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Direct Mail Marketing: What is it & How does it Work in a Digital World?

A comprehensive guide to direct mail marketing, its types, effectiveness, and how you can run a direct mail campaign.

Direct mail marketing is a strategy that involves sending promotional materials, such as letters, postcards, or brochures directly to potential customers through the U.S. Postal Service or other courier service. Direct mail allows marketers to take advantage of bulk mailing rates to lower their costs and target specific demographics or geographic areas more effectively.

In addition, direct mail allows marketers to connect with their target audience on a personal level. Personalization helps build relationships and deliver quality customer experiences that customers tend to appreciate. For example, a gift coupon or a special discount offered on a customer’s birthday or anniversary can go a long way toward building customer loyalty.

What is Direct Mail Marketing?

Direct mail marketing involves sending any physical correspondence, such as a letter, printed mailers, packages, perishable items, or corporate swag to your prospects, leads, or customers. It enables marketers to create engaging experiences with their customers that help build trust and connect with them in a meaningful way.

Can Direct Mail Marketing Compete Against Digital Marketing?

That said, it would be hard to disagree that digital marketing has overtaken the more traditional forms of marketing due to their ease, reach, and low cost. It has helped marketers reach wider audiences and employ a more targeted approach that was not possible if they were running an ad on TV or in the newspaper.

This surge in digital marketing is fueled by a need to stay connected. As per a survey by, 89% of Americans check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up. However, this may be a reason behind consumers experiencing digital fatigue with nearly 75% of them feeling overwhelmed by email advertising.

Due to consumers feeling an increased aversion to digital advertising, direct mail marketing presents an interesting opportunity for marketers to reach out to customers. With direct mail, they can provide unique, personalized experiences that not only help their business stand out from the crowd but also build trust and grab attention.

What are the Different Types of Direct Mail Marketing?

There are several different kinds of direct mail you can use to run your marketing campaigns:

  1. Postcards

    Postcards are a cost-effective way to make announcements, event promotions, real estate transactions, or promote a new product or service. A postcard can be personalized easily, which helps you stand out from the crowd. You can use standard postcards (4 x 6 inches) or oversized ones (6 x 9 or 6 x 11 inches) as per your needs.

  2. Flyers

    Marketers can reach out to a wider target audience and market their products, sales, events, or services directly to consumers and households through flyers. Apart from being inexpensive, flyers are easy to make and read. This direct mail can be used by both new and established businesses.

  3. Catalogs

    Catalogs can be used to showcase a company’s range of products through stunning visuals, engaging copy, and clearly defined ways to purchase. Marketers may include special offers, promotions, and sales announcements in catalogs along with digital tie-ins, such as QR codes. Catalogs offer your customers a chance to understand what your brand is all about.

  4. Letters

    Typically used for fundraisers and surveys, letters are an effective form of direct mail when reaching out to professional clients. You can make a highly personalized copy and go into detail to persuade your audience to act.
    Marketers generally enclose the letters in an envelope along with a response form to open lines of communication between you and the customer. Doing so makes the letter appear more important and increases the likelihood of it not ending up with junk mail.

  5. Self-Mailers

    Self-mailers are generally used to attract new customers and build a stronger brand image. You can go into greater detail about your brand and services and include more graphics and visuals due to more space being available compared to postcards. Self-mailers are self-contained and come with an adhesive tab and outer envelope.

  6. Brochures

    Brochures offer a more detailed look of your brand compared to mailers and postcards and can be used to showcase all the benefits of your business along with how your service or products work. Apart from being economical, brochures fetch a higher response rate.

  7. Dimensional Mailers

    Dimensional mailers are three-dimensional mail items that allow marketers to highlight their products, services, and brands in a more creative, shareable, and interactive manner. You can get as creative as you want with dimensional mailers (make them pop up, unfold or slide in or out).
    That said, ensure you keep your design relevant to your customer and brand. Since dimensional mailers are comparatively more expensive than other kinds of direct mail, you should carefully design them to achieve the desired results.

How Effective is Direct Mail Marketing?

Due to the overcrowding of the digital marketing space, marketers are turning toward direct mail for their campaigns. Let’s find out what makes direct mail marketing effective:

  1. Direct mail is interactive

    Customers physically interact with and handle mail. Marketers can include a promotional offer, coupon, or a CTA that requires customers to bring it to a store and make it more likely for them to keep the mail.

  2. Direct mail is memorable

    Marketers can elicit an emotional response from customers by adding a personal touch to the mail, such as a handwritten note, signature, or their name. This helps make direct mail memorable and create something personal for your targeted audience.

  3. Direct mail may have a bigger reach

    If your target audience is less likely to use social media or email, you can potentially reach out to a wider demographic through direct mail and convert them into potential customers. Direct mail also offers you the opportunity to reach more than one customer at a time. As per recent census data, 72% of U.S. households have two or more people living together.

  4. Direct mail offers a lot of ways to get creative

    You can pair social media and digital marketing with direct mail to expand your target audience and attract new customers to create a seamless customer journey. Personalized gifts, handwritten notes, eGift cards, innovative swag items, experience tickets, and more can go a long way toward helping increase your brand awareness and leave a favorable impression in the minds of prospects and customers.

  5. Direct mail space does not have as much competition

    Since not many companies are operating in the direct mail space these days, it’s easier to get noticed and stand out from the crowd. A thoughtfully designed, attractive mail piece can grab help eyeballs and go a long way in advertising your business. Remember that a colorful mail piece has much better odds of being noticed than a generic ad on Google.

  6. Direct mail is valuable for account-based marketing

    Account-based marketing is a growth strategy that focuses on creating personalized experiences for high-value accounts in a business. By adding direct mail to their marketing efforts, a marketer can boost engagement, strengthen relationships with customers, and improve brand awareness. If you are unable to reach a customer through email, you can still connect with them through personal experience via direct mail.

How to Create a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign?

  1. Define your direct mail marketing campaign goals

    Before starting your direct mail marketing campaign, you must define the goals that you want to attain – generate more leads, increase traffic to the store or website, or market a new service or product. Having clearly defined goals makes it easier to make decisions or pivot and course correct and stay on the right track.

  2. Know your direct mail audience

    To make your campaign successful, you need to have a specific target audience in mind along with their needs and how your goals fit into those needs. Doing so will allow you to better engage with your audience and run a more effective campaign.

  3. Create your direct mailing list

    To carry out a successful direct mail marketing campaign, you need a reliable mailing list with up-to-date mailing addresses for important contacts. Creating a direct mailing list requires an ample amount of time, money, and resources. So, ensure that you finalize and test your mailing list well before you run your campaign.

  4. Decide on a CTA for your direct mail campaign

    It is important to have a CTA that adds value, drives action, and is easy to act on for your direct mail campaign. Take time to create a memorable CTA that tells the customer why you sent them this piece of mail and what you want them to do with it. Not every CTA must drive conversion to be effective. You can direct your prospects to digital assets with QR codes or links that help educate them about your product or service or give them information about new promotions.

  5. Decide on a direct mail format

    After selecting a CTA, choose a format for your mailer that fits your budget and marketing goals. Some of the standard direct mailer types include postcards, letters, flyers, catalogs, brochures, self-mailers, and dimensional mailers.

  6. Design your direct mail marketing piece

    When designing your mail piece, it is important to highlight your goal and CTA. Take care not to overload it with graphics or too much text. Direct mail marketers can make use of a modern direct mail template system for this purpose, where they can easily move components around and customize the design as per their requirements. An engaging direct mail design should be memorable, something that the customer may want to keep and remember.
    Remember there are several different types of direct mail which come in all shapes and sizes. This can affect both printing and shipping costs. In addition, consider colors, images, and the finish (glossy, satin, or matte) of your printed mail too. This can impact how your direct mail looks and feels.

  7. Proofread your mailers

    Ensure that your mail is free of any typos or grammatical errors. Your mail will be the first impression many people will get of your business so make sure to double-check the copy and it reads well. The text should have a good flow and convey the tone (whether its professional or casual) that you are aiming for.

  8. Run tests

    Carry out a few test runs once you have identified your market and target audience. Ensure you have a way to track your customers’ engagement for the campaign be it through a unique coupon code, phone number, or email address set up only for that campaign. Doing so will allow you to easily keep track of who is engaging with your campaign.

  9. Always follow up

    Create a database of people who are engaging with your mailers so you can follow up with them later. These folks are more likely to be receptive to any marketing campaigns that you run in the future. You can also send out a short message telling them you appreciate their patronage.

  10. Drive traffic to your online site

    Leverage the high response rate of your direct mail marketing efforts by driving your customers to your social platforms where they can receive timely updates without waiting for the next mailer. Marketers can also link their direct mail and digital marketing campaigns through scannable coupon codes, giveaways, or hashtag campaigns to boost customer engagement and results.

Examples of Great Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns

Let us look at some of the more successful direct mail marketing campaigns over the last few years:

  1. World Water Day

    A company in Belgium ran a direct mail campaign to highlight the importance of water on World Water Day. They sent out a card that would only reveal its content once held underwater. Suffice it to say, this campaign was a big hit with the people and managed to generate quite a buzz.

  2. Nike – Stadium Shoe Box

    In a bid to encourage youngsters to take up athletics, Nike ran a campaign where they sent out limited edition shoeboxes with the print of a stadium inside. When opened, the box would emit raucous sounds of a crowd.

  3. Candle Box

    Earth Hour ran a campaign to encourage large companies to conserve electricity and switch off their office lights. They sent yellow candles in black boxes to various CEOs and industry leaders. The boxes were designed to look like buildings. The act of pulling the candle out of the box resulted in a clever ‘lights off’ effect. This direct mail campaign gained immense company support and saw an increase of 260% in engagement.

  4. LavOnline – Tomato Splat

    LavOnline ran a campaign targeting young professionals and managers wherein they sent a package containing a white t-shirt featuring a tomato. The recipients had to squash the tomato and sparked genuine curiosity among them. The campaign resulted in a 15% increase in traffic along with 32% increase in signups among its targeted audience.

  5. Recyclable helmet

    Smart ran a campaign to promote its new range of green e-bikes among cyclists by sending a helmet kit made from recycled cardboard. The recipients were encouraged to assemble their own eco-friendly helmets. The campaign stressed the importance of wearing a helmet when cycling and was able to generate a substantial positive reaction on social media for the company.

Boost Your Direct Mail Marketing Efforts with Compu-Mail

It may seem a tad hard to believe with digital marketing dominating the marketing landscape, but direct mail is far from obsolete. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, direct mail can offer something different and can help close the gap between brands and customers. With the right tools and strategy, direct mail can help you stand out and carve out a niche in a crowded market.

Consider signing up with Compu-Mail and taking advantage of their advanced direct mail services that allow you to boost your brand’s visibility, capture attention, and generate valuable leads. In times of heightened digital fatigue, direct mail offers a cost-effective alternative to connecting with your target audience. Maximize the impact of your direct mail campaigns with Compu-Mail, which will not only help boost your response rates but also enable your business to thrive in this competitive market.


Q: How much does direct mail marketing cost?

A: Direct mail costs can vary from campaign to campaign. The various factors that can affect the cost include ad design, printing, postage, personalization, collateral, and more. The associated costs are explained below:

  1. Mail type, numbers and packaging: While standard postcards typically cost $0.44 per card, oversized mailers and catalogs may set you back by around $10 depending on the weight of the mail piece. The number of pieces you order will also affect your pricing.
  2. Ad design: You can either design your mail yourself or get it done in-house. However, if you want a more design-intensive mailer or something that needs a more professional touch, you can hire a graphic designer to meet your design needs. You can also buy design templates online.
  3. Printing: The printing costs can set you back from $0.03 to $2 per piece depending on the paper quality and size, the number of pieces you need to print, whether you want a one-sided or two-sided print, and if you are printing in black-and-white or color.
  4. Postage: The postage rates can set you back from anywhere between $0.25 to $2 per mail piece depending on the prevalent postage rates and the number of pieces you must send.

Q: Can you measure the ROI of direct mail campaigns?

A: Yes, there are a few ways through which you can measure the ROI of direct mail campaigns. Marketers can use specific tools such as a Sending Platform to arrive at an accurate number. They can also undertake a more manual approach wherein they use KPIs to measure their campaign’s ROI. For example, if you mail a postcard with a link to a specific product landing page, you can calculate ROI by tracking the number of mailed postcards, referral link clicks, landing page conversions, and more. Simply divide the number of referrals clicks by the number of mailed postcards to find out your ROI.