Direct Mail 101: Secrets, Do’s and Don’ts

Direct Mail is a powerful tool when used properly because it gives you direct access to your target customers and clients. But Direct Mail has to be handled with care and precision.

Here are some essentials for making your direct mail produce results:

• The Golden Rule of Direct Mail is to test and measure everything. This is the only way to determine with precision whether your campaigns are successful and should be rolled out on a larger scale.

• You should start testing a new Direct Mail campaign with a small number. Depending on the size of your business this may be a few hundred or a couple of thousand.

• By far the best place to start increasing your Direct Mail is with your existing customers and clients. How often do you mail them now and what would happen if you increased the frequency of mailing?

• Always include a letter with a brochure – statistically, it will improve the response.

• The first thing people will read in your letter is the headline (or the first line of the letter if there is no headline) and the PS. So make sure these convey your message in a concise way.

• Make sure that your mailings focus on the benefits that your customers/clients are going to receive.

• If you get a good response from a mailing – and repeat that mailing two or three weeks later – you are likely to get another significant response – around 50% of the first mailing.

• Consider the break-even concept. This involves using Direct Mail to target new customers and clients – even if the mailings only break even. Providing a percentage of them do repeat business with you – it can be a very effective way to rapidly grow your customer base.


• Keep your message simple. You have only a few seconds to get your prospect’s attention – do it with a simple, powerful message that clearly tells what you are selling and what the benefits of your product are.

• Avoid too many details, especially on the cover of a brochure.

• Determine your “Customer Profile”. Examining your current customer base and determining its important characteristics is the starting point. You want to target the right audience for your product, so come up with a customer profile first.

• Test. Many variables can affect the response to a mailing: the list, the offer, price and so forth. Test with smaller mailings – a few thousand pieces – to refine these variables before rolling out those big mailings. There is no mailer that consistently performs better than any others, so you have to test. This can help you avoid major mistakes.

• Design your mail piece to include something that will make your customer react. A mailer that just tells them your businesses location and hours of operation won’t get them to come running to your door. But a buy one get one free promotion just might!

• Personalize – the more personal you make your mailer, the better chance you will have increasing your response rates

• Give your customer a time limitation (ex: 25% off until the end of the month).

• Offer a free gift.

• Analyze the response. Make sure you can track leads and orders, so you can determine the return on your mailing investment.

• Mail more than once. Repetition is important; mail at least six times a year to your prospects for maximum impact. In most cases, the effectiveness of your message will be enhanced by repetition. Be persistent, it will pay off!


• Mail only once. Too many times, businesses use a mailing as a one-time “knee-jerk” reaction when things are slow. But this doesn’t give a true picture of the potential. Like other kinds of advertising, repetition is the key to success in direct mail. You should mail at least six times to the same group to get best results.

• Forget existing customers. Direct mail is a great way to stay in touch with your customers, offer them specials, and get more orders from them. You should mail to existing customers several times a year.

© 2009 Thompson Advertising, Inc. Reproduction of this article is only permitted if Thompson Advertising is credited and our Web site address is published along with it. “”