Direct mail pieces have stood the test of time in an ever-increasing digital-focused world for a reason. Human beings crave and desire tangible, physical things that engage and connect them and elicit a response. Tactile, visual, or even olfactory direct mail pieces offer an experience that digital channels cannot.
Marketing professionals and consumers have noticed:
Direct mail pieces offer a range of benefits that can enhance your marketing strategies:
In the following sections, we'll delve deeper into the benefits of direct mail pieces.
Direct mail isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. There are several types of direct mail pieces, each suitable for different direct mail marketing purposes:
Not surprisingly, the 2023 State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights report states that, catalogs and magazines are the most preferred direct mail piece format, regardless of the relationship a consumer has with a brand. The report goes on to share that consumers are most likely to read catalogs/magazines from brands with which they have an existing relationship, followed by letters and brochures.
It’s important to keep in mind that depending on which industry you are in and your direct mail use case can also impact the type of direct mail pieces you might send. For example, financial services, healthcare, and insurance companies tend to send out more letters due to the nature of their communications than retail and e-commerce, which send out more catalogs and brochures However, many companies are using postcards and other direct mail piece formats for customer acquisition, retention or reactivation campaigns. You can see real-life direct mail marketing use cases and the direct mail piece formats used in our case studies.
Get a head start on your first direct mail marketing campaign using our direct mail piece templates.
Design and content are critical components of a successful direct mail piece. Your direct mail piece should:
Using segmentation and targeting for direct mail pieces is crucial for achieving maximum effectiveness and engagement.
Understand your audience: Thoroughly research and understand your target audience. Before you begin any direct mail campaign, it's essential to conduct thorough research to gain a deep understanding of your target audience. This includes demographics, psychographics, preferences, and behavior. By comprehending their needs, desires, and pain points, you can tailor your message and design to resonate with them effectively. Remember, not all potential customers are the same, so a one-size-fits-all approach won't yield the best results.
Segment your lists: Divide your audience into smaller segments to provide more personalized content and mailers to smaller, more responsive audiences. One of the primary techniques for personalizing your direct mail is segmentation. Divide your overall audience into smaller, more homogenous groups based on various criteria. Common segmentation factors include demographics, geographic location, past purchase history, or even customer lifecycle stage. By creating these segments, you can craft highly relevant content that speaks directly to each group's specific needs and interests. This segmentation can help increase response rates and ROI.
Use data and analytics: Leverage data and analytics to make informed decisions about who to target and when. Data-driven decision-making is a cornerstone of effective direct mail campaigns. Leverage data and analytics to refine your targeting strategies and optimize the timing of your mailings. By analyzing past campaign data, you can identify patterns and insights that inform decisions about who to target, which messages resonate best, and when the optimal time for mailing is. This approach ensures that your resources are spent more efficiently and that your messages reach the right people at the right time.
To learn more, get the Optimizing Direct Mail for Maximum Results guide.
Measuring the success of your direct mail campaign is essential:
Make your campaigns more successful with the strategies in the Modern Marketer’s Guide to Direct Mail Analytics & Testing.
Using an automated direct mail platform for your direct mail marketing offers several key benefits that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns. Three key benefits include:
Efficiency: An automated direct mail platform is a game-changer for efficiency in your direct mail campaigns. These direct mail companies take the complexity out of the process, making it seamless from the initial design phase to the final delivery. Designing, printing, and mailing can be time-consuming and prone to errors when done manually. Direct mail automation allows you to set up templates, schedule mailings, and manage your campaigns with minimal manual intervention. This saves you valuable time and reduces the risk of mistakes, ensuring that your direct mail pieces reach your recipients on time, every time. It's a cost-effective approach that maximizes your team's productivity and allows them to focus on more strategic aspects of your marketing efforts.
Personalization: Personalization is a cornerstone of effective marketing, and automated direct mail platforms make it easier than ever to tailor your messages at scale. Whether you're sending out one or millions of mailers, you can customize content, images, and even offers to cater to the specific interests and preferences of individual recipients. Personalization enhances the recipient's experience by making them feel valued and increases the relevance of your communications, boosting response rates. Automated platforms offer the tools and capabilities to segment your audience and create personalized content, ensuring your direct mail campaigns resonate with each recipient.
Integrations: A significant advantage of using automated direct mail marketing companies is their seamless integration with your other marketing tools. This integration allows for a unified approach across your marketing channels. You can sync your direct mail campaigns with your digital marketing efforts, email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and more. This synergy ensures that your messaging is consistent and cohesive across various touchpoints, reinforcing your brand identity and marketing strategy. Additionally, it provides valuable data insights by connecting data from different channels, enabling you to make data-driven decisions and refine your campaigns for better performance. In a modern marketing landscape, where multichannel strategies are vital, integration through automation is a powerful tool to stay ahead.
“We automated all of it—from making sure members were providing deliverable addresses to programmatically sending postcards on-demand.” - Denise Remhof, Product Manager, Couchsurfing
There are several direct mail marketing services to choose from. Consider how each direct mail service will scale as your business does and if it offers all the functionality you want now and in the future.
Here are a few inspiring success stories from businesses that have harnessed the power of direct mail pieces.
Medicare represents one of the largest sectors in the healthcare industry. However, engaging this demographic has historically been a challenge. Newer and more cost-effective marketing platforms such as social media and digital advertising have limited reach, and guerrilla tactics like spam calls and misleading TV advertisements leave patients confused and skeptical of engaging.
These insights led to the creation of Mabel, a healthcare communications platform that sends personalized letters to Medicare patients on behalf of the person they trust most—their doctor. Mabel uses the doctor’s electronic health records (EHR) system data to segment patients and deliver targeted messaging, helping patients change insurances, enroll in specific health programs, or better manage their health—unlocking a new marketing channel.
Mabel implemented Lob’s automated direct mail solution, which provided an innovative solution centered around API functionality. Mabel leverages technology to automate direct mail on behalf of each clinic, eliminating the burden of manual, inefficient processes.
Mabel’s partnership with Lob enabled its clinics to customize and personalize mail pieces at a patient-to-patient level with unique logos, branding, return addresses, phone numbers, and websites for each clinic. This, in combination with the patient segmentation based on EHR data, ensures that every patient receives tailored messaging that resonates with them, optimizing the impact of the direct mail campaigns.
Direct mail response rates for Mabel’s campaigns are 30 to 50 times higher than industry norms, and Mabel’s response rates are in the double digits, with an average response rate of around 5%. This highlights the effectiveness of personalized messaging from patients' doctors.
Gupta says, "We target the Medicare population. These folks are over 65. Spam calls bombard them, so they don't answer the phone. They don't typically have email addresses or check their email regularly, so there aren't good ways to reach them directly. But a letter from their doctor does get a response and gets acted on quickly. And that’s why the response rates are 30 to 50 times higher than a typical response rate from a payer sending letters out is around 0.1 to 0.25%.”
Direct mail for the real estate investing market hasn’t changed much in the last decade, resulting in many firms using very similar-looking boilerplate mail. The direct mail piece templates were basic, handwritten letter formats and lacked personalization, customization options, and elements like QR codes for tracking and attribution. Because of the limiting templates, VentureStack struggled to stand out from the competition in acquiring new home-selling clients with its direct mail campaigns.
VentureStack began using Lob in its new customer acquisition campaigns. It found near immediate success with a two-page letter. On the first page, VentureStack introduces its services and benefits. The second page provides the company's qualifications and the properties it purchased in the area. Lastly, it includes a trackable link to its website and an image of the person the prospect would be working with to give it a personal, human touch.
VentureStack has also successfully used direct mail postcards. Its postcard includes a QR code to drive traffic to its website, leading prospects to fill out a form. It then uses a Facebook pixel and pixels on its website to retarget and capture leads.
“In our industry, companies normally target a 4 to 5 times return to be a viable, sustainable marketing channel. We have an 8.3 return on ad spend from direct mail, so we're blowing that out of the water.”- Tim McGarvey, Co-founder
Direct mail pieces are a valuable resource in your marketing toolkit. Whether your aim is to enhance brand recognition or drive revenue, direct mail can yield impressive results. Embracing this tactile marketing strategy allows you to take advantage of a channel with which consumers engage and take action.
In a marketing landscape rich with diverse approaches, direct mail marketing offers a tangible and cost-effective way to deliver your message in a way that complements your digital marketing efforts to make a strong impression on your target audience.
For more insights, tools, and tips on direct mail pieces, check out our additional resources:
Lob is the only direct mail automation platform for the digital age. Lob's platform automates the direct mail execution process for enterprises at any scale - from creation, printing, postage, delivery, and sustainability with end-to-end analytics and campaign attribution. Over 12,000 businesses trust Lob to transform their direct mail into intelligent mail.
Founded in 2013 and based in San Francisco, Lob is venture-backed by Y Combinator, Polaris Partners, Floodgate, and First Round Capital.
Find out more about Lob’s automated direct mail marketing at: https://lob.com.