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Why Direct Mail Still Matters and How to Make It Work for Your Business

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Why Direct Mail Still Matters and How to Make It Work for Your Business

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: June 3, 2014


Do you think direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur? Think again. In 2013, nearly two-thirds of all consumers bought something as a result of a direct mail piece, according to the Direct Mail Association (DMA). Not surprisingly, people age 65 and older are prime candidates for direct mail, since they tend to stay at the same address for many years and they enjoy reading their mail. What might surprise you is that young adults aged 18 to 34 are also highly responsive to direct mail, according to Epsilon. Why? Because young people are constantly inundated with email, spam and social media messages, direct mail stands out as something different. 


If you’re still not convinced direct mail is worth adding to your marketing mix, consider this: Direct mail costs no more than print or pay-per-click advertising, according to the DMA, and has an average response rate of between 2 and 6 percent, depending on factors such as whether it’s four-color, optimized or personalized. Compare this to email marketing, which has an average 0.12 percent response rate, according to Direct Mail News, and there’s no excuse for not giving direct mail a try.



How can you test direct mail without breaking the bank—and with great results? Here are some ideas.


1. Choose your format:

  • Do you have a simple, easy-to-understand offer? Consider postcards. They come in different sizes, so they stand out from letters and news circulars, and they’re affordable to print and mail. Keep your design simple and eye-catching; use both sides of the postcard to maximize information.

  • Is your sales pitch more complex? If you’re selling a pricey product or service that requires more convincing, a sales letter is the way to go. Get it opened by making the outside mysterious. Experts say that envelopes with no marketing copy at all on the outside often work best—people will open it to see if it’s something important, instead of throwing it out as junk mail.

  • On a really tight budget? Printing a simple flyer, then folding it in thirds and sealing it can be a cost-effective way to get the word out. Use a bright color so your piece doesn’t get lost in a pile of mail.

2.  Make an offer they can’t refuse. Direct mail typically needs to include some type of special offer or savings to be effective. In general, it’s better to offer dollars-off than a percentage off—for some reason, it seems more valuable to customers.


3. Create a sense of urgency. Time-limited offers get customers moving to contact you and buy. However, don’t send an offer every month, or customers learn to devalue what you sell and consider the discount price the “regular” price. Make your deals really special by offering them infrequently. Another alternative is to offer a free gift or other extra with purchase; make it something that costs you little or nothing, but has value to the customer.


4. Personalize it. The best direct mail calls on the recipient’s past experience with your brand. For example, if a customer comes to your auto repair shop for an oil change, get their information and send them a reminder postcard with a special offer a month before their next oil change is due. You’re offering something of value (helping make car care more convenient) in addition to offering a discount. Free meals on birthdays are another standard direct mail piece that works (who comes in to a restaurant alone?).


5. Test and track. Test different wording on your mailings, different offers and even different designs until you find out what works best. Use coupon codes on your mailers and have customers bring the mailer in or refer to the code when they call so you can track which campaigns pull customers in. Or add a URL that leads to a custom landing page so you’ll know which mailer drives online traffic best. 





About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades


Direct Mail is the new trend for web marketing.
Excellent article. I'd like to add: when making an offer on a post card offer something free, and give a big phone number. Ask for the call several times. I like to offer a FREE Booklet filled with useful information. When you offer a FREE booklet, the title is responsible for the response: good title = good response; terrific title = terrific response. See my article "The Jeff Dobkin 100 to 1 Rule" to learn how to create the best booklet title. When sending a letter, my favorite envelope teaser is "Gift Certificate Enclosed." It's classy, and most everyone will open the envelope to see what the gift is. Finally, when sending a brochure or booklet in an envelop you should include a letter in the package. It's cheap insurance your mailpiece will draw more response. The cost of the additional sheet of paper? 1-1/2 cents. Additional articles on increasing response are on my websites.
Yes it is a fact that direct mails has got their importance under the current market scenario, as these are not only tough to be ignored but does affects the business in their long run too.
Nice Ideas! Very important tips are shared by you. It is really very helpful for me and my business. Thanks
Very good and has many improvements exciting new.
I find that Micro Marketing is having a larger impact on our bottom line. We have been using a system that combines both old school classic marketing and technology to automate processes that took an entire staff to manage. My ROI from good old direct mail of this "new" sort is starting to beat inbound lead generation.
agree with you .
Very good thanks
Hello Rieva, You posted good information. Direct mail is really works but not as you expect. Becuase I am also in this field. It returns 3 to 4% to the business. Am I rightfor your point of view........ Thank you
so nice, tks for your sharing


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