Direct Mail Basics

As SPAM emails have become more common in the past few years, many clients have gone back to Direct Mail as a useful marketing tool to promote a product or announce a service / event. When we performed a focus group last year, we found that younger demographics actually enjoy reviewing their physical mail more than their online advertisements sent via email. Actually, the majority of the individuals in the focus group set up “dummy” email addresses to help filter out the noise and unwanted SPAM. However, they took time to read the traditional offers in their physical mailbox and were more likely to act upon them. With this new emphasis being place on Direct Mail, it is important to understand some of the basics.

  1. Determine demographics
    Before you begin designing your Direct Mail piece, you will need to decide who you want to receive it. This is important as it will determine how many pieces you need to have printed AND give you a ballpark as to the costs of printing, labeling and mailing this piece.
  2. Prepare mailing list
    At this point, you should have already determined the demographics you would like to reach. Now, you need to compile a mailing list. This can be done in a number of ways. Most companies will purchase mail lists from a third party vendor such as Capital List ( You can also prepare your own mailing list based on physical addresses that you either have on file OR obtain during normal business correspondences. Our experience suggests that the best way to cover a zip code or specific demographic is to reach out to a third party vendor.
  3. Create a theme
    The best Direct Mail pieces have a theme that is interesting enough to engage the end user. Themes are generally created during a brainstorming session and flushed out before actually implementing the design. For instance, you may have a need for an upcoming Direct Mail piece during the fall. In your brainstorming session, you would discuss items such as Back to School, Halloween, Thanksgiving and even fall sports such as football (if you plan on sending your Direct Mail piece to people in Columbus, OH).
  4. Design direct mail piece
    Once you have a theme selected, you can then translate that into the design. Keep in mind, the theme is supposed to pique the interest of the end user. DO NOT forget about the call to action OR the reason that you are sending out this Direct Mail piece. The example below shows a recent fall mailer that we created for South Campus Gateway. We used a football theme with a playbook that displayed various deals that individual stores provided for this piece (see below).

    South Campus Gateway Direct Mailer (Front)

    South Campus Gateway Direct Mailer (Back)

  5. Determine how you will send
    After you have created your piece, you then need to send it out. You can accomplish this in a few different ways. One option is to create labels from the list that you have and attach them to the piece. This is very time consuming. Another option is to look into having your printer take your mail list and ink jet the names and addresses onto the piece. This is much more efficient and professional. The cost / benefit analysis leans towards having your printer take care of this part. However, if you have a small quantity AND/OR you want to hand write a message on the piece, you may consider labeling.
  6. Print
    As mentioned above, finding a good printer is important in the Direct Mail process. Most third party vendors will be able to print, label and mail your piece for a small fee. Be sure to check with the printer before ordering to ensure that they can assist you with these items.
  7. Mail
    If you plan on labeling your Direct Mail piece, then you may also want to drop these off at the post office for mailing. You can get a discounted “bulk rate” in some instances. But again, selecting the right printer will take care of this step.
  8. Measure
    Finally, when you have sent out your Direct Mail piece, make sure you follow-up and measure the success of the Direct Mail campaign. Some companies like to include a unique URL or 1-800 phone number to track the effectiveness of the piece. Others simply ask new clients where they heard of their firm (in hopes of gathering information about the redemption rate of their Direct Mail piece).

 As you can see, there are plenty of items involved in a well crafted Direct Mail piece. If you are considering a Direct Mail piece for 2011, give us a call so we can help guide you through the process!

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