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The Ultimate Guide to a Direct Mail Campaign
November 26, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to a Direct Mail Campaign

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Tatiana Afanasyeva

Direct mail. This hardworking, high-converting backbone of every business’ marketing campaign, is old as postal service, yet here to stay. With today’s online tools, modern creativity, technological innovation, and data analysis, the direct mail campaign of yesteryear has changed dramatically and for the better.

While the four main components of direct mail (the list, the offer, the creative, and the delivery) have remained the same, today’s versions of them have been given a major upgrade. This is great news for business owners, as waste is virtually eliminated, reach is exponentially expanded, and customer conversion is escalated.

Whether you’re beginning a direct mail campaign for the first time or looking to optimize the one you already have, following Lob’s guidance in this ultimate guide will take your direct mail campaign from start . . . to startling success!

What Direct Mail Looks Like Now

In decades past, direct mail simply involved creating a single marketing message, putting it on a postcard with your business’s phone number, mailing it to as many addresses as the budget allowed, and waiting to see if you get a bump in customer calls. Sound familiar?

Fortunately, print & mail campaigns have come a long way in just the last few years. This is mostly thanks to a variety of innovative online tools. Now, Lob has brought the innovation directly to direct mail with the trackability of email, the A/B testing of banner ads, and the easy setup of social media.

In other words, stop sending direct mail the old way and start getting more out of your investment!

Here’s what direct mail looks like now.

On-Demand Mailing

In the past, you had to print a minimum of pieces (often hundreds or even thousands at a time) unless you were willing to pay a premium for a small run.

Lob’s pricing is simple, transparent and designed to scale with your business. Now, you can choose to print one or one million pieces.

Event-Driven Triggers

In the past, month-end lists were pulled and customers were sent welcome letters, thank you postcards, and other pieces. Unfortunately, this tactic often meant too little or too much time went by in between customer interactions.

Now, Lob’s API allows for total automation, which means physical mail can be automatically triggered based on individual user actions, events, or anniversaries.

Dynamic Content

In the past, you’d have to guess what would pique your customers’ interest. How often were you right? There’s no way to know. Also, if you wanted to try multiple versions of print materials, you’d have to send the printer a new file for each one.

Now, customization is king and crafting captivating content is key. All you need to do is personalize for each recipient, create a single HTML/CSS template, and Lob will generate multiple versions in no time. You can also easily include distinct offer codes or URLs on every piece you send, maximizing tracking opportunities.

A/B Testing

In the past, you got one headline and one CTA. What you didn’t get is any insight.

With Lob you can easily A/B test your mail to determine what converts. With HTML/CSS templates, you can send as many versions as you like and create individual tests.

Integrated Technology

In the past, you had to build your CSV file, clean it up, upload it to the FTP, and call your third-party vendor before you were ready to go to print.

Now, Lob’s cutting-edge API technology only needs to be set up once before you’re ready to manage all your own print jobs in-house. Post integration all you’ll need to do is programmatically send us a template and an address. We’ll do the print & mail.

Intelligent Tracking

In the past, you knew when your print job made it to the printer, but after that? You never knew when your mail was actually mailed out or put in your customers’ mailboxes.

Now, Lob has intelligent mail tracking. You’ll always know exactly where your pieces are throughout the entire mailstream.

How to Run a Winning Direct Mail Campaign

As mentioned above, there are four main components of direct mail:

  1. The List (an audience who is interested in your product/service)
  2. The Offer (something that will motivate your audience to act)
  3. The Creative (how you will engage your customers)
  4. The Delivery (getting your mail into mailboxes)

If you want your direct mail campaign to be a winning one, these four main components need to be looked at carefully and optimized for today’s demanding and oversaturated audience.

Here are eight tips on how to take these main components and optimize your direct mail performance to take your business to the next level:

  • Choose Your Audience Wisely: Some examples on how to do this are to target inactive customer segment, trigger direct mail to customers that unsubscribed from your digital communications, encourage an upsell etc..
  • Track Every Piece of Data: Analyze your performance via conversions. Do this by providing a unique sign-up code, test in an isolated geographic area, or measure sign-up at specific residences.
  • Create an Offer: A great offer is any incentive that moves a recipient to action. Examples include a free trial, a gift, free shipping, percentage-off discounts, and more.
  • Test Constantly: One way to test your direct mail list, your creative, and your offer is to make every send an A/B or A/B/C test. Whichever one wins, take it and continue to iterate on it. But don’t stop your testing there! Test your audience, design, and incentive as well. Each version should go to at least a few thousand recipients for accurate results.
  • Incorporate Personalized Content: If you know any audience characteristics, use them. When you incorporate personalized content, you make your pieces more relevant to your customers. Anything can be customized, from recipients’ names, maps, and pre-approved rates to notes in a handwriting font.
  • Demand an Effective Delivery: Getting your mail into the hands of your customers as soon as possible is very important. Look for vendor that automatically routes print requests through a network of vetted printers, so mail gets to its destination faster than ever. There are many ways to lower your postage costs. Clean your list, verify that your addresses are deliverable, sent more pieces to smaller areas (saturation mail), ship your mail closer to its final destination (drop shipping), or use a mail consultant or service for a seamless, optimal mail solution. Lob will save you time (aka money) by taking care of printing, mailing, and postage for a single straightforward price.
  • Be Patient and Let the Results Roll In: It can take anywhere from a few days to over a month for results to roll in, depending on how you mailed your pieces. Be patient and let the campaign do its job.

How to Scale Up Your Direct Mail Campaign

One of the biggest challenges for marketers, regardless of channel or medium, is waste. While scaling acquisition and retention campaigns is important, you may run the risk of creating collateral too quickly. That’s why advertising to a broad audience on a massive scale is not an effective way to run your direct mail campaign. Don’t waste dollars on low conversion rates!

Thanks to automation, targeting, and personalization tech, it’s finally possible to align your messaging to your most engaged audiences and track the performance of every campaign. Just remember, integrating data sources between your CRM and third-party vendors is just the beginning. A steady, methodical approach is the best way to build your direct mail growth engine.

Here are some simple steps to take when scaling up your direct mail campaign.

Check the Integrity of Your List + Your Messaging

Unfortunately, lists and messages can become outdated very quickly. Before you launch any campaign, sanity-check both the integrity of your list and your messaging, since this is where success starts.

When checking your list:

  • Cross check it with your CRM data and check a small sample. Do the behavioral patterns and characteristics match up? Ask your engineering team to run an algorithm that cross-checks attributes.
  • Use social media data to understand your audience’s preferences and behavioral characteristics. For example, research their organic insights, conduct basic keyword searches to look for patterns, and turn your casual social media fans into warm leads.

Run a Series of Small Pilots to Identify Your Wins and Losses

With each direct mail pilot, you will need to follow these four steps:

  1. Choose a segment of your list.
  2. Take a small sample.
  3. Cap your budget.
  4. Deploy your direct mail campaign.

The goal is to determine your campaign’s strengths and its weaknesses. If you find a point of friction, keep iterating on your segmentation, list-optimization, and messaging process until you find a winning formula. Repeat with every point of friction.

Scale Your Wins While Cutting the Cord on Your Losses

After you have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t, you should then have two goals. First, put an end to your unprofitable and unsuccessful campaigns. Second, double-down on your successes.

This is where automation enters the equation in order to scale your successes very, very quickly. Automation allows you to:

  • Use your CRM to make a more personalized message
  • Grow your campaigns quickly (giving you faster profitability)
  • Run A/B tests in order to improve your messages on the spot
  • Create working look-alike campaigns

Lob’s API helps you to let go of lag time when building campaigns manually. Then it assists you in scaling up quickly and cost-effectively, as if on autopilot.


Whether you are running a retention campaign or an acquisition campaign, when done right, direct mail can offer your business the benefits of age-old marketing strategies combined with ultra-modern marketing technology to create a unique, cost-effective campaign that works extremely well.

Eliminating minimum print runs, empowering total customization, and automating every step of the process with Lob’s simple API will allow your business to grow efficiently and sustainably.

If you need help with your direct mail, use Lob’s print & mail direct mail automation API!

See Lob's Direct Mail Platform in Action

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