I hate it. We all hate it.

E-mail has turned into the digital telemarketer during dinner. It’s too much, too often, and - in my lowly estimation - too cheap. I wish they’d charge for it so the spammers, slammers, and scammers could just go bother someone else.

In the meantime, you and I nearly dread the return from a vacation, finding inboxes crammed with promised millions, Viagra offers, male “enhancements” and some scandalous promise from the marketing world. (Yes, probably even me on occasion.)

Many of you have e-zines for clients who visit your Website. Yahoo! Great move, that’s an awesome babystep toward the relationship. But it cannot stop there, or in fact, it WILL stop there … then retreat.

MarketingSherpa - an online marketing training company - conducted a study of 4,000 e-mail/e-zine publishers and found some startling news about e-mail backlash. If you ONLY use e-mail as a customer contact, they found that “credibility and readership” were most at risk. Seems those might be important.

Shocker No. 2: They found many online, solely digital based businesses “finally” resorted to postal mail to drive customers to portal and commerce sites with resounding results. One seminar company ($40 million in sales) that teaches how to make money on the internet found its biggest response to seminar attendance was from - gulp - postal mail.

Re-read the first 3 sentences of this article. Now read the rest of this entry and the strategies you should consider now to grab your customer’s attention while your competition is looking for the “cheap” way to drive them to boredom….

Bottom Line: Postal mail is back, in a big way.

Almost immediately, we launched a paper and ink newsletter mailed to our top clients (CRC and MegaMarketer members receive The Contractor MegaMarketer every month.) We’ve been bugging you about this trend, feeling it would only get worse. We were half right.

It got worse, but for two different reasons: distraction and interruption.

Whereas postal mail can be read at leisure, and other media can be chosen or not, e-mail continues to relentlessly bling into place, ever heightening the stack of “unopened” mail, each begging for attention … while some legitimate e-mail lands in the SPAM folder for no discernable reason. (Case in point: I’m doing a product exchange with a man I’ve communicated with for a couple months; today, without warning I see his proposal is in my SPAM folder ... and has been for 2 weeks. Why? He had a dollar sign in his e-mail.)

I was sure I was on the “other side” of the age group attempting to form a “Let’s Kill the Sender of the Next E-mail I Didn’t Request” party. But no, not by a rather long shot. And the “target” audience that contractors are after hate e-mail more than you do!

So, here’s where I admit I was half-wrong, twice in one article. Quoted from Vertis Communications study on readership habits and advertising response:

“Despite the rise of Website, e-mail, and other electronically based advertisements, printed direct-mail marketing pieces are still widely read, especially by women ages 25 to 44.

"Eighty-five percent of women ages 25 to 44 (with e-mail accounts) said they read printed direct-mail pieces compared to just 53 percent who read e-mail advertisements. The percentage of young women who read e-mail advertisements has not changed from 2005, when 54 percent indicated they viewed this type of marketing. Numbers for women 45-65 were 94 percent and 45 percent, increasing the e-mail to postal gap markedly.”

Double oops. Your “target” group prefers postal mail, and e-mail readership hasn’t gone up at all in 3 years. (Remember, the prediction was that the U.S. Post Office would be nearly shut down by now!)

After a year of our print plus e-mail versions, results have been astounding. We “point” from one to the other, engaging people at the level they prefer. Likewise, we point from e-mail to web, web to phone, and mail to both. E-mail alone could never accomplish this. Also.…

Ever try finding that e-mail you so enjoyed 4 months ago? Sure, I can print it out and save it, but who does? But with “real” mail, I can keep up with it in one location quite handily. Mark it up, dog ear, write on it, rip a coupon and put it in my wallet.

Your strategy in a limping economy -

• Build a huge, impenetrable fence around your customer base starting yesterday using a variety of media. Primary means is direct mail. Secondary means is Telephone (as thank you to every service visit, follow up to request referrals). Third means is e-mail identified clearly as from you and NOT a solicitation.

• Postal mail contact frequency per customer: 4-12 times per year with at least 4 contacts as “soft sell” and/or educational pieces (newsletters, reminders, or other). Two to four more can be “celebratory” (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.) The remainder direct response offers.

• IN ADDITION to above, you can e-mail up to twice as often (since delivery rates are so pathetic) making sure every contact is run through a SPAM filter. More trigger words are added daily:http://hudsonink.com/marketing_ektid1506.aspx

Remember, your credibility is contained in how you contact your customers. If YOU ONLY communicate in a way that’s cheap and grossly overused, don’t be surprised if you’re “associated” thereby. Combine your contact methods. Let postal mail “drive” customers to the phone and to your Website; pound your name into their recall for their friends and neighbors.