Top tips for successful direct mail

If done correctly, DM is still one of most effective marketing channels.

There seems to be a constant divide over the state of direct mail. Some marketeers believe it's dying, other believe it's making a renaissance, yet many say it's still one of the most effective marketing channels. At KJS we’ve been trading for 21 years and can honestly say we’ve never felt any threat over the future of direct mail. If it had, we wouldn’t still be in business!

The industry, like so many others, has seen major changes as a result of factors including advances in technology, environmental concerns, changes in legislation and consumer habits. And, of course, there are far more marketing channels to throw into the mix these days. Compared to some, direct mail may appear a bit, dare I say, ‘old fashioned’, especially to the millennial marketeers.

“What? You put actually print letters and put them into envelope and post them out for customers?” is something we’ve heard at events we’ve attended, followed by “Why would you do this when you can email/blog/Tweet?”.

Because, customers are facing email fatigue, to the point may emails are not even opened let alone read and actioned. And we've become blind to the mass of digital content.  

This is supported by the ongoing statistics that regularly show direct mail to be one of the most effective channels. 45% of direct mail is still live in the home after 28 days (compared to 54% of people that delete at least 50% of brand marketing emails without even opening them); 22% of direct mail prompts a website visit; Direct mail achieves an average 4.4% response rate (compared to 0.12% for email). The stats go on...

A well thought out piece of direct mail can circumvent digital blind spots. It can land in the hands of the recipient, capture their attention, make them stop to read it, even pass it on to someone else. It can generate maximum impact.

However, for for direct mail to work, it cannot simply be a non relevant piece of literature that screens ‘junk mail’. For 21 years we’ve lived and breathed direct mail - there isn’t much we haven’t seen. So we feel in a strong position to pass on our advice on how to ensure a successful direct mail campaign.

Here are our top 10 tips…

1. Set your objective

What are you aiming to achieve from this campaign? Are you looking to raise awareness or to sell (a product or service)? Or invite people to an event? Perhaps it’s a charity appeal and you are looking to raise £X in donations.

Only by having a clear goal from the onset will you be able to measure how successful the campaign has been.

2. Know you audience

Whatever you’re sending out, if it isn’t sent to the right target audience, the campaign will be doomed to fail.

Once you have identified who you want to contact, you can then look at acquiring the right data. Do you already have a database of contacts? Are these past customers, or existing? Perhaps you’re mailing to prospective customers? Regardless of who you are contacting, it’s imperative you comply to GDPR requirements.

In most cases, you can send direct mail on the grounds of legitimate interest, rather than needing explicit consent (opt-in). However, you still need to ensure:

  • That the use of data is valid
  • Direct mail has a minimal impact on privacy
  • The mailing is expected by the recipient or they won’t be surprised to receive it

If you don’t already have a database you will need to source a list. Again, you need to carefully check this complies with GDPR, and that it meets the criteria of your target audience.

Or, you could consider Royal Mail’s Partially Addressed Mail service. This allows you to target households using geo-demographics at postcode levels. Mailings will be addressed to ‘The occupant’ or ‘Householder’ (or whatever default you want to use) but will not include any personal information about the recipient. If you would like more information about this service, just give us a call.

3. First impressions count

A recipient will usually take eight seconds to decide whether or not to open a piece a of direct mail and research shows that 65% of mail is read/looked at on the day it lands and 45% is still live in the home after 28 days. But how do you make sure your mailer is amongst these stats?

There are many ways to make your mailing stand out…

What material should it be printed on? Do you want to send in an envelope – it can look professional and make someone have to open it, or will this create an unnecessary barrier? Maybe a postcard mailer is better? What impression is your design and creative portraying? Do you have a clear message/headline? Don’t undervalue the power of a testimonial. Does the pack reflect your brand?

Size and format? How to work personalisation into the design for maximum impact?

All of these factors can contribute to the success or failure of your mailing. Paying to have your mail piece/pack can be a worthwhile investment to ensure it looks professional.  

Our design team at KJS are always happy to help with putting artwork together. We can use our direct mail and production experience in ensuring we create designs that will get results. 

4. Get personal

Make the most of variable information and tailor the mail piece to that one contact. Customisation can be the best way to get a recipient to notice the mail piece and help to boost the relationship

There are different ways this can be achieved at many different levels, from using the recipient’s name, or business name, to variable imagery, colours, locality, buying habits, offers and promotions.

It doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t just have to be done on large, or small mailings. And, most of all, it doesn’t have to add a major cost to the campaign, but it can add increased return on investment.

Speak to us to find out how we can work with you.

5. Include a clear call to action

Make sure your recipient knows exactly what the next step is after they open and read the piece. Everything in your piece should have meaning and tie in to your overall message. And, ensure this is consistent across all channels.

6. Use direct mail as part of a marketing mix

Sending one piece of direct mail is not a campaign. For maximum returns it should be tied to other triggers, for example as an email to alert recipients to look out for the mailer, and another email once the mailer lands. A phone conversation soon after the mailer lands can work well too. The key is to ensure all communication is aligned to drive traffic to the same place with the consistent message.

A typical audience needs multiple touches for maximum engagement. Even more so when targeting prospects, in case they don’t pay attention to the one channel.

Customers who see a message multiple times are more likely to respond. Some businesses make the mistake of sending direct mail once or twice, and their response rate is usually not as significant as businesses that keep their company and messages in the hands of potential customers by sending out direct mail marketing pieces frequently.

7. Time to perfection

Timing is crucial.

You don’t want a mailer promoting a special offer to land the day after the offer lands, or, if you’re people to an invite you need to give them enough time to plan attending.

Be clear on what postal service is being use. If you’re unsure, speak to your mailing house. A mailing that lands too soon can be as bad (and embarrassing) as a mailing land too late!

8. Test, measure and evaluate

How do you know what you send out is creating the maximum results? A/B testing allows you to test different approaches to the end goal on a small sample before using the best performing creative(s) on the main mailout. Try different formats, messages, creative, images to get a gauge for what works.

Make sure your mailing can be measured. If the aim is to increase sales, ensure there is a code for customers to quote so you can accurately tell how many orders have come as a direct result of that mailing.

Evaluate how well the campaign has worked. Did it hit or supersede the target?

9. Know your postal rates

The biggest cost of a direct mail campaign is usually the postage, and the area where most savings can be made. But postage can be a minefield. It’s well known that the size and weight of the items you’re sending can have a big impact on the postage cost, but so too can the quantity you’re sending out, as well as your data.

At KJS we work with Royal Mail, and all the Downstream Access Providers, so we have access to the full product portfolio. We’ll always look at all the options available to you for your mailing and quote you the best rates.

We’re always happy to work with our clients at the planning stage of a campaign to pass on our expertise to ensure your pack is produced in a way that you receive the best possible postage rates.  

10. Use a mailing house you can trust

Using a reputable mailing house can save time and money. Not only will you receive a high-quality product, your data will be processed correctly, securely, and the mailing will go out on time.

At KJS, we offer a complete print to mail service from under our one roof.  All you need to do is supply us with your data and artwork and we’ll see the whole campaign through. The benefits of us handling everything include:

  • We’re ISO27001 certified so you know that we will receive, manage and store data securely, as well as printing and fulfilling the personalised items
  • Quick turnarounds
  • High quality
  • Better value – no additional shipping costs
  • Better knowledge – because we handle your complete project, we can offer advice and recommendations at an early stage if we feel something change be changed for the better. This may be using a slightly lighter weight paper in order to lower the pack weight and benefit from lower postage rates, or
  • We’re always happy to pass on our experience and advise on how to achieve your goal in the most cost-effective way.


Just give us a call when you start to plan your next direct mail campaign.