A Guide To Direct Mail For DTC Marketing

Published On: 30 Dec 2022


Direct mail marketing is any physical correspondence that brands send to customers through courier or USPS, to catch their attention and get them to buy.

The availability of a plethora of digital marketing channels to choose from like social media, email, and digital ads has resulted in businesses steering away from marketing's oldest tool in the shed: direct mail. A digital format enables brands to target thousands of people in mere seconds, it saves the time spent on traveling to the post office and tracking shipments, in short direct mail is slow and labor intensive.

However, one can't undermine the beauty and customer connection a well-designed offline marketing campaign can achieve. More so at a time when our inboxes are overflowing with promotional emails and online deals.

Despite the growing popularity of social media and other digital communication channels such as WhatsApp, emails, etc. direct mail marketing continues to be one of the most dependable and cost-effective marketing strategies. Adopting a multi-channel approach to reach out to a large section of consumers is always a good idea.

  • With direct marketing mail declining to $66.2 billion from $103.5 billion in 2007 the competition is less, which means less clutter and high recall value.
  • A whopping 73% of Americans prefer being contacted by direct mail over any digital channel.
  • 90% of millennials love receiving direct mail for sheer nostalgia and 57% of them act on offers shared on direct mail.
  • 70% of Gen-X find direct mail more personal when compared to online digital communication and 57% of boomers would rather be disappointed if they stop receiving direct mail.

Direct mail marketing still continues to be one of the best ways for brands to promote their products or services. It helps create a brand recall value without breaking the bank. In recent years, many successful D2C brands have turned to direct mail marketing as a viable solution and part of their omnichannel strategy. A few notable DTC brands that have aced the art of creatively designing direct mailers are Harry's, Casper, Wayfair, and Marley Spoon.

Decoding Direct Mail Marketing

Any physical correspondence (postcard/brochure/letter) that brands send to their customers through courier services or the American postal service or any other service in the hope to get their attention and then buying their product or subscribing for their service is direct mail marketing. It is a time-tested strategy used by marketers to engage prospects and customers offline by sending printed mailers, dimensional packages, perishable items, corporate swag, or other physical items. It is leveraged in various ways by marketers of all types, including inbound and outbound sales teams, marketing departments, demand generation teams, growth teams, recruiters, and more.

What makes direct mail appealing for DTC marketing?

Direct mails have a response rate of 5.3% a tad bit higher than digital communication and it has the second-highest ROI. It is interactive, creates memories, gives enough room for creativity, has a bigger reach, and has less competition. Which means less clutter. Let's understand each of these benefits one by one.

Benefits of Direct Mail for DTC Marketing

1) High return on investment (ROI)

As surprised as you may be, direct mail has the highest ROI when compared to other digital modes of communication. Direct mail helps brands get:

  • 40% conversion rates
  • 68% increased website visits
  • 63% increased response rates
  • 60% increased ROI

Marketers have adopted and modified direct mail marketing to cover the entire customer lifecycle. Today direct mail marketing is used for customer acquisition, retention, re-engagement, and to generate referrals as well.

Benefits of Direct Mail for DTC Marketing - High ROI

Marketers are deploying technology and sophisticated software to run effective and streamlined direct mail marketing campaigns. Personalization is a key cog in direct mail marketing resulting in significantly high ROI.

2) Trigger direct mail for targeted, effective D2C marketing campaigns

3) Direct mail is memorable

In a world where we consume so much digital content, sending direct mail in the form of a handwritten letter, a magazine, or a postcard evokes nostalgia and helps build a strong emotional connection with the target audience.

4) Direct mail is creative

Direct mail when combined with other digital forms of communication allows a marketer to unleash their full creative potential. It gives them countless ways to combine direct mail with digital marketing to expand their target audience and attract new customers. The very tangible nature of direct mail presents an opportunity to deliver truly sensory experiences to your customers.

5) Helps reach out to a larger audience

If your target audience is not an active social media user or any of the digital and electronic communication channels (senior citizens, people in remote parts) then direct mail marketing is your best bet. It truly helps you reach out to audiences who might totally miss all the action happening in the digital world. 76% of women and 72% of men in the US use social media, which still leaves us with a huge population that one needs to reach out to through direct mail.

Designing a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

A direct mail campaign is similar to any other marketing campaign, the distribution method however is a big differentiating factor. Meticulous planning and designing are the secrets to a successful direct mail marketing campaign. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to design an effective direct mail marketing campaign

1) Define the goal of your direct mail campaign

What is it that you would like to achieve out of this direct mail campaign? Is it to generate new leads, drive traffic, re-activate dormant customers or simply touch base with the customers? Defining a goal is important for designing a direct mail campaign that works.

2) Identify your direct mail target audience

The right audience makes for a successful marketing campaign. Sending a magazine on the latest in home furnishing to college-going students is of no use. Identifying your audience and sending them mails that are of interest to them is the key.

3) Create a mailing list

If you're new to direct mail, assembling a mailing list will be vital to your success. After all, you'll need a place to actually send all of your packages. When putting together a list of your existing customers make sure you have their most updated mailing addresses. There are two ways to create an effective direct mailing list:

  • House lists: This is a list of the names and addresses you have already collected from existing customers or prospects.
  • Purchased lists: As the name suggests this is a purchased list of high-quality and precisely selected audiences with high deliverability rates.

4) Audit your database

Doing a regular audit of your mailing list ensures you have a list that's healthy and devoid of any incorrect and old addresses. Frequently cleanse your data to avoid wasteful production, packaging, and postage expenses.

5) Decide on a format

Sky's the limit when it comes to formats one can use in sending direct mails. Your end goal and budget will help you decide the kind of mails you may wish to send. Some popular and effective direct mail formats to choose from

a) Postcards: A standard postcard measuring 4 x 6 inch or an oversized postcard (6x11 or 6x9 inches)is the most commonly used direct mail piece. Ideal for event promotions, information about a new product launch, and announcements are all campaigns where postcards can be used. It is cost-effective as well, making it a great fit for campaigns with tight budgets.

Designing a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign - DSC Postcard

We like how Dollar Shave Club makes an impact with an image that instantly captures the receivers attention. So does BarkBox. In both the cases the message is clear, the branding clearly stands out, and the images and captions are fun.

b) Letters: Better known as “the classic package” the letter usually has a letter and a response form enclosed in an envelope. It is ideal to do a confidential survey or send special invites or send an exclusive discount coupon etc.

Designing a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign - Letters

We love the way ‘HelloFresh' has sent a letter addressed to the receiver by name, 10 extra brownie points for personalization and a gift card for the next purchase. This could have been done through email, but a physical gift card has a higher recall value and takes things a notch higher.

c) Self-mailers: These are letters without an envelope where the ad is folded before the address and postage are applied, a perfect fit for sales events, product or service announcements, and newsletters.

Designing a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign - self Mailers

We like this eye-catching colorful self-mailer Forever 21 has used to launch its spring collection.

d) Brochures and catalogs: Brands use catalogs and brochures to showcase their product line.

Designing a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign - Brouchers

e) Inserts and wraps: Often sent as an add-on in catalogs and magazines, inserts and wraps are added to provide customers with details about special events and sales.

Designing a Direct Mail Camapign - Inserts and Wraps

Though not an insert in a magazine it sure is a discount coupon insert in your cookie for your next purchase.

f) Dimensional mailers: One of the most expensive and attractive mailers, dimensional mailers often have pop-ups or other 3D elements in the design and are a popular choice for targeted ad campaigns.

Designing a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign - Dimensional Mailers

Visually appealing 3D books always manage to grab our attention. We tend to spend hours touching it, feeling it, and appreciating its beauty. We like how IKEA has very smartly tried to leverage this human trait by sending a pop up mailer of a bedroom set up. Every time the receiver holds this mailer they will have a strong urge to visit the store and explore the entire store.

6) Personalize what you send

Nowadays people have a really short attention span. The time window to make an impact is short, and sending mail that does not resonate with the recipient is futile. It is therefore important to personalize your emails and conducting thorough audience research can help you determine the right content to use in your direct mail campaigns.

7) Sending the mail

Now comes the mammoth task of sending mail. This involves getting the mail printed, packed, addressed, and dispatched to the intended recipients. To think of sending out thousands of physical mail can be a nightmare. But you can make your life simple by partnering with a direct mail processor or a print and mail business that would do all the heavy lifting for you.

8) Stock your items

Stocking your items at a warehouse will allow your team to send complete direct mail packages at the click of a button. Sendoso's Standard Direct Mail service enables our customers to store their items at one of our global warehouses for quick and easy sends.

Successful Direct Mail Marketing Examples

Warby Parker

Successful Direct Mail Marketing Examples - Warby Parker

People like to patronize brands that are socially responsible. We like how Warby Parker, an online eyeglasses brand is spreading the word. It sends this insert with every package that it delivers which conveys the message that for every pair of glasses a customer buys, they donate a pair to someone in need.

A brilliant way indeed to position itself as a socially responsible brand and create a high brand recall value.

Dollar Shave Club

Successful Direct Mail Marketing Examples - Dollar Shave Club

A popular brand specializing in personal grooming products, Dollar Shave Club gets as creative as it can get with postcards. When sending out a shipment they add the line “shave time, shave money” which basically is a request to customers to update their payment information. Sure, one could send this via an email, however, a message on the box is far more effective. It is a constant reminder and more people are likely to update their information.


Successful Direct Mail Marketing Examples - Barkbox

Barkbox is a company specializing in all products related to your precious fur babies. Think dog food, supplies, toys, and dog grooming essentials, Barkbox has it all. We like how they send a stuffed postcard on your dog's birthday. What makes it more interesting is the fact that everything and every package they send is addressed to your dog and not to you. A brilliant strategy for recall and brand recognition. We would definitely remember Barkbox for such a sweet gesture.


Successful Direct Mail Marketing Examples - Bonobos

Bonobos specializes in menswear. We like how they sent out the news of their new summer collection launch. An entire magazine with looks put together, making sure every time a reader browses through the magazine he is tempted to shop from the collection. Putting an online catalog sure works, but to see print photographs in a glossy magazine has more impact.


Successful Direct Mail Marketing Examples - Nike

Nike nailed the direct mail campaign with a shoe box that's creative, inspiring, and impactful. Not only did they push youngsters to take up athletics but also created a premium value by packaging shoes in a limited edition shoebox. With a print of a stadium inside and a roaring crowd sound when opened, the packaging is a treat to the eyes and gives an adrenaline rush, motivating the buyer to make a headstart on their fitness journey. Genius and a perfect example of a dimensional mailer.

Direct Mail Marketing Best Practices

Now that you are equipped with the how's and why's of direct mail marketing, getting yourself acquainted with the below-listed best practices for direct mail marketing can help you take your campaign to the next level.

  • Keep it short and sweet: A direct mail piece that is devoid of clutter and focuses on conveying the message.
  • Readability: Always use clear and easy-to-read fonts.
  • Call to action (CTA): Make your CTA the focal point of the mailer, it should stand out
  • Personalize: As a marketer never underestimate the power of personalization. Know your audience and tailor your messages such that it resonates with them. It should not be just another magazine/brochure that gathers dust in a stack of papers.
  • A/B Test: Run tests of the campaign on a smaller group before launching a full-fledged campaign to see what works. It gives you an opportunity to improvise and determine where to put more time and resources.
  • Proofread: A minor mistake can sabotage your entire campaign. Make sure to thoroughly read your marketing material multiple times before sending it out.
  • Follow-up: Send follow-up messages
  • Generate website traffic: A printed marketing asset is a great way to generate or drive traffic to your website. Make sure to include your website link or a scannable QR code on your direct mail copies for prospective customers to visit your website.

Closing words

In a highly digitized world, direct mail is like a breath of fresh air. You are delivering a tangible piece of content to your customer where they are. If done right, direct mail can have a strong brand recall value compelling the receiver to take an action you want them to. It truly has the potential to drive up your sales game.

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