Direct Mail Marketing: Definition, Benefits and Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 11, 2022 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated October 11, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As technology advances, marketing methods continue to evolve and adapt, but traditional techniques like direct mail marketing can still offer an effective strategy for businesses. Direct mail marketing involves sending mailed promotional materials to a target audience. This marketing strategy can benefit companies looking to increase sales, promote brand awareness and accomplish advertising.

In this article, we discuss direct mail marketing and its advantages, then offer tips for using direct mail in its various forms.

What is direct mail?

Direct mail refers to mailed advertising materials like letters, postcards or packages not requested by the recipient. Companies usually send this mail in bulk. They typically use it for business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) purposes. Businesses can also use direct mail to target past, current or potential customers. Often, marketers target specific demographic groups or geographic markets with their direct mail. Some marketers use shared mail rather than stand-alone mail to reach their market. Shared mail gives multiple businesses advertising space on one piece of mail. Stand-alone mail includes a single company's message and mail.

Businesses can use different types of mailing lists to target their audience. Saturation mailing lists include entire ZIP codes or mailing routes. This mailing list offers an inexpensive option since it doesn't involve much research or labor. Targeted mailing lists give businesses more demographic choices to tailor their direct mailing list to a specific group of consumers. Targeted mailing lists can be rented from brokers or companies can create their own through data collection and market research.

Related: What Is Direct Mail Marketing?

Benefits of using direct mail

Using direct mail for marketing and promotions can offer many benefits. Here are some of the key advantages of direct mail:

Reduced cost

The cost of direct mail can vary depending on the item your business sends. However, when you send mail in bulk, postage costs less than individual mail. These savings and benefits create a higher return on investment (ROI) for direct mail.

Related: Best Ways To Manage a Marketing Budget (With Template and Example)

Increased engagement

The average consumer receives an estimated 100 or more emails a day. Conversely, most people receive only a few pieces of mail in their physical mailbox daily. Consumers often find physical mail more trustworthy than email and the scarcity of physical mail can make it more likely for the consumer to engage with the content.

Related: Marketing's Promotional Mix: Definition and How To Use It

Expanded audience

Many consumers enjoy interacting with tangible mail. Opening a letter or reading a postcard is easier for some individuals than checking their email and following website links. Direct mail can target all age groups. Many consumers over the age of 65 rarely use email. Direct mail can target that demographic successfully.

Related: A Guide to Conducting Market Research

Greater creativity

Direct mail allows for extra creativity in your marketing strategy. You can send mail in various sizes, shapes and colors to attract the receiver. Additionally, direct mail allows you to provide a package containing products or samples.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Strategic Planning

Tips for direct mail

Here are some tips you can use to get the most out of direct mail:

  • Be creative. Consider the possibilities of direct mail. Instead of sending a letter on plain stationery, an airline can send instructions on making a paper airplane.

  • Take risks. Use bold graphic design or engaging language to engage your reader and prompt action.

  • Personalize your mailer. Put the recipient's name somewhere in the copy and include other information you may have about them to show your commitment to personalized customer service.

  • Include a call to action. Clearly state an action, tied to your business goals, for the consumer to perform after receiving your mailer.

  • Do your target market research. Use a target market analysis to choose the type of mail you plan to send, the amount of money you can spend on the campaign and how much to target the direct mailing.

  • Complete a practice test. Send out a test batch of your direct mail marketing campaign before spending the money on a full-scale version to ensure you have a good return on investment to make the cost of the campaign worthwhile.

  • Proofread your copy. Double-check the copy on your mailer and ensure correct spelling and grammar.

  • Follow up with recipients. Have a plan to follow up with the direct mail recipients after the initial contact.

  • Include an online element. Include an online element to your direct mail marketing campaign, such as a scannable QR code or interactive tool to drive traffic to your web presence.

  • Use emotions. Send an object or use language that engages the recipient's nostalgia, fear or other strong emotion.

Related: How To Market a Small Business: A Complete Guide

Forms of direct mail

Direct mail marketing can take many forms. Here are some useful ideas of content you can send to promote a business:

  • Catalogs: Catalogs are great for companies with many products as they have space to include images and product descriptions.

  • Discounts or specials: Providing a customer with a coupon drives traffic to the retail location or online e-commerce site.

  • Useful items: These may include calendars, jar openers or sticky notes. Ensure your logo appears on the item to remind the consumer of the company or products.

  • Reminders: For cyclical businesses, sending reminders before an important industry event can be beneficial. For example, an accountant may send a tax preparation reminder towards the end of the year.

  • Samples: Samples allow consumers to try a product before purchasing and can improve brand awareness and sales.

  • Announcements: You can announce the opening of a new retail location, a new product or any change to the business that entices customers to learn more.

  • Newsletters: A newsletter can briefly share all the important information about the company in one document.

  • Swag: Send branded materials like coffee mugs or t-shirts to consumers. The customer can enjoy receiving a product for free, and the company can enjoy free advertising as they use the branded products.


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