Make Your Direct Mail Work Better, Stronger, Faster

By: support
  • September 1, 2011

Article re-posted from MarketingProfs.

by Jamie Klemcke, Marketing Director for QuantumDigital.

As a direct mail marketer, it’s ingrained in me to say that any marketing campaign should include direct mail. In reality, brands will get the greatest return when they use direct mail intelligently.

Direct mail also works best when used in combination with other channels, such as email, phone calls, mobile marketing, etc. There are certain audiences and industries for which direct mail is a perfect and necessary option, as well as recommended tactics to employ to ensure success.

While direct mail can and does work for a myriad of industries, reaching all kinds of audiences, here are my thoughts on when direct mail works best and how to make it smarter.



The affluent consumer
An article in Luxury Daily reports that 50% of our wealthiest populations (the top 10% of affluent U.S. individuals who make up 35% of all U.S. income; individuals with a minimum net worth of $828,000 and an average net worth of $3.1 million) don’t engage with social media—at all. In that same article, to Ron Kurtz, principal of Atlanta-based American Affluence Research Center suggests that to reach these affluent buyers, brands should focus on customer referrals and direct mail, including catalogs.

The 55+ consumer
Brands that sell to a target audience that could easily be described as mature and conservative would benefit from using direct mail. While there are members of that audience that are on Facebook and other social media channels, it’s important to recognize that a traditional channel, such as direct mail, might still pack a powerful punch for the majority of that audience.

American youth, 18-34 demographic
Technology is often associated with what’s fresh and new. It’s an association so strong that some marketers assume younger generations would prefer to receive information online or via other digital channels. Within that last couple of years, however, studies revealed that American adults ranging in age from 18 to 34 actually prefer to receive messages for certain types of products and services by print. A study titled “Finding the Right Channel Combination: What Drives Channel Choice?” indicated that more than 60% of that demographic group surveyed preferred to receive information about personal care, food, and cleaning products through direct mail and other print media.


Generally speaking, a brand that requires local awareness to sustain and grow business understands how direct mail fits in the new marketing mix. Not only do local businesses (including national brands with local retail stores) need to reach consumers that may not be online, they also must direct internet-using audiences online to collect more customer data. With new technologies now available allowing brands to initiate automated and trackable direct mail campaigns, the need for brands to capture detailed and reliable customer data is key for growth. Some examples of local, neighborhood businesses include restaurants, retail stores, real estate agents, household service providers (plumbers, roofers, landscapers, etc.), child-focused businesses (day cares, photographers, play gyms, etc.), and any franchise business with multiple locations.

Local and franchise businesses can use direct mail to drive awareness, extend special offers and customer loyalty appreciation, and incorporate variable mapping options to direct recipients to the business, based on the consumer’s address. Another localized industry that can benefit from the use of direct mail is the health care industry. Doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health facilities often have a need to communicate particularly sensitive messages, which are typically best delivered via mail. These sensitive messages are not defined as personal, private data, but rather topics that are sensitive and relevant to certain demographics.


Personalize direct mail, and by that I don’t mean a simple insert of the recipient’s name. For optimal performance, personalization should extend far beyond that to include content that’s relevant to the recipient. This level of personalization is not only recommended, but is becoming expected by consumers. To make your direct mail piece even stronger, it should refer to past purchase behavior and/or information that is unique to the recipient. Keep close tabs on your customers’ buying behavior via CRM, and this should make this level of customization fairly simple.

To influence behavior, direct mail works best when there is one, very clear call to action such as a coupon, special offer, or a reason to go online to find out more. Including multiple calls to action may seem to be a good idea on the surface, but instead of enhancing performance, this approach can often leave consumers confused, sending your direct mail piece to the trash bin.

Direct mail that has some form of emotional impact or message is often successful. Content that evokes an emotional response is clearly a perfect fit for non-profit, but can also be quite effective when used in B2C and B2B campaigns.

Data and Technology

Sure, it is fun to spend time on the creative portion of a marketing campaign. This may include the design, the messaging, and the call-to-action. However, the success of a direct mail campaign is almost always primarily related to the quality of data for the mailing list. Brands that take the time to scrub their databases in an effort to truly target the most highly qualified members of their audience will garner much higher response rates.

Direct mail not only helps to get a message out to an audience, but also to receive information back from those that interact. It can be a great way to collect further customer information and collect information on new prospects. Keeping track of new and repeat customer behavior and then using those insights to tailor offerings can shorten the purchase cycle and encourage loyalty. The latest variable data print technology combined with targeted data can be a very powerful, automated solution.

When integrating barcodes with direct mail, marketers must understand how and where they will be used. Will the consumer take the piece into the store so the barcode can be scanned at the register? If so, marketers need to be mindful of what type of barcodes will be recognized by their POS system. Will the consumer scan the code to go online? If so, make sure the destination is mobile friendly and that it is a continuation of the sales experience.

Before attempting to integrate mobile with direct mail and print, marketers should clearly define what type of consumer they’re trying to reach. Research to determine if the target consumer primarily uses smart phones, flip/feature phones, no cell phone, SMS, etc. to decide if the audience is likely to engage via mobile—and how. Also determine if the action you want the direct mail recipient to take would feasibly be taken using mobile technology before slapping a QR code in mail piece, for example. It doesn’t always make sense, therefore don’t integrate mobile with print if there’s not a compelling reason to do so that benefits the brand and the consumer.

Integrating technology is best when used to make direct mail more relevant to the recipient and track able to the brand. If your campaign is not audience specific and simply blasted to the masses, the true benefits of technology integration will be glaringly absent.

As always, have tracking mechanisms in place so you can determine campaign ROI.

One final area that is imperative to keep in mind to execute an intelligent direct mail campaign is not to stop at the initial mailing. All too often, brands send out one postcard to a list, then sit back and wait. Then, if they are dissatisfied with the results, they often make one awful mistake—they do nothing. To ensure that a message gets noticed and the intended action is taken, plan for a multitouch approach that includes A/B testing. Today’s consumer’s attention is being demanded by a multitude of distractions—from children, to technology, to work, etc.—therefore repeat and relevant messages are more essential than ever before to convert a direct mail recipient into a customer.

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