Direct Mail Defined

The Definition and Tips of Direct Mail

Direct Mail Definition
Reach your past, present and future customers through direct mail.. Juanmonino | Getty Images

Definition: Direct mail is a form of marketing in which businesses send letters, postcards or other promotional materials to past, current or potential customers or clients. Direct mail campaigns may be targeted to either a consumer or business market (or both).  In many cases, the mailing is directed to a target demographic or geographic market.

Pros of Direct Mail:

  • Effective at getting a response if well-written and targeted.
  • Bulk mailing costs less than regular mail.

Cons of Direct Mail:

  • Many consumers throw direct mail items away as "junk mail."
  • Costly especially if the mailing doesn't lead to results.

How to Use Direct Mail

  1. Decide on your goal. What do you want people to do when they get your mailing? Order? Call for a consult?
  2. Determine the type of mailing you'll send. Postcards are less expensive, but also have limits to how much information you can put on them. At the same time, a postcard might have a better chance of being read, than a letter which requires the recipient to open.
  3. Create your mailing. The success of direct mail requires designing a compelling mailer. To do that, you need to understand copywriting. It's not enough to tell people about your business. Instead you need to entice them by speaking to their needs and offering to be the solution to their problems. You are allowed to put text on an envelope, so don't forget to put a message that entices people to open your letter.
  1. Have your mailing professionally designed and printed. Not just words, but how they are placed on your mailer and images you use make a difference about whether a mailing is read. It pays to have it done by someone who knows about direct mail.
  2. Identify your target market. Who will be receiving your mailing? Are you contacting past customers, current prospects or sending a cold mail from a bought mailing list? Do your research before buying a list to make sure it's an updated and quality list. Further, follow the list owner's rules for mailing. For example, most only "rent" you the names for one one mailing. The only way to add list members to your permanent list is if they respond to your mailing.
  1. Contact your local post office about using bulk mail, which is the cheapest way to send direct mail.
  2. Prep your promo for mailing and take to your local post office.
  3. Track responses and calculate your ROI to determine if direct mail is an effective marketing strategy in your home business.

What is the Future of Direct Mail

Many businesses have replaced or supplemented their direct mail marketing efforts with email marketing as the latter is considerably easier to track and in most cases, far less expensive than direct mail.

Along with email, many businesses are turning to social media to make announcements and offer promotions often sent in direct mail. Like email, social media can be more effective and less expensive than direct mail.

Also Known As: direct marketing

Examples: I received several pieces of direct mail today. One was an offer of 50 percent off a vacation to Hawaii.

Updated October 2015 by Leslie Truex

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