Direct Mail Marketing: Advantages and How to Use It for Your Business

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Jana Rumberger
Jana Rumberger


Cutting through the marketing noise can seem impossible sometimes. But businesses are rediscovering a fun way to connect with customers. It's direct mail marketing.

Direct mail marketing surprise being opened by a customer.

Direct mail can create engaging experiences that build trust and grab attention. It can make it easier to connect with elusive decision-makers and busy c-suite executives.

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But is direct mail cost-effective? Can it offer a reliable return on investment? And is direct mail a right fit for your business?

Keep reading for answers to these questions and more, or jump ahead to the section you're looking for:

How effective is direct mail marketing? [New Data]

Digital marketing is simple and there are many channels for outreach. This makes it easy for many businesses to forget direct mail.

But there are many reasons to think about using direct mail marketing for your next campaign.

1. People enjoy getting mail.

Digital media dominates the home, work, and entertainment of many people. And 2021 Deloitte research says that almost a third of U.S. consumers have felt overwhelmed by digital device and subscription management since 2020.

But according to 2021 USPS research, direct mail is a popular alternative.

72% of the youngest customers surveyed, Gen Z, say that they look forward to discovering mail with excitement. And 38% of those surveyed visited a website after receiving relevant direct mail.

71% of Gen X survey respondents say that direct mail is more personal than digital communication.

And a majority of millennials surveyed say that direct mail feels more secure than digital communication. They're also the customers most likely to take action like visiting a website or visiting a store after receiving direct mail.

2. Gets better response rates than email.

According to survey results from Lob's 2022 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report:

  • 44% say direct mail is their top channel for unknown brands
  • 50% of consumers 35+ say that direct mail feels more important than email communication from a brand
  • 62% say direct mail inspired them to act

How effective is direct mail marketing chart

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3. It's a valuable asset for account-based marketing (ABM).

ABM is a growth strategy that involves marketing and sales team collaboration. These teams create personalized experiences for valuable accounts.

Besides increased response rates, creativity, and other benefits, direct mail doesn't need initial permission the way that email and text messaging do for GDPR compliance. So if you're not able to reach a customer by email, you can still connect with a personal experience.

4. Opportunity to reach more than one customer at a time.

While more people are living alone than ever before, per recent census data, 72% of U.S. households have two or more people living together. In 2022, this includes more adult children still living with their parents. This includes 19% of men and 12% of women ages 25-34.

So, if you're sending mail to a home, you're more likely to reach one or more members of that household. And 72% of consumers read direct mail immediately or the same day they get their mail.

5. Less competition than email.

It's estimated that by 2025 people will be sending over 325 billion emails per day. In 2022, 33% of marketers sent weekly emails, and another 26% sent emails multiple times per month.

In contrast, the average U.S. household in 2021 received only 361 pieces of direct mail marketing. That's less than 400 pieces of mail for the entire year.

By sheer numbers alone, there is far less competition in direct mail.

6. A creative, memorable, and unique form of outreach.

Direct mail gives you a chance to get creative. Whether you plan to send postcards, gifts, or handwritten notes, it's a chance to create something personal for your audience.

Direct mail marketing creativity example: Royal mail

For example, Royal Mail won several awards in 2022 for their direct mail campaign "Open Door." They used focus group research to hone their messaging as a B2C partner for major corporations like Levi's. Each package included personalized objects that aligned with their message and value proposition. For instance, one package included a pencil case made from recycled denim to emphasize their commitment to sustainability.

Handwritten notes, detailed delivery instructions, and stunning design also made this direct mail campaign memorable and effective.

More Advantages of Direct Mail

What is the average response rate for a direct mail campaign?

A 2022 Response Rate Report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) says that direct mail campaigns using a letter-size envelope generated 112% ROI. That's a 19% improvement over email campaign ROI.

How can direct mail simplify account-based marketing efforts?

GDPR and the California Consumer Protection Act have a major impact on how you can connect with customers and clients. Direct mail offers another way for sales teams to connect with existing accounts offline.

Adding direct mail to your account-based marketing campaigns can strengthen your relationships with contacts. This is because you’re able to offer hyper-focused content through a medium that fosters a deeper connection than email alone.

Adding direct mail to your ABM campaigns can help:

  • Improve brand awareness
  • Make each contact more memorable
  • Boost engagement
  • Add something special to your sales pipeline

How much does direct mail marketing cost?

Direct mail costs will vary by campaign. Campaign decisions that can impact cost include:

  • Design
  • Collateral
  • Printing
  • Personalization
  • Postage

Start with your intended budget and the mailing list for your campaign. If your primary concern is postage, this USPS calculator can give you an estimate.

While some direct mail marketing can get expensive, there are simple and cost-effective ways to streamline the process.

Say you want to send sales letters to each customer on your list. There are many companies that you can use with your CRM to automate personalized direct mail to your customers. For example, Postalytics charges around $1.33 per letter with their free plan.

HubSpot customers: Integrations like Postalytics and Postgrid make it easy to automate direct mailings like this. This lets you easily add personalized direct mail into your workflow.

Can direct mail work with inbound?

You might assume direct mail and inbound are inherently at odds. After all, the former involves sending unsolicited mail to someone’s house or office. The latter draws them in with content and follows up with qualified leads.

But when used the right way, direct mail has a useful place in the inbound process. It gives you a chance to add value through education and personalized outreach. It also helps you catch your prospect’s attention and stand out from your competition.

Can you measure the ROI of direct mail campaigns?

Yes, there are a few ways that you can track ROI with direct mail.

To measure the impact of direct mail on your business's bottom line, you just need the right tool. For example, corporate gifting tools like Alyce integrate directly with CRMs like HubSpot. The integration includes reporting on gifting performance and ROI.

If you're taking a more manual approach, you'll need to figure out individual campaign goals and choose KPIs to measure ROI.

For example, say you plan to mail out a postcard with a link to a specific product landing page. For this mailing, you would want to keep an eye on metrics like:

  • Number of mailed postcards
  • Referral link clicks
  • Landing page conversions

Each of these KPIs can help build a broader picture of how effective direct mail is at driving revenue for your business. Then you can calculate your response rate by dividing the number of referral clicks by the number of mailed postcards.

You can find more formulas for calculating ROI here.

1. Define your target audience.

Your target audience for direct mail should be more detailed than your usual audience or buyer persona outline.

Campaign target audiences should be a specific group of people that you want to share an idea or important CTA with. For regular customer outreach, you'll also want to include factors to help personalize your mailings.

Learn more:

2. Update your mailing list.

Direct mail is an investment in time, money, and resources. To make the most of this investment, you need a reliable mailing list. If most of your outreach is digital, make sure that you have reliable mailing addresses for important contacts. Try to do this before you begin your campaign.

It's also a good idea to send regular mailings to test your list for accuracy.

HubSpot customers: Use list segmentation to refine your mailing list for targeted segments of your audience.

3. Offer value to your customers.

Personal, useful, and unique ideas will keep your brand top of mind with your customers and contacts. To make sure you're adding value with direct mail, start simple.

Look around your office and think about where the tools you use every day come from. For example, a branded coffee mug, pair of scissors, or pen isn't super original. But these items can be incredibly useful, and your customers are likely to hold on to them.

Next, think about how mail can build a personal connection. What kind of letters do you hold on to? Usually, they have inspirational or personal meaning.

So, a postcard with a famous quote may have more value than a logo or generic image because its recipient might hang it up on the fridge or by their desk. A letter with a handwritten postscript will be more valuable than a printed letter on its own.

You can also partner with complementary companies to increase the value of your direct mail campaigns.

4. Create a powerful design.

Great direct mail design means creating something that your customer wants to keep and remember. To do this, pay attention to the details.

Postcards are popular, and postcard size makes a difference. As you make these decisions, don't forget that unusual sizes and shapes can impact both printing and shipping costs. Next, think about colors and images. The finish of your printed mailing matter too. Glossy, satin, or matte paper can impact how your direct mail looks and feels.

You want to make sure your design meets audience expectations too. Different audiences will have distinct ideas about what makes a great design.

For example, 2021 USPS research says that 54% of Gen Z audiences want easy-to-find branding. Another 45% like unique sizes and shapes, 34% prefer thick paper, and 31% want large text.

5. Refine your call-to-action.

In digital marketing, you can rely on internal linking, page navigation, and more to drive engagement. With direct mail, your CTA must add value, drive action, and be easy to act on. Try to stick to a single CTA to simplify the process for your customers.

Remember, not every CTA has to be about conversion. Direct mail CTAs that drive prospects to digital assets with QR codes or links can also be effective.

This post is full of enticing call-to-action examples if you're looking for ideas.

6. Pay attention to the details.

Direct mail marketing is usually a big play to get the attention of your target audience. To wow them with your campaign, it's important to think about the particulars that will make your mailing memorable.

To make sure that the research and time you put into audience, messaging, and design shows up in the final product, put together a creative brief. This document will give everyone on the project a single source of truth to make your direct mail campaign a success.

7. Analyze your results.

Besides tracking the response rate and ROI for your campaign, there are other metrics that can help you measure your direct mail results. Promo codes, QR codes, physical coupons, and more can help you track conversions for your campaigns.

It's also a good idea to track cost per conversion. This metric can help you show stakeholders the value your direct mail campaign is bringing. It can also help you decide their value to your overall strategy.

You may want to collect anecdotal data from your direct mail, and use links to drive prospects to online surveys. This can engage customers to share insights you can use for future campaigns. It can also help you refine customer segmentation for outreach.

Direct Mail Examples

1. Postcards

Direct mail marketing examples: Open Kitchen

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Postcards are a quick and simple way to send a short note that grabs attention. Whether you add an image, bold CTA, or quick quote, a postcard is easy to personalize and send while standing out.

2. Personalized Items

Direct mail examples: Mail Shark

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78% of consumers say they're more likely to make a repeat purchase from brands that personalize.

Adding their first name or brand logo to a gift or adding a handwritten note makes your customer feel special and important. This influences how they feel about your brand.

3. Trade Show Items

Direct mail marketing examples: DemCo

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Many brands create products like fridge magnets, calendars, or sticky notes for trade show giveaways. These can also make great direct mail gifts for your top customers and prospects.

4. Tech Integrations

Direct mail examples: irresistible mail

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64% of Millenials and 59% of Gen X consumers are looking for interactive experiences in the mail. Try creating an experience that pairs with a VR headset to engage new users with your brand. Branded USB Drives or personalized URLs can also pull in more engagement for your brand.

5. Voice-Activated Calls to Action (VACTA)

Direct mail marketing examples: vacta

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This technology integrates smart-speaker apps into direct mail. Instead of having to type in a URL, the speaker shares a voice command for fun and exciting mail interaction.

6. Swag Boxes

Direct mail examples: University of Basel

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If you want to make your company name memorable, send a box of swag to an entire team, department, or division. It’s always fun to unpack a huge package of goodies. Even better, this strategy makes your brand and products visible to the right people.

7. Content Kits

Direct mail marketing examples: Dribble

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Put together printed versions of your most popular resources — reports, blog posts, or case studies — and send them to an influencer or decision-maker.

There’s something special about holding content in your hands instead of staring at it on screen. This gives your recipient a chance to more deeply engage with the ideas. As an added benefit, they can use it to help sell to other stakeholders.

8. Catalogs

Direct mail examples: YouTube Insights

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No longer a relic of the past, catalogs are a way to highlight a range of products with stunning photography, punchy copy, and clear paths to purchase. Catalogs also offer easy opportunities for digital tie-ins, like QR codes.

9. Free Samples

Direct mail marketing examples: Sampler

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In-person retail sales fell .6% in November 2022, more than double the expected rate.

This drop happened at the same time that Black Friday sales hit an all-time high. If shoppers aren't spending time in the stores and learning about new products in person, they may be looking for other ways to discover new products. Try showing them your stuff with free samples by direct mail.

10. B2B Direct Mail

Corporate direct mail campaigns should be targeted and customized. Whether you’re sending gifts to everyone at the company or personalizing for stakeholders and decision-makers, think niche. Learn about the industry and its pain points. Instead of sending a generic gift, offer something that solves a problem for their team, like branded whiteboards or earbuds.

Can direct mail marketing boost your business?

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, direct mail can offer something different. With the right tools, this tactic is affordable, easy to create, and simple to track.

So, start your next direct mail project today. Use it to kick off conversations with your prospects and customers in a way they won’t see coming.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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