What is direct mail?
Direct mail is a type of marketing that delivers printed promotional materials to prospective customers using a postal or courier service. Even as more forms of marketing become digitized, direct mail remains a highly effective and profitable outreach method. By sending out tangible, printed materials, it leaves a lasting impression on readers. Additionally, direct mail allows businesses to speak directly to their target audience, aiming the right message at the people who need to hear it most.
What to send over direct mail
Direct mail includes many different kinds of printed marketing materials. Some of the most common ones are:
Key components of direct mail marketing
Defining your audience
Direct mail is most effective when it’s sent out to a specific, well-targeted group. Define your audience based on the demographics of your ideal customer, taking into consideration factors such as gender, age, education, income level, marital status and employment status.
Another relevant question in forming the right target audience is whether your message is aimed at new customers or at your existing clientele. In case your business is location-based, you can also narrow down the audience by area or by neighborhood.
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The mailing list
The mailing list is a key factor in the success and efficiency of any direct mail campaign. It allows for a direct channel of communication with your target audience and saves costs by decreasing the amount of irrelevant people you contact.
You can either purchase or rent out a mailing list through list brokers. While less expensive, renting a mailing list entitles you to just a single use of the provided names and addresses. For future use, you can only keep the names of those who’ve reached out to you through the campaign.
Other sources for renting mailing lists include colleges and universities, phone or credit card companies and more.
Whether it's visiting your website, making a purchase or filling out a survey, a well-defined CTA eliminates confusion and steers your audience towards an intended purpose. This is a critical element for driving conversions and engagement with your campaign.
A sense of urgency
People are more likely to respond to your direct mail campaign if they perceive an offer as something valuable or beneficial. Therefore, your offer should address your audience’s needs and provide a clear incentive for them to act, whether it's through discounts, free trials, or exclusive promotions.
Visually appealing design
Direct mail marketing allows for creativity, and a well-designed mail piece with eye-catching graphics or colors can capture recipients' attention and make the message more memorable. Additionally, a visually appealing design can convey professionalism and trustworthiness, which are essential for building brand credibility and trust.
Follow up sequence
A recommended practice for direct mailing is to follow up with customers several days after the mail was sent. A phone call is a personal way of making sure that they received the letter, and a great opportunity for pitching your best offer.
How much do direct mail marketing campaigns cost?
Prices for direct mail marketing can vary depending on the scale and scope of your campaign. Your price breakdown should include:
You can use tools like the USPS direct mail cost calculator to budget and plan accordingly.
Examples of direct mail marketing
Some examples of effective direct mail campaigns could include a gym sending out a postcard with a free trial membership offer to people from the local neighborhood. Or a real estate agent sending out a personalized letter to homeowners within a certain radius who might be interested in selling their home. Alternatively, a retailer could choose to send out a catalog featuring their latest products and offer a limited time promotion to customers who have previously made a purchase from their store.
Advantages of direct mail marketing
Generating leads can help increase sales and build brand awareness.
Tangible benefit since it's a physical form of marketing, that can make a lasting impression on potential customers.
Greater customization for each recipient, making mail campaigns more personalized and relevant.
Wider reach to connect to a wider demographic. For example, if you are intending to reach customers that are not on social media or have a lesser online presence, direct marketing can reach those who may not engage with digital efforts.
Challenges of direct mail marketing
Costly. When taking into account all the expenses including design, printing and delivering it can be an expensive endeavor.
Hard to measure. Unlike online marketing where there are often trackable metrics like open rate and click-through rates, direct mail does not provide that kind of information.
Not editable. If there's a spelling error or spacing issue, it is not possible to fix once a mail campaign has been sent out. It is extra important to have several final edits of content before mail is mailed out.
Inaccurate mail lists. It can be hard to obtain accurate mail lists and you still may encounter mailing issues, meaning undeliverable mail won’t reach the intended customer. This is why targeted mail lists are essential.
For a completely contrasting approach to marketing that takes place only online, check out our What is SEM guide.
Direct mail marketing FAQ
Is direct mail marketing still effective?
Yes, direct mail marketing can be highly effective when used in conjunction with other marketing channels.