Direct Mail: Tried and True

Creating leads & converting sales through standard marketing

Even though the U.S. Post Office has struggled lately, direct mailings via ’snail mail’ can still be an effective way to promote your business.

With the rise of online marketing, social media and email blasts, the general belief was that the Internet would kill direct mail. However, recent studies indicate direct mail campaigns are about as effective as they have been in past years. Although response rates for direct mail are still around 1%-3% that is generally the same rate for other marketing mediums including email, radio and newspaper.

Who Should Use It?

Direct mail works best for direct order offers (think retail and restaurants), but can also be great for branding (think real estate or insurance agent). The message on your mailer can drive people to your physical location, website or Social Media page.

What Works Best?

Direct mail can be a postcard, letter, catalog or flyer (catalogs have the highest rate of readership).

Direct mail campaigns (specifically postcards) are best if you promote single, specific offers – multiple offers will confuse the message and decrease customer response. These targeted mailings are also great for measuring responses since one product or service is the focal point of the promotion. It also helps in tracking the results of the mailer if you feature a particular price, coupon or redemption code.

Direct mail is also more effective if you send it multiple times (3-4 times per year should be the minimum). Each mailing can promote a different service or product (remember, just one offer at a time if you are doing a postcard) and the repetitive mailings will help generate brand awareness.

The Mailing List

One rule of thumb is: your mailing is only as good as your mailing list.

The best list is one your business has internally – consisting of current and past customers. If your company doesn’t have a database like this, it should.

If you are buying a list from a list broker, you’ll need to do your homework before you purchase it. Here are some tips when ordering your direct mail list:

  • Target your audience – make sure the list reflects the type of customer you need
  • Ask the origin of the list. Has it been compiled from public records or from customers who have responded to past offers?
  • How old is the list?
  • Has the list been run through the National Change of Address file that removes non-deliverable names?


The main costs of a direct mail campaign are:

  • Design
  • Printing
  • Mailing list
  • Postage

Costs for a direct mailing is much higher than an email campaign so your Return On Investment (ROI) will be lower so make sure its not going to bust your marketing budget.


Direct mail can be successful if it’s well designed, properly targeted, offers a specific product or service, and the results are tracked. If done right, it may just become a regular part of your advertising plan.

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