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Direct mail marketing campaigns deliver physical advertising materials to the mailboxes of targeted customers. It’s more affordable than magazine ads, and generally enjoys higher response rates than email. It’s best for businesses with a mailing list looking to promote a new product or service, an event, or seasonal offering.

Types of Direct Mail Marketing

The main types of direct mail marketing materials include newsletters, traditional letters, self-mailers, catalogs, and packages. Each type serves a unique purpose, allowing businesses to achieve marketing goals from general brand awareness to increased sales.

Here are the five most common types of direct mail marketing materials:

Newsletters: Businesses often send a monthly newsletter providing subscribers with news updates and details on upcoming events. These serve as a way to remind customers of your business and to promote goods, services, and events to subscribers.

Letters: A traditional letter may be sent to customers to share a single message. Given the formal nature of a letter, they are typically used to convey more serious or sensitive marketing messages. For example, a medispa may use direct mail letters to send a promotional offer for treatment to patients who have had that treatment in the past.

Self-mailers: These are materials such as brochures and postcards that do not use an envelope. They are a leading direct mail marketing type because the message is visible without the receiver having to open anything. This increases the likelihood that the recipient will see your message.

Catalogs: Booklets and catalogs showcase a business’s product offerings. Due to the high cost of printing and shipping hefty catalogs, they are usually reserved for promotion of high-end products and are sent only to qualified leads.

Packages: These typically contain a letter, along with additional marketing materials, such as a catalog or product samples. Packages are usually reserved for loyal, high-value customers a business is trying to retain.

Review each type of direct mail advertising above and consider how it fits it into your overall marketing strategy or business goals. Pick the ones that are most likely to result in customer conversion or engagement and consider using multiple types for greater effect.

Direct Mail Marketing Costs

Direct mail marketing costs anywhere from $1 to more than $10 per contact or piece of mail, depending on factors such as design costs, printing costs, and postage fees. Businesses sometimes also purchase a mailing list for a flat fee, providing them with a set number of contacts—like $300 for 180 contacts.

Direct Mail Marketing Costs At a Glance

Design
$0-$100
DIY
Hire a designer

Marketing Copy
$0-$100
DIY
Hire a copywriter

Mailing List
$0-$2 per contact
Use an existing list, or compile your own
Buy a mailing list

Printing
3 cents-$10/piece
Postcards
Catalogs

Shipping
35 cents-$5+/piece
Postcards
Packages

It’s important to note that working with direct mail companies often results in significant discounts—especially for large orders. For example, if you design your own standard postcard using Moo.com, it will cost around $25 plus 35 cents each to print and mail 1,000 postcards ($600 total). If you buy uncustomized postcards off the shelf, they might cost as much as 50 cents each, plus 35 cents to mail them. The total, in this case, rises to $850 for 1,000 postcards.

Design Costs ($0-$100)

Using direct mail requires designing your marketing materials. The two main options to do this are hiring a graphic designer or doing it yourself. If you have the time and are looking for an affordable way to design your materials, try using a website such as Canva, which has many prebuilt templates, or use a printing company like OpportunityKnocks, Moo, or Vistaprint that provides hundreds of free templates that you can customize to suit your needs easily.

Marketing Copy Costs ($0-$100)

Marketing copy is the persuasive messaging used in your direct mail pieces. You can write this yourself or hire a professional copywriter. The cost will vary based on the individual’s experience level and rate as well as how much copy you need. Given that direct mail typically is not overly copy-heavy, you should be able to find someone for as little as $5 from Fiverr.

Mailing List Costs ($0-$2/contact)

The best mailing list is comprised of your leads and customers. However, not all businesses have an existing mailing list and, sometimes, using an existing list does not meet the goals of the direct mail campaign. In cases where you need a mailing list, either compile your own contacts, or you may consider purchasing a mailing list. Purchasing a mailing list can be expensive, however, and it is not generally advised as mail sent unsolicitedly to these contacts is spam.

Printing Costs (3 cents-$2/piece)

Marketing materials need to be professionally printed to present your business well. There are tons of printing services available, such as Vistaprint, PSprint, and Moo. Pricing will vary by provider, as well as by a number of factors such as paper size, paper quality, color, and quantity. For example, the cost to print a full-color 4×7 postcard on PSprint is around $25 for 100 pieces (25 cents/piece) or around $55 for 1,000 pieces (5 cents/piece).

Shipping Costs (35 cents-$2/piece)

The final cost involved with direct mail is shipping costs. The price will vary based on the size of your mail, its weight, and destination. For reference, postcards mailed within the United States currently cost 35 cents each, whereas a large, heavy catalog could cost upwards of $5 each. Keep shipping costs in mind when determining the overall budget for your direct mail campaign and when considering which size marketing mailer to use.

When to Use Direct Mail Marketing

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Photo by Cytonn Photography

Direct mail marketing does not fit every marketing goal, although it is best used as an affordable strategy to build awareness, promote a new offering or event, and remind customers of your business and its products or services.

Here are the three best reasons to use direct mail marketing:

To build awareness: Get the word out about your business by sending direct mail to people within your target audience that are not yet customers.

To remind customers of your business: Mature businesses may choose to send direct mail to existing customers and contacts to remind them of your business and its products and services.

To promote a new offering or event: Direct mail is a good way to promote a new product or service as well as upcoming events.

Generally, direct mail is an inexpensive way to build awareness of new products and services and remind customers of your business. Before you dive into a direct mail campaign, however, consider the likely return on investment carefully. If you believe other, cheaper marketing methods might also achieve your goals, consider using them first.

Elements of Effective Direct Mail Design

Direct mail designs will vary based on the purpose they serve and the type of direct mail, such as a newsletter or a postcard. However, every direct mail piece should include certain elements that make it effective. These elements include an image, a headline, body copy, and an offer or a call to action (CTA).

Here are five elements every direct mail design should include:

Eye-catching color or image: Use high-quality photos or a background color to catch your reader’s eyes. This will draw them in and compel them to read your message.

Your business name or logo: Give your reader a way to quickly identify that the direct mail is from your business by prominently displaying your logo or business name.

Headline: Use a large headline to give the reader a teaser of your message quickly and to get them to read on.

Body: This is the additional sales copy that builds off your headline and makes the reader want to follow through on the call to action at the end of the mailer.

Offer/CTA: Every piece of direct mail should include an offer or CTA. This is where your reader will take action and move further along the sales funnel. Your CTA can be as simple as “Call now” or “Visit us online to receive your offer.” Be sure, however, that you include a tracking element, such as a quick response (QR) code or unique link, so that you can track the mailer’s success.

How to Create an Effective Direct Mail Campaign in 5 Steps

Get the most out of your marketing budget and create an effective direct mail campaign that drives conversions. To create a successful direct mail marketing campaign, choose a goal, identify your target audience, select a compelling CTA or offer, create a visually pleasing design with a powerful message, decide when to send your mailers, and track the success of your campaign.

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Photo by Brett Jordan

Here’s how to create an effective direct mail campaign in five steps:

1. Choose Your Campaign Goal

Every direct mail campaign needs to have one clear campaign goal or marketing objective. This is what you are looking to achieve by sending your mailers. This could be anything from building general brand awareness to capturing the attention of potential customers, increasing sales of a specific product or service, or increasing attendance at an upcoming event. Determine your campaign goal by deciding what your ideal campaign outcome is.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

With your campaign goal in mind, identify who are exactly the right people to receive your mailer. This can be existing customers who are likely to have an interest in your offerings or people who fit a certain demographic or behavioral profile.

For example, a dental practice is using direct mail to promote a new take-home teeth whitening kit to target existing patients. They narrow that audience further to include only patients who have received in-office whitening treatments within the last five years, but not within the last year. This gives the practice a target audience that is likely to be interested in their new product offering, which increases the likelihood of conversion.

3. Choose a Compelling CTA or Offer

Your campaign needs to include a CTA or an offer that the reader can take advantage of. It should be something of value to your reader—an event of interest or compelling product discount. In the example of the dental practice above, they decided to offer their new teeth whitening kit at half price.

4. Create Your Direct Mail Piece

Direct mail consists of three main elements: your mail format—postcard, newsletter, brochure, or other format—your messaging and copy, and your visual design. Choose the format that serves your message and your audience best by considering how much space you need to present your marketing message. Next, write your copy in a concise and compelling way that gives your reader a desire to convert. Lastly, create a visually pleasing design that backs your message.

Select Your Format

Your mailer format will depend on several factors, including your available budget, your campaign goal, and target audience. Generally, postcards are good for brand awareness campaigns, product promotions, holiday greetings, and event announcements. Brochures are better for introducing new products as they allow businesses to add more in-depth information. Catalogs should be used sparingly and are best sent once or twice a year with full product portfolios.

Write Your Copy

For a direct mail marketing campaign to be successful, it needs to use effective messaging. To craft your own, determine your marketing goal, and use your direct mail to promote that single message. Be sure to consider your audience carefully and use your copy to deliver content that is valuable or helpful to them.

Also, be sure to include copy that addresses your audience’s pain points or wants/needs. Include hooks and teasers to keep them reading and encourage them to take action on the CTA that appears at the end of the mailer.

Design Your Mailer

A well-designed piece of direct mail is eye-catching and draws in a reader. It supports a powerful message by delivering it in a compelling way. While designs may vary greatly from campaign to campaign, there are certain things to every business should keep in mind when designing a piece of direct mail. These include using quality imagery and legible fonts, limiting the amount of copy, leveraging contrasting colors, and showcasing an enticing offer.

man writing on white board
Photo by Campaign Creators

Here are four tips on how to design your direct mail marketing materials:

Use high-quality images: Use professional images that are high-resolution. Not only will this ensure your direct mail presents your business in a professional light, but it will also ensure that the image comes out clear when printed.

Choose legible fonts: A reader may miss out on even the most effective messaging if they cannot easily read it. Select a font that can be read easily at a glance, and make sure the color you choose contrasts with the mailer background.

Reduce the amount of copy used: Be as concise as possible with your copy and messaging. Generally, the more copy used in marketing, the less is read, so cutting down the copy will help get your message to your readers faster.

Avoid clutter: Choose a design that is clean and free of clutter. A busy-looking piece can confuse readers by obscuring your one marketing message. Make sure your design includes plenty of white, or blank, space and each section has space around it.

5. Schedule and Track Your Mailing

Determine the best time to send your mailing. If you are promoting a seasonal product or service, be sure to send the mailing right before the start of that season—or early enough so buyers can take advantage of your offer before the season ends. Mailings for events should be sent in advance. After distributing your mailing, you will want to know how effective it is.

5 Best Tools & Services for Direct Mail Marketing

There are many tools, both premium and free, that help businesses easily create direct mail that converts. These include graphic design platforms like Canva, which offers prebuilt, customizable marketing material templates, free professional photo repositories like Pixabay, and QR-code generators. All of these are readily accessible to businesses.

Here are the five best tools and services for direct mail marketing:

Canva: Canva is a very easy-to-use design platform that requires no graphic design skills. It is free to use and includes tons of customizable templates, including postcard, brochure, and newsletter templates.

Pixabay: Pixabay is stock photography platform where you can search and browse thousands of high-quality, professional images that are free to download. Use it to discover eye-catching images for your direct mail pieces.

Opportunity Knocks: Opportunity Knocks is a targeted postcard marketing company that helps businesses create and implement strategic direct mail campaigns.

QR Code Generator: QR Code Generator is a free and easy-to-use QR code website where you can create codes that can be used on your mailers. Use QR codes on your mailer to track engagement. Ask users to scan it to receive an offer or more information.

Fiverr: If you want a low-cost way to outsource your direct mailing design, use Fiverr to find professional freelance graphic designers who can create custom designs for you for as little as $5.

There are many direct mail marketing tools and services available, including free and paid options. Taking advantage of these can help you create the best campaign possible while keeping your expenses low and increasing your return on investment.

Do’s and Don’ts of Direct Mail Advertising

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema

When creating a direct mail campaign, there are certain things you want to do and others that you want to avoid, such as including mixed messages or targeting too large an audience. Being aware of these direct mail do’s and don’ts will ensure your direct mail campaign will effectively convert readers into customers.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of direct mail marketing:

Top 5 Direct Mail Marketing Do’s:

Use one clear message: Include only one marketing message in your direct mailer. Using more than one will confuse readers and dilute your message.

Be discerning in your audience targeting: Be sure that your direct mail audience is a good fit to receive your message. Otherwise, your conversion rate will be very low.

Tailor messages to your target audience: When writing your copy, consider what type of message and verbiage will best speak to your audience.

Include a compelling offer: Choose an offer that will be of value to your audience to drive conversions.

Track your campaign’s success: Make sure you can determine your campaign’s success by adding unique coupon codes, URLs, or QR codes to your mailers, then tracking clicks, scans, or uses to measure engagement.

Top 5 Direct Mail Marketing Don’ts:

Spam readers: Avoid sending unsolicited mail to people who do not want it or have not heard of your business. Use mailing lists generated by your business that fit within your target audience and are designed for your specific campaign.

Use a generic message: Don’t use generic messages as they are typically used to capture the interest of a large group with varying interests. These should only be used for campaigns that do not allow for specific audience targeting, such as billboards and radio ads.

Send to a large number of people: If you successfully create a precise message and an audience to match, you shouldn’t be left with a massive audience. Direct mail should be highly targeted, and therefore, sent to a smaller, more qualified audience.

Use low-resolution images or graphics: Low-resolution images and graphics may appear blurry or pixelated in print. Use high-quality images and graphics to ensure your mailer looks professional when printed.

Overlook timing: Timing can make a big difference in the success of a direct mail campaign, so you want to be strategic about scheduling a mailing. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, design, print, and ship your mailers to avoid them being sent too late. This is especially critical for event-based and seasonal promotions.

When creating your direct mail campaign, choose a specific audience to target and use one clear message that speaks to that audience. Include a compelling offer and a way to track your campaign’s success, such as a QR code. Keeping these in mind will help you target the right people and increase the likelihood of audience engagement.

3 Examples of Direct Mail Marketing

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Photo by Yogas Design

While all successful direct mail marketing pieces will have compelling imagery and copy, as well as a clear CTA and prominent branding, the actual formatting of these elements differs for different campaigns. To inspire your own direct mail creation, consider the five examples below that showcase effective direct mail design.

1. Ni Hao Panda Announcement

Why it works: This simple direct mailer focuses on what China Tours believes will entice the most readers—the picture of a cute panda. This draws readers in to learn more about how they can see the panda; information is teased out in the copy on visiting China and contact information for setting up a trip (the CTA) is included at the bottom.

2. Sugartown Florals Reminder Mailer

Why it works: Sugartown uses this attractive mailer to capture the attention of past customers. The unique, charming floral arrangement reminds them quickly of Sugartown’s expertise, and aligns the color of the flowers with the color of the primary message: “Always fresh, always hand-picked.” Lastly, the simple copy draws the reader in with a special discount and contact information for placing their next order.

3. The Nutty Baker New Product Information

Why it works: The Nutty Baker knows that its audience is likely to love donuts, so this is front and center on their promotional mailer. The cute, fun graphic offers some standout personality to the piece, while the message is clear: new donuts are available at the bakery. While the mailer doesn’t include contact information or a location, it might be relying on customer knowledge of the business—which means they don’t have to include contact details.

Conclusion

There are almost endless ways to use direct mail. However, businesses should be sure design, copy, branding, and applicable CTAs are all in alignment. Then, the campaigns should be tracked to determine their success.

Sofia Nikolaishvili
Latest posts by Sofia Nikolaishvili (see all)

Sofia Nikolaishvili

After earning a professional degree in linguistics and literature I decided to try out blogging to explore my passion for writing and gain first hand experience. I write about everything I'm interested...

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