Direct Mail is still arguably the most effective marketing tool, still going strong after years of success, with 72% of people opening ALL of their post (according to the clever people at Royal Mail), it offers ‘open rates’ email marketers can only dream of.

So what are the trade secrets that you can emulate to ensure success in your own campaign?  Read on and learn how to  become a direct mail master.

1. It All Starts With Your List

By far the most important thing you can do to influence the success of your direct mail campaign is to spend time on your database.

Who do you want to contact?  Really think about it for a moment…

Is contacting everyone on your database the best option?  Or is there a portion of your list that actually, this particular campaign wouldn’t appeal to?  If that’s the case cross them OFF of your list right now.  Why waste the postage?  Why turn them off by sending them something that they’re not interested in so won’t buy into anyway?  Surely it’s better to send something to just 100 people of your 1000 strong list who you know are highly likely to buy into what you’re offering, then sending it to the full 1000 – you’re not increasing your chances of a sale, just wasting money.

Decide if purchasing contact data is right for this campaign.  You may want to extend your reach beyond that of your existing database, in which case make sure the data you are purchasing is as targeted as possible – again there’s no point buying a million contacts if only 1000 of them are relevant:

  • Look at targeting such as location – if you’re a shop in Brixham there’s no point getting addresses from people in Scotland, they’re really not likely to travel that far.
  • Make sure you buy your list from a highly reputable source as there are big penalties around data protection that you don’t want to fall foul of.  One local company who comes highly recommended to us is Corpdata, they’ve certainly been very helpful when we’ve enquired about how to purchase lists.
  • Be aware that you can buy different types of license for your list, and this affects the price.  The cheapest option is to buy a license for a 1 off use, so you can only send this campaign to that list and never use the list again, however it can be much more cost effective to spend a little more and buy a 12 month license, so that you can send as many direct mail campaigns to the address list as you like, within 12 months.

Once you’ve whittled your list down to just those who would be interested in this particular campaign, spend a bit of time ‘cleaning’ your list.   *WARNING* this is possibly the most boring thing you may ever have to do.  Ever.  BUT it will pay off so persevere.  Just checking your list to make sure, for example, all the ‘First Names’ are actually in the ‘First Name’ column will mean that every letter you send out actually has the first name in the right place.  There is nothing worse when it comes to Direct Mail, than going through all the hard work of getting the campaign to the point of delivery, only for the customer to open their letter and read ‘Dear   ,’ … looks sloppy and immediately devalues you.  Sale lost.  Game over.

2. Define Your Objectives

Simply put:

  • Why do you want to send a direct mail campaign?
  • What one thing do you want to tell your customers?
  • What one thing do you want your customers to do once they have received it….and what’s in it for them?

Once your objectives are defined, it’s much easier to look at your design and content, because you can then ensure that everything you say and do reflects your objectives, start deviating from the point and delete it.  Once your campaign goes live you can also use your objectives to help you measure your ROI (return on investment).

3. Cracking Design & Content

First of all you need to decide what kind of direct mail you want to send.

If the message is short, sweet and instantly taken in, a simple postcard could be a great time and cost effective solution.  If you’re sending something a little more meaty, perhaps with vouchers, a brochure or catalogue; then you also need to look at designing the envelope and writing the sales copy for your letter.  If you’re not sure where to start, have a chat with your designer or printer who will both be able to give you their pearls of wisdom and recommendations based on the benefit of their experience.  Don’t be afraid to tap into their expertise.

Now, let’s talk about your envelope.  An often overlooked area of marketing is the very envelope you send your direct mail out in.  Why not brand it and use the additional space to tell your customer (and the postman!) something exciting – give them a reason to be one of the 72% who will actually open this mail, because you don’t want them to be one of the 28% who will put it in the bin.  Be aware though that there are certain areas of the envelope you cannot print onto, due to Royal Mail guidelines (you know, so they can see where they’ve got to deliver it to and such).  Again your designer or commercial printer will be able to help you out here.

You’ve got your envelope sorted, now you need to think about your cover letter.  Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to include one, reading a letter helps your customer see it as genuine mail rather than junk mail, which builds their trust in you and takes them one step further towards buying from you.  Furthermore it’s an opportunity to really personalise this mail, including their name in the greeting for example, and writing the copy as though you are talking to a friend you know well, all build towards a much higher response rate.

A successful direct mail campaign ALWAYS has something on offer.  ‘Free’, ‘discounted’ or ‘bonus’ are just some of the effective ways to dress up your offerings.  The way you write your offer down should create desire by the reader to have it, increasing their likelihood of buying.  BUT be aware of what you are offering and consider:

  • Is this offer appropriate for the people I am targeting and will it appeal to them?
  • Will this offer give me a good ROI (ie will it pay for the direct mail campaign and still give me a profit)?
  • Will this offer devalue my business (ie are people likely to pay full price for my products/services in future if I offer this now)?
  • Will this offer send a positive message out about my product/service and company?

Now that you have your offer sorted and you are happy that it is the right offer for the right target customers, you need to think about what your customers want to know about what you’re offering – not what you want to tell them!  What is more important to them, the features or the benefits?  For some target audiences it’s important for them to know technical specifications in order to make a purchase decision but for others they need to know about the benefits of this product/service and how it will enrich their lives.  Whichever best suits, be sure that your writing is specific and to the point so you don’t lose their interest, and show that you know your stuff as an authority in your industry.  Use this as an opportunity to build your credibility.

Now, include a call to action – tell your customers what you want them to do.  This should be really clear and pop off the page.  If you want them to call you to buy their product, tell them to call you now and give them your phone number.  If you want them to go online and order, tell them and give them your website address.  If they don’t know what you want them to do, and you don’t give them the right information, you won’t make any sales.

A few other points to consider about the overall design of your direct mail campaign:

  • Make sure your branding and logo are clear and consistent with everything else you do, this is what instantly identifies your company before the customer has even read a single word.
  • Make sure your contact details are easy to spot, bold and clear, there’s nothing more frustrating to a customer than to have to work to find a telephone number.
  • It is worth your time and it is worth your money to get your design and sales copy right.  Listen to your experts too – your designer and your commercial printer will both have experience that you can draw on, so use it!

 4. Understand Your ROI

How will you measure your success?  Remember that ROI is not just about how much you made from sales from that campaign, consider also the lifetime value of each new customer.  That said, there are lots of things you can do to help you measure and increase your ROI and future ROI:

  • Use offer codes so you know that a sale is as a direct effect of your direct mail campaign.
  • Make sure ALL your staff know about the campaign from the day it goes live, brief them to up-sell from any call referencing it, and for those who don’t ASK THEM if they have received your mailer.  If not then this is a golden opportunity to ask them if they’d like to join your mailing list.
  • Crucially, have a way for everyone to record details of people responding to your direct mail campaign so that you can get a true idea of your success.
  • What will you do when your customers act on your direct mailer to add value to your campaign?  Consider how you could turn them into followers of your social media pages, get them to sign up to your e-newsletters and send them follow up direct mail relevant to them.  All of these things and more can help build your ROI by retaining customers and nurturing them for future sales opportunities.
  • Follow up your direct mail campaign….with another direct mailer.  Be sure to reference your previous mailer as customers are more likely to act on the second or third mailer they received from you, increasing your campaign’s success.
  • Vary and test the types of direct mail you send and the types of wording you use, to see what has the most response from your customers.  It’s a good idea to split test to a portion of your database first, so that you only print and send the most successful version of your mailer to the rest of the database and so increase the success of your campaign.

A Few Things to Consider…

Before you post out your direct mail campaign, could you cope with the extra business / phone calls etc this campaign will deliver?  Something to consider is staggering deliveries so that the increased workload is manageable and sustainable over a longer period.

Consider timing when sending out your direct mail campaign.  Time of year / season / key annual events will most likely impact on your success.

Using a professional commercial printer / direct mail specialist (like us!) could save you a lot of time and money.  You can benefit from our experience and pay less than if you tried to do it yourself – the savings on postage alone will astound you.

Facts About Direct Mail

72% of people open ALL of their post*

Email marketing has an average open-rate of up to 25%** (depending on industry sector)

Combining direct mail with digital builds on the strength of each*

57% of people say mail makes them feel more valued vs email*

62% of people believe Direct Mail is the best form of Marketing***

70% of people like receiving vouchers in the mail***

72% of people who received Direct Mail made purchases online***

83% of people say Direct Mail is easier to take in than email***

57% of people are more likely to remember a message by Direct Mail***

Contact our #PrintGeeks

[email protected]

0800 093 2960

More interesting reading from us

How Specialist Direct Mail Printers Will Save You Money

How to Spend Less on Print

Small Business Marketing and Why Print is Key

Looking for a Commercial Printer? Come in and see what we do

How We Can Do More For You



* Royal Mail

** MailChimp

*** Central Mailing Services

Photo Credit: BazzaDaRambler via Compfight cc


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