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Maximize Returns: Direct Mail ROI Calculator for Success

When calculating the return on investment (ROI) on their direct mail campaigns many marketers stop at the traditional key performance indicators such as response and immediate sales.

While those are critical components to measuring ROI, there are a few more that are essential to factor into your calculations in order to give you a complete look at the success or failure of a campaign.

What may be missing are expectations, inaccurate attributions, and intangibles. These elements, combined with response and sales, help to form a more holistic view of your results and accurate look at your ROI.


Before you even mail, it is important to make sure that you are establishing reasonable and manageable expectations up front. Too many marketers fall into the trap of focusing on how many customers they want to respond, rather than how many they actually need to respond.

If you set your ROI expectations to include how many customers or purchases allow you to break even and how many allow you to make a profit, it will allow you to get an objective look at whether or not your campaign was a success.

You will also want to consider the customer lifetime value (CLV) of your customers, or how much money they will spend with you during their entire relationship with you. A small sale now may lead to bigger and more profitable spending down the road.

Inaccurate Attributions

Direct mail is great for driving website traffic.

Even if the intent isn’t to get people on your website, chances are that’s the first place they are going to go. Studies show that 90% of people visit a website before calling or visiting a store! View more stats. When a person visits your website for the first time, it is very unlikely that they found you without the help of your other marketing efforts. They could have come from a variety of sources: direct mail, email, display advertising, social media, radio, TV… the list goes on.

The same can be said for social media activity, to an extent. It might be easier to stumble across a social media account than a website, but the traffic can just as easily come from direct mail, email, display advertising, and other marketing outreach.

In either case, your outbound efforts are influencing your inbound efforts. The leads you receive via the web or social media need to be considered alongside your other marketing campaigns before they are incorrectly attributed as a web or social media lead.

Always make sure to track your leads back to your mailing or email lists to see if there are any instances of crossover.


It is also important to consider the intangible or neurological impact of your campaign, especially in your initial prospecting outreach… it can take as many as 18-20 touchpoints before you connect with a customer for the first time!

Mailing on a regular, consistent basis is a great way to create brand awareness or reinforce brand recognition in your market. It is also great for establishing yourself as an authoritative thought leader.

Even if your campaigns are not driving immediate results, they are planting the seed for the customer to remember you later. They may save your postcard until they decide what they want, or until they get paid and have the money to make a purchase. They may simply remember your brand’s name because of the neurological impact that print has on the brain, and find you through a search engine later – that is why it is so important to make sure you are correctly attributing where your leads are coming from.

It could take days or weeks before the customer responds, because of something they remembered you for when the message became more relevant to their situation.

The Bottom Line

Direct mail return on investment is not always immediate or easily measured. There are many factors that are difficult to quantify, but still critical to forming an accurate assessment of the success of a campaign.