How direct mail outperforms email for cold and warm acquisition campaigns

When you’re trying to work out where to spend your marketing budget, it’s tempting to put a decent wodge into digital. After all, when everyone spends their time with their noses in their phones, then it’s gotta make sense to put your budget where your customers are – right?

email versus print for customer acquisition

Headline figures are pretty incredible!

Well, it turns out that maybe, just maybe, because all your customers are spending their time Snapbooking or InstaFacing each other that – shock horror – they might not actually have the time to notice your cunning marketing message. Obv if you manage to create that viral hit we’re all so desperately trying to conjure up, then they may just be giving your brand the recognition it so richly deserves.

But if not, is it just possible your digital marketing spend might be swirling down a digital plug hole?

If the majority of your new – or indeed, your lapsed – acquisition budget gets spent on email, then you might want to look away now.

Because one of our lovely partners recently shared some fascinating insight with us on the ROIs of two campaigns – one a cold acquisition campaign and the other for warm acquisition (meaning customers had made enquiries but not bought).

They wanted to know whether direct mail or email was most effective at engaging and converting these customers and how much each cost per sale.

They’re pretty simple yet vitally important questions us marketers want to know, right? And, because of the obvious lack of cost associated with each email send, they kinda took it as a foregone conclusion that email would triumph.

Cold Acquisition campaign

The cold acquisition campaign was split between DM and Email, contacting over 900,000 cold customers with approximately one third receiving email only and two thirds a piece of direct mail.

The result?

  • The email campaign resulted in just 0.02% of email recipients enquiring with a conversion rate of 42%.
  • The DM campaign resulted in almost 1% of recipients making enquiries of which over half resulted in a sale.
  • And when the calculations were made, the cost per sale for the printed direct mail campaign was 57% lower than for the email campaign!

If you run email campaigns, you may be surprised to hear that?

Warm Acquisition Campaign

The team were pretty staggered by the cold campaign results. Not what they were expecting at all. So they turned their attention to the warm acquisition campaign.

Remember, these are prospective customers who’d previously enquired but who hadn’t yet bought. That meant the sample was much smaller. It also meant they were potentially much more valuable than the cold list, so the team opted to not only split the direct mail and email sends as before, but to send most of the list both email and DM to see how they worked together.

The split was approx. 5%/20%/75% email only/DM only/DM & email.

The result?

  • The email campaign resulted in around 3.5% enquiry rate and an enquiry to sales conversion rate of just 3.6%
  • The DM campaign resulted in a slightly lower 2.5% enquiry rate but with an enquiry to sales conversion of a massive 70%
  • The joint email & DM campaign encouraged almost 7% of enquiries but, surprisingly, only a 33% enquiry to sale conversion rate.

That said, when we look at that all important cost per sale, the joint email/DM campaign and the DM-only campaign were pretty similar at around the £20 mark.

The email-only cost worked out around 8 times higher!

Yes, you read that right. Compared to a DM campaign alone or DM combined with email, an email-only campaign to a warm list cost over 8 times more per order.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I thought the results would be.

Hopefully though, now you do know, it’ll give you a little food for thought when planning your next acquisition campaign.

Obviously, this data probably generates almost as many questions as it answers (what data doesn’t?). What was the creative like? Which sectors were involved? What were the data sources and how were the calculations made etc. etc.?

But that’s all part of the journey we all go through to understand our own sector and marketing landscape.

So if you’re looking to run your next acquisition campaign and wanting good advice from our team of print marketing specialists on what formats to choose or to navigate your way through your postage options – all of which will hopefully drive up enquiry and conversion rates even higher still – then your friendly Webmart account manager is always available to help.


If you buy a brochure, magazine or catalogue for your business, then you might find our handy cheat sheet comes in useful.

We’re always being asked some of the basics – so we decided to make this quick guide that’ll answer all the most common questions – such as:

  • Which are the most common papers to use for my brochure/magazine/catalogue?
  • How should I ask for delivery so I know they’ll come undamaged or be suitable for my warehouse?
  • What’s the most cost-effective page count for my brochure/magazine/catalogue?

You’ll find those answers and more below. Plus we’ve also laid it out as a handy pdf so you can grab a copy and save it or print it out. Just click the graphic below.

And as always, if you’ve got any further questions, email us at or call on 01869321321.Happy printing!



Designing & Specifying Brochures, Magazines & Catalogues


Click to download as a PDF

Avoid problems and save time and money with these quick tips for when you’re next designing and specifying a brochure or catalogue.

Paper types

Paper is available in different quality types. The below list shows a range starting from the highest quality (heavier, thicker, whiter) down to the lowest quality (lighter, thinner and less white):

  • Woodfree
  • Near woodfree
  • Machine coated
  • Light weight coated
  • Super calendered
  • Improved newsprint
  • Standard newsprint

You can choose matt, gloss or silk finishes, with some uncoated options on woodfree and newsprint paper types.

Page count

Your project’s page count should be divisible by four (e.g. 32, 48, 64 etc.) to facilitate binding.

The most cost-effective page counts are divisible by 16 (not including your four-page cover).

Finished size

Presses in the UK are designed to deal primarily with printing A4 and A5 sizes, so these are the most common and cost-effective options:

  • A4: 297mm x 210mm
  • A5: 210mm x 148mm

Paper weights

There are different weights available for each paper type, expressed as ‘gsm’ which means ‘grams per square metre’.

If you are printing low volumes (e.g. under about 20,000), you will need to specify a paper weight of 80gsm or higher, as this is the minimum that low volume sheet fed presses can process. Higher volumes can be printed more cost-effectively on web fed or gravure presses, which can both process paper as thin/light as 39 gsm.


Normally, four inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) are combined together to produce a good range of colours on a printed item.

Special pre-mixed inks, known as Pantone colours, are sometimes needed for colour accuracy or impact (e.g. an exact shade may be specified by a brand’s guidelines or to maximise impact).

In addition, metallic inks (including gold and silver) are available. The more colours you require, and the addition of any special or metallic inks, will increase the printing cost.


The two most common binding types are:

  • Saddle stitched: two wire staples applied into the spine.
  • Perfect bound: glue applied along the spine.

If your print project is over a certain thickness (typically anything more than 100 pages at 80gsm), then perfect bound will last longer and look better.

Cover Finishing

Adding a finish to the cover of your project will help to communicate prestige and quality, improve longevity and increase impact. Common cover finishes include:

Sealer varnish: Adds a slight texture and comes in matt, gloss or silk options.

Overall UV varnish: Adds a layer of either matt, gloss or silk texture across the whole cover.

Spot gloss UV varnish: Adds a high-gloss shine to specific areas of the cover and is often used to highlight images or logos and add tactility.

Lamination: Adds a thick, protective layer of either gloss, matt or silk plastic, which gives the cover a more rigid feel and increased longevity.

There are many other options available – tell us what you’re trying to achieve and we’ll provide ideas.


After binding, your project will need to be packed. The most common options available are listed below, starting with the cheapest and ending with the most protective:

Bulk packed on pallet (BPOP): Stacked in bundles onto a pallet then shrink wrapped.

Shrink wrapped bundles: As the finished print comes off the line they are wrapped in a film and then sent through an oven. The oven shrinks the film around the pile making them secure and less likely to be damaged. The shrink wrapped bundles are then placed onto pallets for further shrink wrapping.

Carton packed: As the bundles come off the line they are placed in boxes before being shrink wrapped onto pallets for extra protection.


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