Direct Mail Marketing 101

What Is Direct Mail Marketing Or Direct Mail Advertising?

Direct mail marketing is a type of direct response marketing defined as sending physical promotional materials to past, current, or prospective customers. Promotional materials used in direct marketing can range from postcards and letters to brochures, catalogs and promotional items such as magnets, USB sticks, and product samples.

Direct mail advertising can be used to market to both businesses and consumers.

Why Should I Use Direct Mail?

Direct mail marketing works.

According to a 2016 study by DMA average direct mail advertising response rate was 5.1% (compared to 0.6% for email and 0.2% for display). Direct mail works even better if it’s used as a part of an integrated marketing campaign that includes digital channels such as display ads or email.

On its own direct mail marketing offers a number of advantages compared to some other marketing channels such as:

Unparalleled Targeting

Unlike with paid or organic search, radio, TV or newspaper advertising direct mail advertising  has enormous targeting power.

You can direct mail can be used to target consumers by:

  • Age (i.e 35 to 45 years of age)
  • Gender (i.e targeting only females)
  • Income (i.e targeting only people with incomes over 100k)
  • Geography (i.e targeting consumers 20 miles from your business location)
  • Homeownership  (i.e targeting only homeowners)   
  • Home value (i.e sending direct mail only to houses valued at more than 200k
  • Type of home (i.e single-family homes vs multi-family homes) 
  • Vehicle ownership  ( i.e targeting only car owners)
  • Education (i.e targeting consumers with a high school diploma)
  • Military service (i.e mailing only veterans)
  • Political affiliation (i.e targeting only independent voters)
  • Financial health (i.e targeting people who went through bankruptcy VS affluent consumers) 
  • Ethnicity (i.e mailing only Asian consumers)
  • Presence of children (i.e targeting people without children)
  • Etc… 


Direct mail allows you to speak directly to your ideal customer. If you know who your ideal customer is, and if you truly understand their needs – direct mail marketing can be especially effective.

Using data and digital printing technology marketers can personalize every aspect of a direct mail piece including:

  • Copy (i.e their name)
  • Offer (different recipients can have different offers)
  • Images (even visual aspects of your mailings can be personalized)

Direct Mail Advertising Is More Engaging

Direct mail advertising is physical which makes it more engaging and memorable than online advertising.

According to a study commissioned by USPS Office of Inspector General consumers process digital ads quicker but have a stronger emotional response to physical ads.

In addition, physical ads trigger brain activity associated with desirability and value indicating a stronger intent to purchase.

Start With Objectives & Budget

Begin planning your direct mail marketing campaign with a clear, measurable objective such as:

  • Acquire 26 new customers
  • Get $87,500 in revenue
  • Achieve an ROI (Return on investment) of 500%
  • Get 37 referrals.
  • Acquire 50 sales leads
  • Etc…

Your direct mail advertising objectives should be attainable and based on your historical direct response marketing performance. When defining objectives, it’s important to know your most important marketing KPIs like:

  •  Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  •  Sales closing ratio
  •  Maximum allowable cost of acquisition
  • etc..

Understanding where you stand with these KPIs will enable you to set a reasonable direct mail campaign budget.

Direct Mail Marketing Cost

Direct mail campaign cost can vary greatly. However, we have many effective direct mail options that cost well less than a 1st class postage stamp – including some less than 40¢ each, including postage! Your direct mail campaign cost will depend on a number of factors like:

  • Design and copy
  • Type of direct mail
  • Number of recipients
  • Mailing List
  • Use of shared mail
  • Type of postage
  • etc..

Design & Copy

Professional design and copywriting is a part of your initial campaign setup and might cost anywhere from $200 to over $1000 at other companies. However, all campaign’s through us include custom design at no additional cost.

Type of Direct Mail

The type of direct mailer you utilize will have a substantial impact on your total campaign cost.

This is caused by variability in printing costs. Using small postcards for your direct mail campaign will be much cheaper than mailing catalogs or brochures.  

Number Of Recipients

The number of recipients or targets has a large influence on campaign costs. The higher the number of recipients the higher your campaign costs. However, increasing the number of recipients will decrease the cost per mailer as virtually all direct mail companies offer volume discounts. We are happy to do a complimentary market analysis for you to determine what your market would best support.

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists can range from $0 if you are mailing to your current or previous customers, to up to $4 for highly customized business lists. Your mailing list cost will depend on the number of targets and your criteria. In addition, the cost will depend on whether you plan to rent or buy your mailing list.     

Measuring & Tracking Direct Mail Advertising

Before you spend anything on direct mail you should ensure proper tracking and measurement. Fortunately for you measuring the effectiveness of direct mail is not complicated and can be done using one or more methods such as:

  • Campaign specific coupons
  • QR Codes
  • Campaign tracking phone number
  • Campaign landing pages
  • Campaign email

Some direct mail companies will include one or more of these tracking and measurement methods but most will charge you extra.

Targets & Lists

According to Ed Mayer – a pioneer of direct mail marketing – 40% of your direct mail campaign success depends on the list.

While a large part of your success depends on your list quality you can’t be successful without understanding who your ideal customers.

When thinking about targeting and lists remember that while mailing any two recipients on your list might cost you the same their impact on your bottom line might be very different.

You should build a profile of your ideal customer and build or purchase lists to target them exclusively.

Who is your ideal customer? For most businesses an ideal customer is:

  • Ready, willing and able to do business with you
  • Happy with your products or services
  • A customer whose needs and concerns you understand
  • An advocate of your business that constantly refers your business to their friends
  • A customer that buys a lot and often   

As you go through your customer list you will notice that your ideal customers share certain attributes (i.e age, geography, interests, income, etc..)  

Use those common attributes as a starting point in your list building efforts.

However, before you start mailing prospective customers consider targeting current customers, previous customers, or lost customers. Each of these segments is almost guaranteed to produce higher response rates and achieve better ROI, especially considering that these lists would be free.  

Saturation Mailing Is A Cost-Effective Alternative

Unlike targeted lists where you send promotional materials to a highly segmented and personalized list saturation mailing is defined by sending mailers to a certain career route or to an entire ZIP code.

Saturation mailing is significantly cheaper than the targeted mailing. However, with targeting limited only to career routes and zip codes mail is not the optimal choice for every business.

Businesses that offer products and services that appeal to large market segments can benefit from saturation mailing – for example:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Dentists
  • Auto repair shops
  • Etc…

On the other hand, businesses targeting a narrow market segment or B2B businesses should avoid saturation mailing completely.   

Types of Mailings Used In Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail is a versatile marketing channel both in terms of targeting and the types of mail pieces that can be utilized. The type of mail piece you should use in your direct mail marketing campaign depends on a number of factors such as:

  • Your campaign objectives
  • Average customer lifetime value
  • Your marketing budget
  • Mailing your customers or prospects
  • Etc..

Businesses with higher average customer lifetime values can afford to spend more on customer acquisition which means that the can invest more in the quality of their direct mail pieces, personalization, design, and so on.

If you are trying to get more customers for your nail salon – a simple large postcard will be the optimal type of direct mail you.

However, if your business is selling medical equipment to doctors you would benefit from investing in high-quality personalized letters.

Direct Mail Advertising Design Tips

1. Brand Consistency

Consumers want to buy from brands they know. Interacting with prospects and customers through a consistent brand voice and aesthetic is a major step towards letting them get to know your business and in building brand recognition. As you build brand recognition, you build trust which increases the chances of getting the sale. The direct mail advertising design should be similar to a company’s website design; utilizing the same color scheme and imagery. Brand consistency helps prospects and customers recognize your business instantaneously.

2. Succinct, Straightforward Headlines & Body Text

When creating your mail advertising piece, it’s easy to lose focus on the advertising intent. You have very little time to grab the customer’s attention (remember the 3-second rule). Often, business owners want to highlight every single feature and benefit on the direct mail postcard. As you plan your mail campaign, think about the business sales cycle and where the target audience is within that process. Base the call-to-actions on the mail list audience and where they are within the business sales cycle.

For example, a retail business could use a call-to-action promoting an app download for existing customers; while using a “free evaluation” offer for brand new prospects who may not have heard of the business. Also, focus on including design elements and text that support the advertising intent. The better you streamline the message, in every aspect, you increase the likelihood of recipients taking the desired action. Including too much text has proven to overwhelm and distract the audience from your advertising message altogether.

3. Personalization Using Variable Data

Mudlick Mail offers variable data printing (VDP) to help businesses create personalized direct mail ads. One-to-one marketing delivers the best response rates in today’s crowded marketplace. Many elements of the direct mail design can be personalized based on the individual mail recipient; including any text, photo, or image on the advertisement. Generalization and mass messages will never generate higher response rates than personalized marketing messages crafted uniquely for an individual consumer. Call a Mudlick Mail Direct Mail Expert to learn more about custom VDP mail campaigns.

4. Appealing Special Offers & Coupons

As mentioned above, personalization is the way to go. However, if your mail advertising campaign intent is to create awareness around a big sales event, you should include special offers and coupons with a general appeal. Don’t promote an offer that wouldn’t apply to the masses.

 A general offer will increase response rates but may also drive in traffic from not so ideal customers. If your objective is to get prospects in the door or on the phone, special offers should be generic and discounted price points should be affordable. For example, an automotive service shop relocates and want to let surrounding neighborhoods know he’s there to conveniently service their needs.

A good offer and discount to include would be an oil change (every car owner needs one) for $19.99 (appealing price point for any budget). Using the right offers and discounts are critical for producing positive campaign results.

5. Professional Photos & Images

Most of us have expensive smartphones enabling us to take pictures and videos but that doesn’t mean we’re capable of producing professional photography. If you want to include photos of your place of business, or a finished product/service, or pictures of employees – invest the money and time upfront to obtain high-quality, crisp imagery. It makes a world of difference for direct mail printing.

Remember, the ad design is your opportunity to position your business as trustworthy and reliable; visibly poor imagery can quickly diminish perception. If you use stock photography, pay the small fee to gain access to high-quality stock image databases such as Shutterstock. Having access to multiple image size options and file formats make designing a lot easier.

Do You Need Help With Direct Mail Advertising?

If you need help with direct mail advertising call or email us today and we will provide you with a free no-obligation market analysis and a direct mail marketing strategy.

We do it all!

Price includes (no contracts or volume commitment)

Account Manager
mudlickFree Market
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mudlickROI Tracking
mudlickTarget List
mudlickPostal Receipts &
Delivery Reports

mudlick Compared to emails sent to existing customers, direct mail has 30X
the chance of receiving a response from the customer.

Direct Marketing Association mudlick

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