Direct mail marketing is a way to communicate directly with your targeted audience by sending a physical ad. You’re sending it by direct mail with the goal of getting new or repeat customers. Other objectives of a direct mail campaign might include educating your readers about your services and advertising anything new you have going on. 

When a business uses direct mail marketing, it might send out newsletters, postcards, or flyers. 

We talk so much about digital advertising that sometimes more traditional approaches to marketing are overlooked, so what should you know about direct mail marketing?

1. Does Direct Mail Marketing Work?

Research shows direct mail campaigns do tend to work. According to some research, these campaigns can have a higher ROI than online display ads and paid searches. The direct mail response rate, according to research cited by MailChimp, is as much as 5.3%, with email having a response rate of 0.6%. 

So what makes it effective?

  • With direct mail, customers are physically going to touch your content before they decide what they’re going to do with it. Unlike an email that they can send straight to the trash, someone viewing a direct mailer has to look long enough to determine what it is and whether it interests them in any way. If you include a coupon, call-to-action, or a promotional offer, then the customer has to keep the mailer so they can take the next step with it. 
  • If you add something personalized like your actual signature or a handwritten note, it can evoke an emotional response, and your marketing will be more memorable. 
  • You may have access to a bigger audience if your targeted audience isn’t as likely to use email or social media. 
  • There are opportunities to get creative with direct mail marketing since there’s a tactile element to it, which you don’t have with digital marketing. 
  • Companies are largely scaling back on their physical marketing because they want to focus primarily on digital marketing. That can be good for you because you are going to have less competition. It’s easier to get noticed since fewer companies are operating in this space. If you have a colorful, well-designed, and creative piece of mail, you’re going to have significantly less competition when it comes to standing out in a stack of mail, as compared to the amount of competition your website has on Google. 

2. The Cost

The cost of advertising via direct mail varies quite a bit. The more customers you target, the more you’re going to spend, but you can send postcards for a relatively low amount of money. 

As is true with digital marketing, you want to think carefully about who you want to target. For example, if you’re a lawyer, you don’t necessarily want to send out direct mailers to people who are hundreds of miles away from you—they’re not likely to come to your business for their needs. 

Spend your time and money in the places it makes the most sense. Be targeted, and it’ll help you save money and see a strong ROI

3. The Downsides

While direct mail marketing can be highly effective, you have to go into it knowing the potential downsides too. 

First, it can be expensive. It doesn’t have to be, but the costs of ad design, printing, and postage can add up. Postage costs continue to rise too, so one direct mail campaign can end up being thousands of dollars. 

It’s much harder to measure your results with direct mail as compared to digital campaigns. Digital advertisements and marketing strategies make it easy to collect data and insights. You can see how many clicks you get and which of those clicks turned into sales. With direct mail, you are going to have no real way of knowing who reads your ad and who throws it away. 

Your direct mailers can’t be changed once you send them out, either. If something isn’t performing well, you can’t just quickly go in and make a change like you can with digital ads. 

Another downside is the fact that mailing lists aren’t always accurate. If you get an address list, it could be full of errors, and that’s going to mean you’re wasting your money sending mailers to undeliverable addresses. 

4. Types of Direct Mailers

The following are examples of direct mailers:

  • Postcards are ideal for quick announcements or to promote an event. They’re somewhat cost-effective, and you can use them to let people know about a new product or service or a grand opening. 
  • Letters can include the content you’re sending out and perhaps a form for someone to send back a response. 
  • Self-mailers are sent without an envelope. An ad is folded, and then the address and postage are added. Self-mailers can be used for product or service announcements, or you can send a newsletter in this format. 
  • Inserts and wraps are included within other mailers. You might add them to magazines or catalogs, for example. 
  • Dimensional mailers are the most expensive, using pop-ups and 3D design elements. These are best suited to targeted ad campaigns. 

5. Best Practices

A few things you should do for a more successful direct mail campaign include:

  • Define your audience. Research your target customer so you can figure out where they’re most likely to live, and you aren’t wasting your money. 
  • Consider doing some testing first. You can send test batches to track engagement using something like a coupon code that’s unique to a particular campaign. This will help you see how many customers are using it. 
  • Make sure your mailer has a call to action. Think about what you want your customer to do, and clearly define it for them. 
  • Don’t forget to proofread your mailers. Remember, once you send it out, you can’t do it over again. It’s going to be a first impression of your business for a lot of people, so make sure you have someone look it over before you send it out. 

Finally, drive traffic to wherever you are online. This might be your social platforms or your website, for example. You can bridge traditional and digital marketing and make them work together with one another.