Snail mail or E-mail: which is the best way to reach members?

When I first saw this cartoon, I was struck by exactly how accurate it is. I remember being a kid with my first AOL account, desperate for the latest upgrade and being so disappointed that I didn’t hear “You’ve got mail!”

Years later I’m buried under spam, promotional E-mails, and group deals. Don’t get me wrong, many of these are from vendors I use regularly and have opted in to receive deals and coupons, but that doesn’t mean I read them. Or even half of them. Or even a quarter of the E-mails I get.

In fact, when I log onto my E-mail every morning I dedicate a chunk of time to checking what seems like a hundred boxes, and deleting them, sight unseen. Gmail has even gone so far as to automatically flag mail as “important” if it notices you tend to open E-mails from certain senders.

The flood of E-mail makes a good case for snail mail. I got a wedding invitation in my mailbox (the one in front of my house) last week and was thrilled to see something addressed to me and not “Sarah Hill or Current Occupant.” The amount of junk mail has even gone down since the post office has had to lay off employees, shut branches, and the price of postage has gone up. But it’s still easy to get lost under the pile of bills and “Runners World” magazines.


If you choose to go the snail mail route, you won’t be alone in that thinking. Businesses and professionals get a LOT of postal mail too. Here are some things that can make your snail mail stand out: 

Hand write the addresses– take the time to write it out. Computer generation is for people who don’t have time to be personal

Change the size and shape of the envelope– does it look like a bill? Go for a look that’s more like a greeting card. Maybe a heavier paper as well. It’ll just feel different to whoever is physically handling the mail.

Put something inside– a gift card or even just a business card will add a little lump that will pique interest


However, snail mail might not be the best option for your association. It’s without a doubt significantly more expensive and time-consuming, and sometimes you need more results quicker. There are ways to set yourself apart using primarily E-mail.

Send a personal E-mail every now and then with a personal subject– if you open it, read, and respond it’ll cause the “important” flag to fly on your future E-mails

Have a great subject line– For more help on E-mail subjects specifically, check out this blog by Vocus

Don’t E-mail too often– It’s easy to get mentally (or digitally) lumped into the “spam” category


There are advantages to both, but if I can leave you with anything remember this: make it personal. Nobody likes being just another one of a mailing list, whether it’s paper or digital!