Politics & Society

What Is Direct Mail? Tips and Tricks for Direct Mail Campaigns

Written by MasterClass

Jun 7, 2019 • 5 min read

Direct mail is one of the oldest forms of political and business advertising still in use. Despite its age, however, it’s still one of the most efficient and cost effective forms of targeted advertising available to business owners and politicians alike. Understanding how to create an effective direct mail campaign can be a vital tool for anyone trying to market their business and or kick off a political campaign.


What Is Direct Mailing?

Direct mail is any advertising campaign conducted through unsolicited mail. A direct mail campaign is of the most cost-effective forms of direct marketing and can be utilized by multinational corporations and small businesses alike.

How to Conduct a Direct Mail Advertising Campaign

  • Determine your target market: Before you rush to the post office to ship out a batch of letters, it’s important to take some time to carefully consider your target market. One of the advantages of direct mail advertising is the ability to carefully target your direct mailings to a specific target audience. Select a target based on demographics (age, gender, income, and location) that are well-suited to your brand or business or are within your voter base. If you’ve put in the time to create well-tailored targeted marketing, it’s much more likely that your direct mail piece will be successful.
  • Generate or purchase a direct mail list: After you’ve settled on a target market, you need to generate a direct mail list. If your company already has a list of existing customers or potential leads, you can always use that for your campaign. If not, you’ll need to buy or rent a targeted direct mail list from a third party direct mail company or political party. Most companies choose to rent these lists, especially if you’re a small business that might be new to direct mail marketing.
  • Write effective copy: A good mailing list is an important start, but you still need to design an engaging direct mail piece in order to successfully engage potential customers or voters. Homeowners in the United States are inundated with piles of “junk mail,” most of which ends up in the trash can. You need to design a piece of mail that grabs your target recipient’s attention and makes them set your direct mailing aside. Whether you write the copy for your mailing yourself or contract with a third party advertising company, it’s important to create a piece that is visually striking and fits in with your overall marketing strategy or political campaign.
  • Settle on a design. If you are sending a postcard or letter, the graphic design of the letter and envelope are extremely important. As mentioned, every element of your mailing should be carefully crafted to grab your potential customer’s attention and encourage them to set your mailing aside. If you’re sending a physical sample, you’ll need to purchase shipping materials from the postal service or a third party shipping company.
  • Inventory: If you’re planning on continuing to send direct mailings for the foreseeable future, you’ll need to maintain an inventory of mailing materials and shipping supplies. Having a backup supply of mailings and physical samples is necessary to maintain an ongoing direct mail marketing campaign.
  • Packing and sending process: In addition to maintaining inventory, business owners need to put in place a streamlined packing and shipping process. Whether you’re running a small business or a large corporation, you have several options for how to ship your direct mailings. You can work with a third party direct mail company or with the USPS, which has services like Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) that are specifically designed to provide direct mail service. You can also choose to pack and ship yourself, but this generally means you aren’t able to take advantage of lower bulk rate costs that come with one of these other options.
  • Adjust based on results: The key to sending a successful direct mailing is calibrating your business and future direct mailings based on results. You’ll need to have a system in place to track response rate and strategies to follow-up with your direct mail recipients. Some business owners choose to follow up on direct mailings with further email marketing or digital marketing campaigns.

9 Tips for Conducting an Effective Direct Mail Campaign

  1. Target repeat customers. Direct mailings aren’t just for new customers. Direct mailing campaigns are extremely well-suited to engaging previous customers and generating repeat business. Savvy direct mail marketers find ways to engage previous clients and give them good reason to return.
  2. Follow-up. Experienced direct mail marketers devise rounds of mailings and timetables for when to circle back with leads. Just because you didn’t get a response on the first mailing, doesn’t mean a different mailer a few months later won’t do the trick.
  3. Stay informed of direct marketing trends. Direct mailing is constantly evolving, and you would be wise to keep abreast of any changes in the direct mail industry. Read direct mail trade publications and check mailing websites to find out about new developments in direct mailing that you can employ in your own marketing strategy.
  4. Personalize. Customers love advertising that has a personal touch. Research shows that people are much more likely to engage with advertising that they feel has been specifically tailored to them. Include appropriate personal details or specific tailored promotions in your mailings to engage new customers on a more familiar level.
  5. Create a hybrid campaign. Nowadays, it’s rare that businesses rely solely on direct mailing. Pairing a direct mail campaign with digital marketing and email follow-ups can be a highly effective hybrid marketing strategy. Leave no stone unturned in promoting your business and pursuing leads with new customers.
  6. Test on a small sample size. Before investing in a widespread direct mail campaign, it’s important to test your strategy on a small sample size. Send out a small batch of mailings to a targeted sample to track response rate and efficacy, before expanding to your full scale mailing.
  7. Include offers they can’t refuse. Make sure to include offers that grab your customer’s attention. Understanding the psychology of sales and promotions is key to crafting successful mailers. Customers are drawn to deals and direct mailers that include eye popping promotions so be sure to have a promotion that separates your mailer from the rest of the pack.
  8. Use codes to track response. It’s important to have a system in place to track response. Without promotional codes or other means of tracking, it’s impossible to know how successful your campaign has been. If you’re able to track the success of your direct mailings than you can adjust and evolve your campaign moving forward.
  9. Be patient. The most important skill that a direct mail marketer can have is patience. We’re conditioned to the immediate gratification and responses of the digital world, but snail mail is a different beast altogether. Understand that success in direct mail marketing takes time. Give your campaigns time to produce results before you pull the plug. Developing patience and trust in your direct mail campaigns can lead to great success at drumming up new business and engaging repeat customers.

Learn more about political campaign strategy in David Axelrod and Karl Rove’s MasterClass.