6 Tips for Optimizing Your Direct Mail Performance

Direct mail marketing has been around almost as long as, well, the mailbox. But in recent years, companies big and small have made it one of the hottest trends in marketing. In this three-part series on getting started with direct mail, marketing expert Adelyn Zhou has explained how to determine whether this format is a good fit for your needs, and how to start building a campaign. In this third and final article, she shares her top tips for optimizing the impact of every piece of mail you send. Follow her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

You’ve heard that direct mail works—now how do you get the most out of it? There are six key things to remember when launching a direct mail campaign:

1. Choose your audience wisely.

The mailing list is one of the most important parts of your campaign. So how do you choose your audience? You can target existing customers (e.g., retarget lapsed users with a special offer), co-brand with others (e.g., swap lists with a noncompetitive company that shares your customer demographics), or buy a list (e.g., go through a list broker or data vendor to buy addresses for all pet owners who live in California).

2. Track every piece of data you can.

For a successful marketing campaign, analyzing performance is critical—direct mail is no exception. You need to have a clear way to track conversions. Popular ways to do that are to provide a unique sign-up code, test in an isolated geographic area, or measure sign-up at specific residences.

3. Test, test, and test some more.

As with your online ad campaigns, you should constantly be testing your direct mail list, creative, and offer. If possible, make every send an A/B, or A/B/C, test. Then take the winning creative and continue iterating on it, testing everything from audience to design to incentive. Depending on the response rate you expect, calculate the number of sends you need for each segment to achieve statistical significance. Based on historical industry response rates, each version should go to at least a few thousand recipients, ideally more than ten thousand.

4. Start by taking your best online strategies offline

A great way to start building your first mail pieces is to port over what worked best in your online ads and test those strategies in direct mail. If you know your audience responds well to a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” offer online, test that. If “limited time” works online, use that offline, too. Due to the longer lead time of direct mail, it’s sometimes easier to test things online and then apply the results offline. From there, you can continually test and improve.

5. Personalize content whenever possible.

Incorporate personalized content to make your pieces more relevant. You can customize anything from recipients’ names to handwritten notes and more. For example, a real estate company can add a Google map image of a particular home, and a loan company can include pre-approved rate quotes. If you’re buying a list, you may also know additional characteristics of your audience, such as name, children, interests—if you have it, use it (and test it!).

6. Be patient and let the results roll in.

Depending on how you mail your pieces, it may take anywhere from a few days to over a month for results to roll in. Be patient. I’ve seen conversions come in more than 180 days later. How did we know the customers converted from a direct mail piece? They used that all-important code on the letter.

Final Thoughts

Above all, remember that there’s no such thing as “one size fits all” in direct mail—even once your campaign is out the door, your work is far from over. Print may be an “old” format, but if you approach it with the same analytic, iterative mindset you use for your online outreach, this classic channel might just be the key to breathing new life into your acquisition strategy.

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To learn more about running a successful direct mail campaign, make sure to check out: