Business encyclopedia

Learn everything there is to know about running a business

Direct Mail

What is Direct Mail?

Direct mail is a form of marketing that involves sending a physical piece of promotional material through the U.S. Postal Service or other courier service to a home or business. Some recipients refer to it as “junk mail,” because direct mail generally arrives uninvited.

Types of Direct Mail

Some of the most common forms of direct mail include:

  • Brochures
  • Letters
  • Flyers
  • Newsletters
  • Catalogs
  • Postcards
  • Coupon envelopes
  • Packages

Besides the item being mailed, the other essential component of a successful direct mail campaign is your list – who you’re going to mail to.

The Mailing List

Direct mail can work extremely well when an appropriate message lands on the doorstep of someone who wants or needs the product or service being promoted. Unlike advertising, which speaks to everyone in the hopes that those who are in the target market will hear the message, direct mail speaks only to those buyers most likely to want or need what’s being promoted. For that reason, direct mail is considered more efficient.

The key is in the list.

Defining Your Target Market

Direct mail can be very effective when the right customers receive your message. So who are the right customers? That depends entirely on your business and what you’re selling.

When you think about your ideal customers, how would you describe them? Do any of the following factors matter?

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Income level
  • Education level
  • Homeowner or not
  • Car owner or not
  • Kids at home
  • Employed or not

These are basic demographic questions you should be able to answer about your customer if you’re planning on using direct mail, but the more specific you get, the better your results. For example, would it be helpful to know if those on your list have hardwood floors, have pets, own stocks, or have asthma? What would you most like to know?

Where to Find Your List

Once you know who your ideal customer is, it’s time to find them. Mailing list brokers will rent you lists of people who meet your criteria, or you can rent lists from other sources, such as:

  • Magazines
  • Colleges and universities
  • Credit card companies
  • Phone company

Direct mail average response rates range from 1% from a list of prospects to 3.7% from an in-house list of previous buyers, says the Direct Marketing Association. Those are typical results, but by no means the rule. With the right mailer and the right list, it’s possible to sell to 10%, 20%, or more people on your list.

You may also be interested in: