Email Marketing Versus Print Marketing

Is email marketing or print marketing better for your business?
Is email marketing or print marketing better for your business?

There is a huge debate at the moment as to whether email or print marketing is better for small businesses. Print marketing has been around since our ancestors started to use paper and it has always drawn attention from consumers.

The physical sensation of print advertising is very real for consumers, and it can seriously place your brand in your target audience’s mind. But it isn’t always about the impact on the audience; you should always consider the costs of implementation for every business activity you undertake.

So between print and email marketing, which is more effective?

The Harvard Business Review Study

In 2012, the Harvard Business Review completed a study looking at 105,000 marketing campaigns split into three equal groups. One group was given email and print marketing, another print only and another email only. The results were interesting and have shone a light onto what marketing channel might be more worthy of your investment.

For instance, the best response rate was when print and email was integrated (25%); however, the results weren’t significant, with only a 2% response rate difference between those just sending an email and those sending both direct mail and email. Direct mail had a response rate of 24%.

This demonstrates that when comparing the two, email is not more effective than print.

The Return On Investment For Print Marketing

However, as we mentioned earlier, it isn’t just how the audience reacts to your marketing that is important. There is no point in generating a significant number of customers if you’ve spent all your money on the campaign and can’t deliver your products.

This is where email comes into its own. According to the same research and analysis by Hubspot, the return on investment for email marketing alone is £2,600 per £1 spent. That is staggering. When you look at direct mail, the return on investment is only £27 for every £1 spent.

When combined, the value is also much smaller at £30 for every £1 spent.

Research has constantly demonstrated that email marketing has the highest return on investment and research from last year showed that for every £1 spent, businesses can expect to see £48 returned. When print couldn’t achieve this in the example, you have to doubt whether it can achieve long lasting results for your business.

Other Arguments

One website stated that many consumers still aren’t online – however with technology as it is, there is a significant increase in the number of people with email. According to research, Northern Ireland is the worst connected area of the UK, with 20% not online but 91% of those with email check their accounts at least once throughout the day.

Another problem highlighted by direct mail enthusiasts is that there is less direct mail and more email than ever before. This means that consumers see email as the new spam. While more emails are being sent, there is also more direct mail. According to statistics, in the last two decades, direct mail now represents more than 56% of all the physical mail consumers receive. In 1990’s, it was just over a third. Therefore, print marketing has not decreased at all; it has, in fact, increased. This means that consumers may be just as fatigued from direct mail as they are from email marketing.


Evidence suggests that print marketing is more effective than email marketing regarding response rate, but not as effective as when they are combined. However, nothing has yet been proven to be as useful for return on investment as email marketing. Therefore, you shouldn’t ignore this excellent route to market.

What marketing tools do you use in marketing your business? How effective are they?

Let us know in the comments below.