I recently asked Vince Errico, Schwab's VP eCommunications, a former direct mail marketer at American Express, how email and direct mail are different. He said,"Email is not just a cheap form of direct mail. It is not! And if you treat it that way, you will alienate the customer and you won't be able to get that customer back. Once they say, 'Don't email me anymore', you can't email them anymore. Stricter laws are coming into place with email than for physical mail.
"Also, if you treat email just as a cheap form of direct mail, you're missing the most important aspects of brand building in a way physical mail can't. You're missing the interactive aspects of email, the ability to allow customers to try something right then and there on the spot.
"A lot of direct mail rules don't apply to email. Things like choice. In physical mail you want to offer people as few choices as possible because generally speaking more choices depress response rates. In the email world that's not necessarily true. Customers have expectations online that they don't through physical mail. They are used to interacting with Web pages. You should be able to offer them their choice of customizing the experience they're about to have with you. In the end that's what's going to close the sale."
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