Marketing / Advertising

Mastering direct mail marketing

Laura Dolan

Updated: Dec 07, 2023 · 7 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

direct mail marketing

When contemplating your next lead capture strategy, don’t write direct mail marketing off just yet. Believe it or not, direct mail can be just as effective and have the highest response rates and competitive cost-per-acquisition as email, social media and display advertising.

As a marketer, you might be asking yourself two questions:

  • How do I know if direct mail marketing is right for my business?
  • How do I build an effective direct mail marketing campaign?
  • Direct mail marketing campaigns can yield many beneficial outcomes including increased lead volume, site traffic, demo sign ups, etc. Prior to determining the content and logistics of your campaign, here are some objectives that will keep your direct mail campaign organized:

  • Setting a budget and allocating enough resources to various marketing channels
  • Attempting direct mail more than once, as mailing regularly is a requirement of successful direct mail campaigns
  • Plan your campaign details with creatives, calls-to-action, design and personalization
  • Ensure you have enough data to launch a targeted campaign with a segmented audience
  • Distribute your direct mail campaign to a large enough group to test the results
  • Having a solid understanding of your market will help you define clear objectives for your campaign and have a product that is mature enough to appeal to a broad audience. Above all, be patient with the outcome, snail mail equals slow results, it might take a while to see a difference in conversions.

    Your direct mail objectives should be part of an integrated marketing approach and should vary based on your prospects and their stage in the buyer’s journey.

    Determine cost-benefit analysis

    When launching a direct mail campaign, employing a cost-benefit analysis is a pragmatic way to measure the results.

    Overall costs can vary greatly for a direct mail campaign. Some variables to consider when determining the exact cost include:

  • Design/collateral
  • Number of recipients
  • Type of mailing (postcard, large envelope, etc.)
  • Postage (first class, standard, presorted, etc.)
  • Most successful campaigns see a 1-5% response rate, but tracking other metrics, such as conversion rates, is just as important.

    Targeting your best audience

    It’s important to take into account your target personas when building your mailing list. You need to identify which stage of the buying cycle they’re in and then align your direct mail offers to prospects accordingly.

    It’s recommended to flesh out segments of your target accounts and use fit, behavioral and intent data from your CRM, marketing automation, and predictive platforms to ensure you’re reaching the right audience.

    A modern misconception about direct mail is that it’s a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. On the contrary, direct mail is just as much about personalized and timely offers that are directed toward the right people based on all available customer and prospect data.

    Deciding what to send

    Use a principle like the AIDA formula below to help you determine what to send and prepare clear copy and a desirable offer.

    A – Attention: Attract the attention of the prospect/customer

    I – Interest: Raise interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits

    D – Desire: Convince customers that they want the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs

    A – Action: Lead customers toward action and/or purchase decisions

    Crafting a compelling call-to-action (CTA)

    The same rules apply to print as they do to digital: include a clear and compelling CTA in your mailer. The direct mail offer is one step in the buyer’s journey, so it’s imperative to guide your prospects to the next logical step.

    Use this opportunity to aim your audience to a specific landing page, making it easy for it to find more information on your website, thus helping you track the success of your campaign through clicks.

    Creating direct mail offers

    The offer is the entire reason behind the direct mail campaign, as it incentivizes your prospects to take a favorable action. Your offers can vary based on the prospects you’re targeting and the campaign’s intention. Some examples include:

  • Early bird discounts or special introductory rates to increase sales
  • Free gifts and samples to enhance brand awareness
  • Free reports or ebooks to generate leads
  • "Refer a friend" offers to expand subscription base
  • Loyalty programs to encourage upsells and cross-sells
  • If you work with a partner company, you could team up on an offer of their product in return for trying yours. To maximize lead quality, tie the offer directly to your product or service in the way of a free trial or percentage off rather than gift cards, cash or other non-relevant offers.

    Printing and mailing logistics

    If direct mail is going to become a steady addition to your marketing strategy, start building relationships with print shops. Having multiple contacts in your arsenal just in case one of them is too busy to handle your campaign needs will come in handy if you find yourself up against a tight deadline. The print shop doesn’t have to be local, it just needs to be accessible and have the availability to handle last-minute changes and deliver on time.

    Reach out to any partners or companies that have done direct mailers in the past. Use these references to ensure your print shop delivers high-quality mailers on time. If this is your first direct mail campaign, it will help to have additional information to address any questions you might have about the process.

    If your mailer is in the form of a postcard or something simple, then take them from the printer to the post office. If your mailers require folding, envelopes, order forms, etc., you’ll probably need the assistance of a mail processing facility.

    Mail processing facilities take all of your materials, gather them, and ship them via USPS. The facility will provide a quote from USPS for the shipping.

    Measuring success

    Just like other marketing campaigns, it’s important to test various offers, CTAs, headlines, images, and other elements of your mailers to see which specific strategy was the most successful. Some examples include:

  • Offers: Offer a cash discount ($10) or a percentage discount (10%)
  • Calls-to-action: Direct half of the recipients to call and the other half to email
  • Think of it as A/B testing your digital channels; testing your mailers can ensure that your next campaign outperforms the first one.

    Coding mailers to track responses

    You can track responses to your direct mail campaign by assigning each mailing a batch number. By outfitting your mailers with specific calls to action and unique codes, you can easily track each person’s response.

    To collect responses using codes, set up a unique campaign URL, email address, or phone number that invites respondents to enter their unique codes. For example,

    Make it worth their while by offering an incentive in the way of entering a raffle or collecting a prize when inviting recipients to visit your website.

    Calculating ROI

    When measuring the return on investment (ROI) of your campaign, consider:

  • Campaign audience size
  • Cost per mailing
  • Total campaign budget
  • Response rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Number of buyers
  • Average revenue per buyer
  • Revenue generated
  • Profit generated
  • When calculating direct mail ROI, use lifetime value (LTV), as direct mail-sourced customers can often have a significantly higher LTV than customers sourced through other channels.

    Get to mailing

    It may feel futile to send a direct mail campaign into the void and hear no response. But have faith and remember that timing is crucial in any marketing process.

    Take the time to build your campaign on accurate business data, target the right audience and personalize your offers to resonate with prospects. This will give you the confidence to continue sending mailers until you start converting prospects into customers.

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