What is direct mail marketing? (+free strategy)

If you haven’t used direct mail marketing in your business, you are in for quite a nice surprise.

That’s because direct mail marketing can be one of the most effective, rewarding and loyalty-building strategies in your marketing tool chest.

What is direct mail marketing?
Direct mail marketing is a form of direct marketing and is a strategy to communicate value to a targeted group of people. Direct mail comes in many forms such as coupons, postcards, letters, multi-page letters, FedEx deliveries, boxes and more. The primary aim of most direct mail marketing activities is to gain a customer or to keep a customer.

One of the many reasons for this is that many marketers choose to overlook direct mail.  They often say it costs too much, delivers low responses, and doesn’t work anymore.

But this is great news for you!

Let's dig into why direct mail can be so valuable for you and provide you a strategy you can use today.

What is direct mail and how you can do it

If your competition isn’t using direct mail, this means you have less competition for your customers' mailbox.

But in order for you to make your direct mail marketing strategy work for you, you do need to use direct mail properly and execute it following core, simple, proven strategies.

Let’s discuss those now and at the end of this tutorial you’ll have some new skills, a cost breakdown and a strategy that you can use to gain more customers, build your brand and keep more of your great customers doing business with you longer.

First, let’s go through some of the basics.

Let’s better understand what direct mail marketing actually is, why there is so much confusion and how it is best used in today’s environment.

So, as we often do, let’s get a working definition of direct mail marketing so we can get on the same page.

Dictionary.com defines direct mail as:

mail, usually consisting of advertising matter, appeals for donations, or the like, sent simultaneously to large numbers of possible individual customers or contributors.

And, dictionary.com defines marketing as:

the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.

And once again, just like other poorly inefficient, clunky marketing-related popular definitions we’ve looked at in the past, these are horribly wrong as it relates to actually winning in marketing.

But, on the flip side, these glorious definitions are absolutely great for your competitors to realize as reality! That’s because they provide little value to the marketer.

So, direct mail marketing in the real world of savvy, hungry marketers who want to achieve MASSIVE results. Your Strategic Marketing Partner’s real world definition is:

A form of media to deliver a message in order to gain and or keep a customer.

Notice in our definition we did not say advertising matter and large groups in the same sentence, nor did we feature a string of admin-related tasks in our definition. Direct mail does not work that way in the world of Your Strategic Marketing Partner.

Nor will it for you.


Does direct mail marketing still work?

When done properly, direct mail could become your new favorite marketing strategy.

After all, what could be better than sending your top salesperson -- saying the exact message you want delivered -- directly to the home of your ideal customer with the sole purpose of explaining the best that your company has to offer?

And it gets better. This salesperson will also provide a perfectly timed and delivered answer to every top question or objection in the mind of your best customer. Leading to an immediate sale  or to an inquiry.

And what if you could send your best salesperson in multiples of 5x, 10x, 100x, even 1000x or more? Literally working 24 hours a day for you.

This and more is possible with a superior direct mail marketing strategy.

Does direct mail marketing still work?
Direct mail marketing works if the basics of direct marketing are carefully implemented. The three most important components to make a direct mail marketing strategy work are: 

  1. The list of people being targeted
  2. The message being communicated (the copy) and presented (the optics)
  3. The offer being made to this targeted group of people

Think of this as a formula.

If one of these three items is ‘off the mark’, then the direct mail marketing strategy probably will not work. If two are off the mark, then there is no chance of it working. And, unfortunately, most people may miss all three. So in this sense, a direct mail marketing strategy won’t work.

But here’s an insider secret that few marketers realize.

You can send a bad offer that looks terrible to a GREAT target market and still make direct mail marketing work. But the opposite is not true: you cannot send a great-looking high color masterpiece with an amazing offer to a poorly identified market and expect success.

Direct mail marketing does not work this way.

So, the most important component of making your direct mail marketing strategy work for you is:

The quality of the targeted list of people in your direct mail marketing campaign

So what does this mean exactly?

You must do your research.

This is where the money is made and where the magic can happen.

If you skip this important step, your return on advertising spend will sink dramatically. You might get lucky but chances are slim-and-none.

For example, you might have 10 people in your targeted list, but they are 10 people who you already know want your product or service at the price you are selling and have the ability to purchase right now. This direct mail marketing campaign will most likely be a massive success.

Your list might be 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 or more.

The same rules apply.

Let’s now look at a simple example of direct mail marketing costs and build the strategy.

Free direct mail marketing strategy you can do right now

What if you could get a 90% or better direct mail open rate and a multiple on marketing spend of 2x, 5x, even 10x!

Well here is a fun, simple direct mail marketing strategy that can give you results this good.

Again, be sure you have done the work before you implement this strategy, starting with your list research, your copy and your offer.

Here’s the strategy.

We call this direct mail marketing strategy: “The sweet deal.”

It’s one of hundreds, even thousands of possibilities. You just need to get creative, but base your creativity on the facts.

We aren’t going to go deep into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of this campaign, because those details are listed on our direct mail marketing strategy example here.

Here’s what you need:

  1. 100 bags of high end candies that won’t melt. We like Werthers but you can choose what you like.
  2. 100 envelopes that are big enough for the candies. A priority mail envelope is a great choice.
  3. 100 letters, 1 for each envelope.

This is all you physically need. We’ll go over the costs and an example of what you can get in return below.

Direct mail marketing cost

Here is an example of what a direct mail marketing strategy may cost. It’s a simple, but very powerful campaign that will get opened and will get the attention of your target market.

All you need to do is properly develop your letter, your offer and build the additional touch points to maximize this strategy. You can get those details in our tutorial Targeted Direct Mail Marketing.

Here’s a sample direct mail cost breakdown:

Direct Mail Marketing costs projection 
Total mailed100
Cost of candies @ $2.00 each$           200
Cost of letters and labor: 10  hours at $15 / hour$           150
Cost of USPS priority mailing @ $7.95 each$           795
Total cost$       1,245
Offer price$           199
Sales needed to break even on ad spend$               6
Revenue on 6 sales$       1,245

This represents a 6% response on a direct mail marketing strategy. This is very realistic for you to achieve.

But when you add in multiple touch points into your campaign, your results can get much much higher.

For example, when you notify your target market that a priority mail package is coming to them, and you follow up with them in a phone call after they receive it, your numbers can be off the charts.

And what if you are offering a monthly auto-bill program in your offer, a membership style program, additional upsells in your offer, or a much higher price point than what is in this example?

Your metrics can get very exciting.

As always, feel free to reach out as Your Strategic Marketing Partner is happy to help!

For more fun, helpful campaigns and resources, go here:

Marketing Strategy

For many more great resources to help you build your marketing department, go here;

Marketing Department



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