14 Tips to Improve the ROI of Direct Mail Advertising

Want to increase to increase the ROI of your direct mail advertising campaigns? Check out the fourteen tips we’ve compiled below. Whether you’re a beginner or a direct mail advertising pro, these fourteen optimizations are certain to improve the success of your efforts.

Tip #1 - Create a Unique Offer

Nearly 68% of consumers are incentivized to buy when receiving mail with exclusive coupons or deals. Furthermore, 30% are attracted to mail from local businesses.

Strong, timely CTAs (Calls to Action) deliver results. Consider the chart below.

(Table 1. Statista Research Department, 2014)

This makes sense since, according to the COX Consumer Pulse Fast Facts 2018 survey, consumers shop at local businesses for the following reasons:

  • Convenience (61%)
  • Better Customer Service than Large Businesses (48%)
  • Familiarity (41%)
  • Loyalty (35%)
  • Trust (31%)

Unique offers in your direct mail advertising campaigns can set your business apart from your competitors and entice customers to buy. Percentage discounts, buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) offers, and free services or samples are all good ways to drive customer responses.

Pro Tip: Make sure your offer is:
  • Enticing enough to drive action
  • Distinct/unique from your competitors

Tip #2 – Use Unique Tracking Methods

You need a way to track and measure the success of your campaign accurately. Some of the most common ways are to do so are:

  • Trackable URLs & Personalized URLs (PURL)
  • Coupon Codes & Special Offers
  • Trackable Phone Number
  • QR Codes
  • Business Reply Cards/Complete a Form
  • Social Media
  • Website Visits

Tip #3 – Professional Design

The impact and persuasiveness of strong design in direct mail advertising can’t be overstated. An ineffective, boring, or plain design won’t engage your target audiences.

Direct mail should be professionally designed to make it as appealing as possible to your prospective customers. The pieces need to entice them to think, “Hey, I want that!” The better your design, the more likely it is that customers will convert.

Innovations like unusual, custom designs, and stylized envelopes can help your mail piece stand out from competitors.

Tip #4 - Target

The most successful marketing campaigns are always the ones that understand their target audiences, and direct mail advertising is no exception.

The more specific you can get, the more success you’re likely to enjoy. Sending mail to prospects unlikely to convert is a waste of time and money.

Research your audiences, and then target your special offers to each segment. For example, a residential heating and air conditioning company targeting homeowners wouldn’t want to send mailers to renters living in an apartment building, since the core of its business is owners, not renters.

Tip #5 - Retarget

Retarget prospects who visit a landing page or website but don’t convert. Online ad campaigns can improve the ROI of your efforts by putting your business in front of them using multiple times through different channels.

The information gleaned from this data can help you expand your target audience, keeping your business top-of-mind for when customers are ready to buy.

Tip #6 – Personalize

“Dear Resident” doesn’t convert well. How many of these types of offers have you ever taken action on? Few to none?

Showcase your professionalism by addressing the recipient by name. It’ll help start the customer-business relationship off in the right way: courteously and positively.

Tip #7 - Segment Your Mailing List

A form of personalization, segmenting your mailing list can increase the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns by making it more relevant to your audience.

Mailing list segmentation is a marketing technique where you segment your list into segments based on the conditions you set. It helps businesses and marketers send more relevant communications to specific customers. For example, a department store promoting a back-to-school sale wouldn’t want to send direct mail to customers with no school-aged children in the household.

Tip #8 – Follow Up

How many ads have you seen just once and then jumped right up and said, “I have to have that! I’m buying it right now!”

Again, probably few to none.

It takes multiple touches to break through the noise and resonate with customers, and the more they see your business, the more likely they are to engage with your brand. Depending on your business or industry, you’ll probably want to send a minimum of three mailings for each campaign.

Pro Tip: Try mixing up the design or message on each one to see which mail piece converts at the highest rate.

Tip #9 – Reduce Costs

Taking advantage of bulk rates can significantly reduce costs, which gives your business more budget to allocate to help make your marketing efforts even more effective. Different size mail pieces are priced at different rates, so strike a balance between cost, design appeal, and your business goals.

Tip #10 – Integration

Integrating your direct mail campaigns with other channels (online ads, social media, TV and radio, email marketing, etc.) increases reach and conversions. When customers see your brand in multiple places and mediums, they’re more likely to convert. Plus, you’re letting them interact with your brand on their terms, and that means you’re delivering great customer experiences.

Tip #11 – List Hygiene

Life happens. Customers move, get married or divorced, pass away, and so on. It’s important to periodically review your lists to make sure your direct mail campaign is accurate and performing as effectively as it can be. List hygiene can also be performed before a campaign is launched to reduce costs.

Addresses that don’t generate responses after a few touches, such as P.O. boxes, drop addresses, seasonal homes, and businesses, can likely be cleansed from your mailing list.

Consider running your mailing list through the National Change of Address (NCOA) service provided by the U.S. Postal Service. This can help ensure your mailers reach the mailboxes you want them to reach.

Tip #12 – Be Clear

There’s a fine line between being clever and being clear. Customers are drowning in a deluge of advertising messages already. Don’t add to the noise by making your message too hard to figure out. Most of all, make sure the benefits of your offer are immediately and easily understood. Be concise. Be direct.

Tip #13 – Track Your Investment

As always, it is critical to track your marketing campaign so you can determine what’s working and what’s not. Analytics platforms such as Google Analytics are especially useful if you’re using trackable URLs or personalized URLs (landing pages). Not only can you track how many customers are visiting and taking action on your pages, but you can also retarget them with online ads to stay top-of-mind and get more out of your campaigns.

Tip #14 – Make Responding & Converting Easy

If a prospect receives your mailer, takes the desired action like calling your business or visiting your website, but can’t immediately redeem the offer, chances are you’ve just lost a sale.

Customers’ time is at a premium, and there are too many distractions in the digital age to expect them to wait around. Worse, if you’ve just convinced a prospect that they need what you’re selling but can’t deliver, they might take their business to a competitor instead.


Table 1.

Statista Research Department. (2014). Direct mail attraction rate in the U.S. 2014, by content. Retrieved from https://www-statista-com.nec.gmilcs.org/statistics/322249/attraction-direct-mail-content-usa/

Become a Marketing HERO with these other resources from our blog:

We all know data is important, but how do you turn that data into metrics you can take action on?

Measure and improve the success of your campaigns by tapping into one or more of these response channels!


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Canada Post Corporation. (2015). A Bias for Action. The Neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail. Retrieved from https://www.canadapost.ca/assets/pdf/blogs/CPC_Neuroscience_EN_150717.pdf

COX. (2018). Consumer Pulse Fast Facts 2018 Survey. Retrieved from http://newsroom.cox.com/download/COX+Consumer+Pulse+Fast+Facts+2018.pdf

Haskel, D. (2015). 2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%. Retrieved from https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/04/14/dma-response-rate-report-and-direct-mail/

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Simpson, J. (2017). Finding Brand Success In The Digital World. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/08/25/finding-brand-success-in-the-digital-world/#676620a626e2

The Radcati Group. (2015). Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019. Retrieved from https://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf),

United States Postal Service. (2019). Is Direct Mail Advertising Effective? A Research Study. Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General explore the power of print vs. digital marketing. Retrieved from https://www.uspsdelivers.com/why-direct-mail-is-more-memorable/

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