How to plan a cost effective direct mail campaign

by MarketingFile 6. December 2013 11:56

Direct mail should be used to speak directly to your target audience. Sloppy direct mail irritates, annoys and alienates your customers. 

A direct mailing campaign should be focused on the customer, data and accountability.

It is not only the communication which is required to be inviting and relevant but also keep in mind measuring and evaluating the results from the campaign.

A good direct mail campaign will prove a positive return on investment in showing how many prospect customers responded to a clear call-to-action

MarketingFile have put together some helpful hints and tips on some ideas to make your mailings more interesting, relevant and productive.

Objectives and strategy

Decide what your objectives are. For example, do you want to educate, sell directly, obtain leads and enquiries, encourage a showroom visit or build traffic to a web site?

This will help determine the tone and content of the direct mailer

Know your audience

It helps to have a mental picture of the reader - their age, occupation, lifestyle, buying habits and other significant characteristics. Just imagine yourself as the reader, or opening the morning post and ask yourself, 'what is in this for me?'

Get a great list

That means a list with correct names, titles, addresses and postcodes. It means a list that has no duplications and a low quantity of gone aways. Plus any bought list should be cross referenced with the Mail Preference Service and the Bereavement Register. It doesn't matter how fabulous your direct mail piece is, if it's going to the wrong people your campaign will fail.

Consider the format

Is it to be an A5 postcard, letter in a C5 envelope, a multipage brochure, etc. Some formats are a lot more expensive than others, especially with the Royal Mail’s Pricing in Proportion.

Send a covering letter whenever possible

Did you know that a covering letter with your direct mail piece can increase the response rate by up to 9 times? Your covering letter should briefly explain why you're sending your brochure or sample of your product. It should outline the benefits of your product (not just the features) and if possible it should include testimonials from other satisfied customers.

Call to action

Remember to include a call to action or an incentive; what to do next. So something like: 'Now call this number before May 28th to claim your 10% discount'. However always make sure that you are still going to make money and not just be ‘busy’. Cost your incentive out carefully.

Get personal

People respond to people. A 'Dear Mrs Smith' will always get more of a response than 'Dear subscriber' or 'Dear valued customer'. Your letter should be personal and informal.

Don't be over creative

It's easy to get carried away with an all-singing all-dancing expensive direct mail piece. But remember: who your piece gets sent to is more important than how it looks. Quite often a simple, well written sales letter or a postcard is all you need to get a great response. For advice on this download our “Top tips on how to write a sales letter”.


Have you noticed how much information you receive about holidays at the start of the year? It's important to target your customer when they're most likely to be thinking about your product. So sending information about gardening equipment in October and Christmas cards in February is best avoided.

However it is essential to include ‘lead times’. For example if you want to boost your midweek trade in November by targeting older marketing segments, your mailshot should really be sent 4-6 weeks in advance of that date.

Return Address

Always have a return address on your mailer, so those that don’t get to their intended recipient come back to you (gone aways). Then take them off your database, so you’re not wasting money. If using a cold list some companies such as MarketingFile have a refund policy on gone aways. 

Be ready to handle the response

There is no point generating interest if you are not prepared to deal with enquiries or don't have products ready to supply. Being un-prepared is preparing to fail! 

Follow up

If possible, and the numbers aren't too huge, it's worth doing a follow up call. Check that your customer received their direct mail piece and remind them of the call to action i.e. what they'll receive if they respond by a certain date.

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