Direct Mail


Direct mail describes a business marketing tactic where printed materials are delivered to existing or prospective customers’ mailboxes rather than their inboxes. Pieces of direct mail collateral can include any combination of the following informative or promotional materials:

  • Postcards
  • Coupons
  • Brochures
  • Letters
  • Catalogs
  • Company announcements
  • Cards at holidays
  • Reminders
  • Tips relevant to their industry
  • Newsletters
  • Product samples—if pricing permits

In this digital age where marketers often employ online strategies such as deploying email campaigns and embracing social media tactics, traditional methods like direct mail still have a place. Direct mail promotions can be effective if they’re targeted, personalized, and value-driven. Advances in digital printers like Xerox’s DocuTech and HP’s Indigo printers allow marketers to print extremely personalized direct mail pieces in small and large volumes. Any data element related to a contact record can be used to personalize the message or offer for increased conversion rates and ROI. These printers also allow marketers to change the graphics associated with a contact record so it’s possible to have different images based on contact attributes like sex, location, industry or favorite sports team. Statistically the more personalized a marketing campaign is the higher the response rate. Relevance and personalization are key to direct mail success and these digital printers provide marketers with those capabilities.

Often overlooked by marketers is what the USPS calls Customized MarketMail. This service allows marketers to send direct mail in odd shapes and sizes which have proven to be more effective at capturing the attention of prospects used to only receiving rectangle shaped direct mail. Examples include sending direct mail in the shape of an object, animal, or product. While these direct mail pieces will require and extra step in the printing process called die cutting the impact or response rate might make sense.Make no mistake, these campaigns are more costly to produce and deliver but they can be very effective. You can go here for more information and specifications for sending customized market mail.

Regardless of the type of direct mail campaign, you will want to purchase your own indicia so you can mail  pieces in bulk to help keep postal costs to a minimum. Most commercial printers offer clients the use of their indicia vs purchasing your own.  Other ways to save money on postage is to verify and format all of the addresses you are mailing. This is called Coding Accuracy Support System or CASS certifying your mailing. CASS software will correct and standardize addresses. It will also add missing address information, such as ZIP codes, cities, and states to ensure the address is complete. This practice will help save postage fees on your direct mail programs.

Like any marketing campaign, direct mail  can  be a costly endeavor if your mailing doesn’t deliver results.

Brands can take steps to prevent these negative outcomes by carefully tailoring the content of direct mail pieces, designing them so they stand out to recipients, and thoughtfully targeting their audience for each mailing. To make campaigns trackable, direct mail campaigns should include a specific call to actions. For example, the printed collateral could include copy that entices readers to use a coupon at a brick and mortar store, input a unique promotional code when shopping online, or even call a dedicated telephone number for more information. Tracking the number of responses compared to the total expense of completing a mailing can help a business determine the ROI of their direct mail campaign. Using digital printers also allows marketers to create unique offers trackable down the contact record. You can also use personalized URLs (purls) driving prospects to a unique landing page or online experience.

When you consider the average consumer receives over 150 emails a day, it only makes sense to test direct mail where the average consumer only reviews 2.2 pieces a day according to the USPS.Not all direct mail performs the same so it is important to test various formats as well. In some cases, a four-page long form letter might outperform a postcard or odd shaped customized market mail campaign. Like all marketing campaigns Test, Test, Test, for best results.


IMA has listed several commercial printers on our vendor directory who can help you with your next campaign.

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