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7 Direct Mail Marketing Ideas That Work
April 29, 2021

7 Direct Mail Marketing Ideas That Work

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Mark Pinard

So you just found out that 67% of marketers say direct mail has the highest ROI of all marketing channels. You’re excited to tap into that ROI, but you’re stuck trying to brainstorm direct mail marketing ideas that work for your business.

Luckily, there are businesses in every industry using direct mail to target customers at every stage of the funnel that you can turn to for inspiration.

Whether your digital marketing is less than stellar or you just want to add a physical layer to your omnichannel strategy, direct mail marketing is the way to go. Many businesses are already proving that direct mail can expand audiences, increase conversions, and boost retention with these campaign ideas.

1. New product promotion

People receive over 150 emails a day. Think your new product promotion will stand out from all the digital noise? Maybe. Maybe not. Increase your chances of getting noticed by complimenting your digital new product promotion strategy with direct mail.

Who: Kit Kat

What: The well-loved candy brand promoted their new Kit Kat Chunky bar with a personalized postcard that looked like a “package could not be delivered” delivery notice claiming the candy was “too chunky” for their mailbox.

7 Direct Mail Marketing Ideas That Work image 2
source: https://www.g2.com/articles/direct-marketing-examples

Why: This campaign likely stood out from other postcards their audience received at the time. Along with being noticeable, the mail boosted brand awareness by encouraging recipients to collect their free chocolate bar from a local news station. According to G2, even though it involved giving away free products, the campaign ultimately created a spike in sales.

Best practice: Marketing doesn’t have to be serious. In fact, being outrageous might be the very thing that gets your audience’s attention. Combine a funny or outlandish idea with personalization (like adding the recipient’s name, as Kit Kat did) to make sure your direct mail is impossible to ignore.

2. Identity verification

Scammers can cause a lot of problems in a variety of industries. Add identity verification to your direct mail marketing ideas to help circumvent costly issues.

Who: CouchSurfing

What: CouchSurfing, an online travel community, used direct mail and address verification to verify that property listings (and the people who owned them) were real by mailing verification codes to property owners, who then logged in using unique information to authenticate their address and verify their identity.

Why: This allowed them to eliminate scammers and fake listings as well as get back time that can be spent more productively by CouchSurfing staff rather than manually managing the verification program.

Best practice: Manually checking that every single person is who they say they are is a time-consuming process. To save time (and therefore money), find a platform like Lob that can integrate into your current tech to automate the identity verification process and provide address verification.

3. Product samples

A big barrier when people are purchasing physical products online is not being able to taste, smell, or experience the product. Use direct mail to send the experience to customers’ doors, so they feel more confident buying.

Who: Function of Beauty

What: The hair product company used this tactic when they mailed samples of their three newest shampoo scents straight to their audience’s mailboxes.

7 Direct Mail Marketing Ideas That Work image 3
source: https://www.whosmailingwhat.com/blog/best-direct-mail-marketing-examples/

Why: This campaign allowed their audience to experience their product, giving them the confidence they need to go from “add to cart” to “purchase complete.” This kind of campaign could be used to send not just scent samples but samples for products you need to taste, feel, or use before buying, too, like food, fabric, or beauty product samples.

Best practice: When adding this campaign to your list of direct mail marketing ideas, consider sending samples to those who have already shown interest in your brand by visiting your site or adding a product to their cart. That way, you won’t spend money sending samples to people who have no intention of buying your product yet.

4. Direct mail for upsells

Just because someone made one purchase doesn’t guarantee they’ll continue to make purchases. You still have to build loyalty and encourage more purchases if you want customers to be life-long brand advocates. An upsell campaign can help you do just that.

Who: Betabrand

What: This women’s clothing company ran an upsell direct mail campaign to reengage customers and encourage them to buy the newest style of a product they recently bought.

Why: Betabrand was able to reach past customers who were unresponsive on digital channels and increase repeat revenue. The campaign drove a 30% reduction in cost per order compared to their digital channels.

Best practice: If your customer Sarah only buys pants, sending her an upsell postcard with a skirt you’re selling probably won’t be effective. Make your upsell as relevant to your audience as possible by personalizing it based on what individuals have purchased in the past.

5. Reengagement for unsubscribers

With an increasing number of tools like Unroll.me, it’s getting easier for people to unsubscribe en masse. When you can’t reach someone by email anymore, you can turn to direct mail. Get them interested again by reminding them of the value of your business and giving them an offer that encourages them to resubscribe.

Who: ThirdLove

What: This intimates company sent direct mail-based lifecycle campaigns for users that had unsubscribed from email communication.

Why: ThirdLove was able to connect with people who had opted out of email and personalized the visuals on their direct mail using customer data that shows what products people might be interested in based on previous purchases.

Best practice: Whether they were annoyed by your emails specifically or they were just purging their inbox, people unsubscribed for a reason. The last thing you want to do is turn them off from your brand even more with annoying or intrusive mail. Instead, give your audience a reason to resubscribe that’s too good to ignore.

6. Co-marketing campaigns

Want to expand your audience fast? Add collaboration to your direct mail marketing ideas! Combine your resources and run a mutually beneficial direct mail co-marketing campaign.

Who: HelloFresh

What: They work with brands like BrightCellars, a wine delivery subscription, to send coupons for HelloFresh in BrightCellars’ delivery boxes.

Why: These coupons help HelloFresh get in front of a new audience that has already shown an interest in services similar to what HelloFresh offers and is within the target age demographic (30–50).

Best practice: HelloFresh wouldn’t share Blue Apron coupons with their customers. They’re direct competitors. BrightCellars, on the other hand, offers an entirely different product: wine. And since BrightCellars’ is a beverage delivery service, HelloFresh can be pretty certain that BrightCellars’ customers would also be interested in food delivery. Choose a co-marketing partner that has some audience overlap but still provides a different end product. That way, you can create a mutually beneficial campaign.

7. In-store campaigns

Need to increase foot traffic? Sending coupons, discount codes, and punch cards that can only be used in-store can offer that much-needed boost in foot traffic.

Who: Any company or restaurant with a brick-and-mortar store like Ace Hardware and Sephora

What: They mail birthday coupons, punch cards to fit in a wallet, and free offers that can only be redeemed in the store.

Why: Online shopping has been hurting brick-and-mortar stores for years, and COVID only made it worse, sending a lot of stores (especially retail) into bankruptcy. Sephora might be making billions of dollars in revenue, but if your local Sephora isn’t driving part of that from their store, they may shut down. It’s more important than ever to include marketing initiatives that encourage foot traffic. Sending in-store coupons helps them drive foot traffic and keep their location open.

Best practice: Pay attention to recipients’ location. If Ace Hardware sent an in-store coupon to someone who lives 50 miles away from the nearest store, they’d likely be wasting their money. Narrow your geographic circle to get the most out of this direct mail campaign.

There are no limits on direct mail marketing ideas

These direct mail marketing ideas are all distinct with unique goals, but they all use one or more of these tactics:

  • They segment their audiences based on geography or where they are in the sales funnel
  • They personalize their offers, imagery, or messaging
  • They automate at least part of the process

Implementing these best practices in your own campaigns will help you get the most out of direct mail. And while these are just a few examples of direct mail marketing, the sky’s the limit on what you can do. Take a look at our Best Direct Mail Campaigns to get more ideas for how you can use direct mail.

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