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Marketing with Direct Mail: How To Start For Beginners

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The role of technology in our modern lives can’t be understated. That’s why for so many people, the idea of marketing is considered a digital concept. 

But thinking about marketing as solely an online activity can be misleading. In fact, many of the most effective forms of marketing take place in the offline world. 

Marketing with direct mail, or direct mail marketing, is a great example of offline marketing that can yield excellent results for businesses. In this post, we’ll walk you through exactly how beginners can start marketing with direct mail to drive great results.

Let’s get to it.

What Is Direct Mail Marketing?

Marketing with Direct Mail: How To Start For Beginners

Before we get into the nitty gritty details of direct mail marketing, let’s start with the basics. Namely, what exactly is direct mail marketing?

Direct mail marketing is a marketing effort that includes creating and sending a physical printed material to a target audience. Examples of direct mail marketing include postcards, flyers, mailers, catalogs, brochures, menus, and more.

The act of sending a physical printed material to an audience may sound simple, but the most successful direct mail marketing campaigns are more nuanced than that. For starters, they include a clearly defined target audience, persuasive copywriting, a colorful and professional design scheme, and a creative call-to-action.

Does Direct Mail Marketing Work?

With so many types of marketing to choose from, you may find yourself wondering: why direct mail marketing?

Let’s break down some of the stats on how successful direct mail marketing has been for so many businesses. 

  • Up to 90% of direct mail gets opened, compared to only 20-30% of emails. (Data & Marketing Association)
  • Direct mail marketing boasts a 9% house list response rate. This is compared to a 1% response rate among email, paid search and social media. (ANA/DMA response rate report 2018).
  • Direct mail marketing has been proven to be especially effective among baby boomers, with advertising cards, catalogs or flyers making 31% of this demographic purchase a service or product (Marketing Charts).
  • For longevity in impact, direct mail marketing also wins against online ads or email. 27% of UK consumers will still keep physical mail in their household after 28 days (2018 Direct Mail Facts and Figures).
  • The following stats apply to consumers having received addressed mail (2018 Direct Mail Facts and Figures):
    • 57% of consumers open it
    • 48.5% take a glance at it
    • 26.2% throw it away or recycle
    • 24% put it aside to check later
    • 1.6% put mail on display 

Clearly, direct mail marketing works. So how exactly do you get started?

How To Start Direct Mail Marketing 

Marketing with Direct Mail: How To Start For Beginners

For beginners, the task of creating a successful direct mail marketing campaign from scratch can be daunting. There are a lot of moving parts when planning a marketing campaign with direct mail. Figuring out how to start is often the hardest part. 

To get you going, we’re going to break down a successful direct mail marketing campaign into easy to follow steps. While certain specific details may vary from industry to industry, the overall process should follow the same basic steps.

1. Compile a targeted mailing list.

Compiling your targeted mailing list is the first step for a reason–it’s very important. The success of your campaign depends on your ability to accurately define your target audience.

Your mailing list can come from a number of places. Some companies are lucky enough to have a list of past, current and prospective customers that includes addresses. This allows you to target an existing database of people who have already interacted with your company.

While this is clearly an optimal place to start, don’t worry if your company doesn’t have this resource. In fact, most companies don’t. Instead, you can leverage the help of a list supplier.

When using a list supplier, you want to have a rough idea of your target audience already outlined. Two of the biggest factors to consider include location and demographics (age, gender, education, religion, ethnicity, etc.).

Once you have your mailing list, it’s important to really conceptualize who your audience is. You might consider creating a detailed customer persona to help flesh out some of your ideas. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is my customer’s age, gender and marital status?
  • What does my customer do for a living? 
  • Does my customer own their own home, or do they rent?
  • What are some of the challenges that my customer faces? 
  • How can my company help this customer solve this challenge? What are some of the objections they might have?

In short, you’ll need to brainstorm who your customer is from every angle. This will become important in the next step.

2. Design and develop a direct mail piece.

This next step is a fun one, because it allows you to get a little creative. You’ll need to design and develop a direct mail piece that is creative and engaging enough to spur your audience to action.

There are two crucial pieces to creating an effective direct mail piece: design and copywriting. 

Let’s start with design. For beginners, it can be tempting to use an online direct mail template. While this is definitely a great cost-effective option, your audience has likely seen some variation of this multiple times before. 

You want something that looks new and fresh in order to grab your audience’s attention. The best way to do this is by getting the help of a graphic designer. They are the professionals, and they know exactly how to create eye-catching graphics that your audience will love. 

For the copywriting aspect of your direct mail piece, it’s important to use clear and concise language. You’ll want your mailer to be easy to read with short sentences. Simplicity is key.

Don’t forget the most important part of any well-written direct mail piece: a clear call-to-action.  This is the most effective way to get the most value out of your direct mail campaign. Ask yourself: What do I want the recipient to do? Visit a website? Purchase something online? Pick up the phone?

When crafting your call-to-action, consider some sort of a special offer. Most direct mail campaigns perform best when there is some sort of an offer with urgency. For example, “Call now for 20% off your first order.”

3. Code the mailer for optimal tracking.

In order to track the success of your direct mail campaign, you’ll want to code your mailers with an identifier. This will help you determine the return on investment for your campaign.

If you are using multiple mailing lists, each segment should have an individual code. This will allow you to track the response rate for various list segments.

For example, imagine you are a realtor with a new listing and you want to hold an open house. To increase attendance, you decide to create a direct mail marketing campaign.  

You send a beautifully designed mailer with an RSVP call-to-action advertising the open house to a number of relevant audiences.

With coded mailers, you would be able to track exactly which audiences RSVP and which don’t. This information can be extremely valuable for successful open houses with future listings.

4. Conduct a test campaign and formulate goals.

This step is optional, but if you are running a larger campaign it is a best practice that we recommend. To conduct a test campaign, select a small subset of your mailing list and send them your direct mail piece.

Based on their response rate and/or reactions, you can then opt to make last minute tweaks and changes to your campaign.

During your test campaign, it is also a good time to create goals for your campaign. This way, you can measure actual campaign performance against your goals and expectations.

5. Execute the campaign.

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for…it’s time to execute your campaign! If you’ve done the previous steps correctly, this step shouldn’t be too difficult. It also helps if you’re working with an experienced direct mail partner.

While executing your campaign, you’ll want to ensure that your direct mail piece is delivered to your customer on time and on budget. The best way to do this is by using targeted delivery. This ensures that your campaign is delivered within a specific time frame.

6. Track and analyze campaign performance.

This last step is all about proving the value of your campaign. To do this, it’s important to analyze what went right and what went wrong so that you can learn and improve. 

Here are a few questions you might consider asking yourself:

  • How did my direct mail marketing campaign perform compared to my expectations?
  • What are some of the most successful aspects of the campaign?
  • What are some areas for improvement?

Accurately answering these questions can help you determine the ROI of your campaign. By proving the value of your campaign, you can determine whether it makes sense to increase your budget for future campaigns. 

However, marketers should remember that a direct mail campaign often has many benefits that can’t be tracked. Since direct mail has a long shelf life as recipients often leave it in their homes for extended periods of time, the branding opportunity is invaluable.

Final Tips for Direct Mail Marketing

The Mailworks Direct Mail Invitation Mailer

Before we let you get to it, we’ve got a few last tips and tricks to make sure your direct mail marketing campaign is as successful as possible. 

  • Never underestimate the importance of a call-to-action. A clear call-to-action in your direct mail campaign is the difference between success and failure. If it isn’t clear to the recipient what to do next, the effectiveness of your campaign drops significantly.
  • Keep it simple. The more complex your copy and design, the more likely you are to lose readers to sensory overload. You want the progression of opening and reading your direct mail piece to come naturally.
  • Include an offer. A clear offer to drive action is critical for the success of your direct mail campaign. Be straightforward about exactly what you are offering and what the reader should do.
  • Create a sense of urgency. The longer a customer waits, the less likely they are to actually take action. By creating a sense of urgency in your messaging, you increase the likelihood of your desired outcome.
  • Experiment with different formats. There are a plethora of different types of direct mail. If a certain format isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to experiment with different designs, sizes, and styles. 

More questions? Click here to set up a complimentary consultation with our experienced team.

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