Direct Mail Advertising: How to Start

Direct Mail Advertising: How to Start




With Direct Mail Advertising you must take the overall marketing strategy in mind. It is tempting to launch a direct mail campaign without first documenting a marketing plan, but if you do so, your chances of hitting even the average response rates of 1-3% are very slim. 

A marketing plan establishes: 

Your Goals                                                          Your Market 

Your Company Identity                                   Your Products/Services 

Your Target Market                                         Your Competition  

Your Company Sales Model                           Your Marketing Mix 

Your Marketing Organization                       Your Marketing Budget 

We feel so strongly that the marketing plan must first be in place before embarking on direct mail efforts, we won’t do a campaign for clients without one. For more help in developing a marketing strategy, visit our website article “To Plan or Not To Plan…It’s not even a question!” 


Within your marketing plan you must consider the following strategies for your direct mail component they are all VITAL to your direct mail success: 

  • Set a goal for the direct mail piece. For example, is your goal lead generation or direct-to-order? Too many mailers try to do both in one piece. It doesn’t work as well! Pick a single goal, and knock it out of the ballpark.  
  • Integrate direct mail with other vehicles. Too many marketers put all of their eggs in the direct mail basket. Even those that do engage other vehicles don’t integrate the efforts. You will see at least a 20% increase in pull, if your direct mail effort is integrated with all other vehicles in your plan.  
  • Set a frequency of at least 4x (vs. one-off). Many of our clients tell us, “We’ve tried direct mail and it didn’t work.” Most of the time, we find they tried it ONCE. The DMA tests show that your mail must be delivered at least 4x to pull the desired response rates.  
  • Spend A LOT of time determining your list and offer. These two elements represent 80% of why your effort will succeed or fail.  
  • Determine your measurement metrics and process. What are you going to track (responses, sales, traffic increase)? And, who is going to track it? 


Finally, your plan should include a project return on investment for your campaign. Be sure to account for the above criteria if you plan to use the 1-3% response rate in your calculations. We recommend you calculate the ROI using 1,2, and 3% response rates to determine your risk. You may even want to calculate at .5% just to be on the safe side. 




The list is possibly the single most important element to an effective direct mail effort. Your response rates absolutely depend upon it. In fact, 40% of your direct mail success relates to your mailing list. 

To ensure you have the right list, start by PROFILING the contact you wish to market to through direct mail. The magic here is to define a target list large enough to meet your business goals, yet small enough you can afford to touch the list at least 4 times. There are generally three types of lists—customers, prospects or leads, and suspects. Remember, your response will always be higher, the more familiar the contact is with you. Specifically, your customer mailings will pull significantly higher response rates than the colder suspect lists. 

Next, determine the COMPLETENESS of your Direct Mail Advertising List. This can be tedious, but scour the list for duplicates and make sure you have a complete name, address, etc. This step will save you money and make the overall campaign much more effective. 

Finally, make sure your Direct Mail Advertising list is as ACCURATE as possible. Any money spent mailing to undeliverable contacts is wasted investment. You can expect anywhere between 2-10% of records to be undeliverable. Account for that in your projections and do everything you can to mitigate the costs. Ask your list brokers for an accuracy guarantee and be sure to update your database with the new addresses provided by the post office as you get mailers returned. Also, consider running the list through an Address Verification System, such as CASS Certification, for further cleansing. 

These are just the few steps necessary to take when creating your Direct Mail Advertising Campaign. If you would like to learn more simply click here or call 972-242-2427.


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