top of page

5 Tips for Effective Direct Mail

Stack of direct mail

Image by Tom Butala

It's no secret that marketers are turning to digital formats to connect with consumers. And why shouldn't they? People are glued to their smartphones, tablets and laptops just about every waking hour. It's a no-brainer for businesses to invest their marketing dollars in the digital space.

According to market research firm Forrester, businesses in the United States are projected to spend almost $120 billion annually on digital marketing by 2021. That equates to 11 percent compounded growth from 2016. At that rate, digital marketing will account for 46 percent of U.S. businesses' overall advertising budget, according to Forrester.

So with more and more dollars being sunk into digital marketing each year, it's safe to say that traditional direct mail marketing is the way of the past, right?

Wrong! the Data & Marketing Association's 2017 Response Rate Report says direct mail campaigns achieve the highest response rate compared to digital formats. Direct mail campaigns had a 5.1 percent response rate, compared to 0.6 percent for email, 0.6 percent for paid search, 0.4 percent for social media and 0.2 percent for online display.

What's more, according to digital marketing agency Merkle Inc., response rates for direct mail as part of a campaign with at least one other digital format increased 118 percent.

What does this mean for your business? While it's important to capitalize on digital marketing, the fact is that direct mail should remain a valuable resource in every marketer's toolbox. With that sentiment in mind, below are 5 tips for effective direct mail to help you maximize the ROI on your next campaign.

The 1st Direct Mail Secret: Keep Your Copy Simple

What does every piece of direct mail have in common? The person who receives it is looking for a reason to throw it away.

People are busy. Between career, family duties and attempting to have a social life, it often feels as if there just aren't enough hours in the day. Then consider that the typical household receives dozens of direct mail pieces each week--many of them just plain awful, and it's no surprise that most of these mailers end up in the recycling bin.

So how do you make sure your direct mail piece doesn't end up in the bin with all the others? Keep it simple. No matter how good of a writer you are, direct mail just isn't the medium to show off your chops. More often than not, you should shoot for simplicity over creativity. Keep your copy concise, clear and completely focused on how the reader will benefit from your product or service.

If you can do that effectively, then maybe, just maybe, your mailer will end up generating a conversion, and not at the bottom of the recycling bin.

Keep your copy simple and straight to the point for the best performance.

Image courtesy of

Direct Mail Tip No. 2: Make it All About the Reader

Human nature dictates that most people are pretty self-centered. That's not to say that people are flat out greedy or malicious, but on a subconscious level, most people's favorite topic of discussion is themselves (that means you, too, bub).

Don't believe it? Next time you're at a party, make the conversation completely about yourself. Drone on and on with a complete lack of self-awareness to anyone in your vicinity about your work life, your family or your favorite sports team. Notice how their eyes begin to dart around the room after a couple minutes. Most likely, this person won't stick around for long. On the contrary, if you place the emphasis on them, they'll probably want to talk to you for a while. You've won their attention by making them feel special.

The same approach works for direct mail. You might be marketing for a highly impressive brand. That's great, and your business's strong points should definitely be communicated. But keep in mind that your reader is far more likely to engage with you if you make your message about them when doing so.

So make your copy about what your top-notch brand can accomplish for your reader. Make every effort to omit language such as "we" and "our" whenever possible. Instead, make your copy speak to the reader by using "you" and "your" as much as you can. E.g.:

You get second-to-none service from Mike's Plumbing. Get the service you deserve with L.A. County's No. 1 plumber (Yes!).

We're ranked the No. 1 plumber in all of L.A. County. Mike's plumbing is second to none (Nooo!).

When you really play up how your brand's great achievements will translate into value for the reader, you're more likely to get them to take that next step with you.

Your 3rd Piece of Direct Mail Advice: Be Conversational

We get it, you're smart. You keep up with all the current events, you're well read and you've got a pretty damn impressive vocabulary. You don't need to prove it to us, smarty pants. And you don't need to prove it to your target audience, either.

Just because you can throw around a bunch of big words doesn't mean that you should. It's more effective to write in a tone that is casual and conversational. The extra second it takes for your reader to discern the meaning of your message could be the second you lose their interest.

It's kind of like the "Keep it Simple" rule--simplicity over creativity. Even if you're capable of writing in a more intellectual tone, your mailer just isn't the place to do so.

So write your copy just like how people speak. Keep your language conversational, and you'll have better luck keeping your reader's attention.


Want to talk about more direct mail marketing tips and tricks? You've got a friend in us! Drop us a line to set up a FREE creative audit with A Willing Participant.


Direct Mail Tip No. 4: Tell Them What to Do

You've managed to keep your reader's attention long enough to have them interested in moving forward with your brand. Congratulations! You're offering a valuable product or service and your copy and design don't suck.

So what's the next step? You need to let your reader know how to connect with your business, of course. Include a clear call to action that directs the reader to get in touch with you at your website, email address, phone number or even physical street address.

It's important to make it as easy as possible for your reader to know how to get in touch. Display your call to action prominently, using a font or color that really catches the eye. And don't include just one call to action. Drop it in two or even three times throughout your copy so that there's no mystery about how to get in touch.

Include a strong call to action in your copy, and before you know it your readers will be flooding your inbox, blowing up your phone and walking through your door.

Last But Not Least, Tip No. 5: Set a Deadline

While you're telling your reader what steps they should take to get in touch with you, be sure to include a deadline.

Again, your reader is busy. We all are. Ever hear the expression, "Why do tomorrow what can be done today?" Well as nice as that sounds, lots of people just don't live that way. And quite often, this type of procrastination results in a lost opportunity.

Create a sense of urgency by instructing your reader to act ahead of a certain deadline to take advantage of your offer. If they're truly interested in your product or service, they'll be genuinely disappointed if they miss out on your offer. So while your deadline comes off as a friendly reminder to them, it's actually there for your benefit of gaining their business.

When you include that clear deadline instructing your reader to act, you'll both come out as winners.

Include a deadline that urges your reader to act on your offer.

Image courtesy of


Drop us a line to set up your FREE creative audit

to discuss more direct mail marketing tips and tricks.


What do you think? Is direct mail providing a strong ROI for your business? Do you have additional tips and tricks you'd like to share? We want to hear from you! Join the direct mail discussion in the comment box below.

Related content:

Follow Us
  • Twitter button
  • Vimeo button
  • LinkedIn button
  • Facebook button
Recent Posts
bottom of page