Top Ten Best Practices for Effective Direct Mail Campaigns

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by Jeremy Benedict

Jeremy is a 14 year employee of SOULO. He is our in-house master of wearing multiple hats. Not only is Jeremy director of IT and a talented Graphic Designer, but he also has 10+ years of experience in the mailing industry-including being a certified Mail-piece Design Professional. Besides being an expert on the complexities of postal regulations around size, bulk mailing rules, advertising vs. non advertising restrictions, and so forth, Jeremy is SOULO’s resident expert on USPS added value services such as Informed Delivery and Every Door Direct Mail. At the office you'll frequently hear his name in the context of, "Ask Jeremy, he can fix it."

Perhaps you’ve seen stats* about the overall effectiveness of direct mail:

  • Over 40% of direct mail recipients look at or read the piece in-depth
  • Our brains don’t have to work as hard to process direct mail versus email (21% less)
  • Direct mail recipients buy more and spend more: they’ll buy in 28% higher
    quantities and they’ll spend 28% more money than their neighbor who didn’t get the direct mail piece
  • It’s tactile, engaging more of the senses
  • It’s effective: 29% ROI

*Sources: Data & Marketing Association, Marketing Charts, Canada Post, Marketing Profs, United States Postal Service (USPS)

The direct mail industry has seen a resurgence in the last few years as marketers realized the benefits of the tactic as an important part of the marketing mix. Using a combination of multi-channel tactics drives sales than only using a single channel such as digital marketing. You may be thinking about creating a direct mail campaign to drive your business objectives and sales, so we thought it would be helpful to share our broad experience designing and implementing successful Direct Mail campaigns.

Jeremy’s Top Ten List

1. Call-to-Action

You first need to specifically define your goals and objectives for the direct mail piece so that you craft an explicit Call-to-Action (CTA). The CTA  should not be buried in the copy or made out of visuals. A specific CTA will drive the best response rate. Specifically define the target audience, the barrier or problem you intend to solve, and then ask for the order.

2. Sometimes You Have to Give to Get

A promotional offer—discount or an added value FREE item—will drive engagement. But it doesn’t always need a monetary value. People respond to information, education, inspiration, and free tips.

3. Specifically Define Your Target Audience

The more specifically defined, the greater the response rate. We work with a wide range of list sources and we have learned over the years that the more targeted the list in terms of life stage, lifestyle, attitudes and behavior, the higher the response rate. The messaging should be about the benefit you are offering to the recipient, not all about you.

4. Clean Up After Yourself

The best marketers “clean” (review) their own contact databases at least once or twice a year. Every list should be updated when mail is returned as undeliverable. You pay for that service from the post office, but it adds value to your list assets. List aggregator services are only as good as the lists they get, and though list vendors check their data on a regular basis, there will still be some incorrect address data. You are better off developing your own contact database and maintaining it carefully.

5. Use the Post Office for Insights

The USPS is always seeking to drive more mail by offering more and better services. The National Change of Address database maintains address changes for the most recent 18 months and it’s a great resource to use to clean your own database, especially in the world of personalized communications. Ask for Notice 67, which is a plastic multi-purpose template that will determine automation-compatibility for letter-sized mail pieces that simplifies address placement, identifies the barcode clear zone, and includes positioning marks for FIM patterns (facing identification marks) as well as character height and spacing gauges.

6. Be Creative!

There are lots of ways you can create exciting direct mail pieces, whether it’s die-cuts for a 3-D effect, a scent strip, or a clever folding system that reveals information in an engaging sequential way. At SOULO we have the experience to combine out-of-the-box
creativity with the most efficient mail rates to deliver a delightful experience to your customers.

7. Work with a Direct Mail Team with “Design Chops”

Today’s print technology offers great quality output with the ability to personalize 1:1 to your customers, but you want a quality impression for every single recipient. It’s your brand presence and you want to present your best at all times. You need people who can create beautiful pieces that look as good coming off the press as they do when they arrive in your mailbox.

8. Work the Lead

Follow up your direct mail efforts with a phone call from a someone who has been briefed on the offer who knows how to connect well with customers.

9. What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Make it measurable. Test different creative and offer approaches to optimize your program before you launch it to a large audience. Embed a QR code or a tracking number so you can measure response and build on that for future initiatives.

10. Keep Your Good Friends and Make New Ones

Make sure your dialogue is with current customers as well as new prospects. People want to feel valued, and a personalized direct mail campaign, even coupled with a promotional offer, makes the recipient feel like you care about them. It’s all about building and retaining relationships.

At SOULO we’ve completed countless successful direct mail campaigns and we’d like to put that expertise to work for you. No matter where your customers and prospects are in the purchase funnel, we know how to activate a response.

SOULO is a full-service marketing and communications agency that helps client partners get the most from their projects through signage, printing, and digital marketing. Ready to get started? Contact us today!


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