. There is just no way an e-mail message will ever command the feeling of quality and authority offered by a high-end print piece, such as an automotive brochure.

Longevity. Print might not be as easy to archive as e-mail, but it definitely tends to be kept around longer if it made an initial impression on a prospective customer. It is also not affected by the accidental deletion of an e-mail subdirectory or by the untimely death of a hard drive.

Information delivery. Print direct marketing can typically provide much more information than an e-mail message. Of course, an e-mail message can provide links to broader, deeper information on the Web, but it simply doesn't allow information to be scanned as quickly and easily as print does. This has not gone unnoticed by catalog direct marketers.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should help you think through relevant applications for a marketing approach that's a hybrid of print and e-mail.

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