While digital marketing is highly prominent today, direct mail marketing remains an effective, low-cost way to reach customers. In addition to attracting new customers, direct mail campaigns can boost customer retention and acquisition. In this article, we explore how you can use these 20 direct mail ideas to grow your small business.
The success of your direct mail campaign depends not only on your ideas, but also on how you execute them. From free templates and artwork you can use to bring your ideas to life to affordable direct mailing services, VistaPrint is our top recommended go-to for direct mail services from beginning to end.
1. Send a Simple Postcard
One of the easiest direct mail ideas is to send a simple postcard with a clean design, contact information, and a clear call to action. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, list your address (with a small map to show your location) and phone number or email address. If you have a website, include a short URL made specifically for your direct mail campaign so you can track your response rate.
People receive lots of mail daily—to make yours stand out, try using oversized mailers. A standard postcard is usually 4×6-inches and oversized postcards usually run 6×11 inches—the difference in size could make someone notice. To easily design a postcard, we recommend using Canva, which has hundreds of well-designed templates. For design inspiration, look through our list of postcard examples.
2. Send Coupons (or Coupon Codes) on Postcards
One way to get people to take action with a postcard direct mail campaign is by attaching coupons or coupon codes. Coupons have proven to be effective—in fact, 90% of millennials agreed that a coupon could sway them to try a new brand (86% of Gen X, 78% of Gen Z, and 76% of baby boomers agreed). In addition to enticing people to buy from you, coupon marketing also makes it easy to track your return on investment and the popularity of your offer.
For more on coupons, read our guide on how to use coupon marketing to promote your business. It outlines how to develop a strategy, set goals, create a distribution plan, and optimize and track your campaign. For more coupon direct mail ideas, check out our list of more than two dozen coupon examples and ideas.
3. Send Brochures With In-depth Information
If you want to stand out and impart more in-depth information, instead of the typical postcard, send a brochure direct mail campaign. Brochures give more room for information (such as menu listings or product guides) and remain effective marketing material for small businesses.
However, keep your design clean and simple so you don’t overwhelm readers with information overload. For more design inspiration, look through our list of the best brochure examples.
4. Include Links or QR codes in Direct Mail Campaigns
One of the best benefits of direct mail marketing is that it can be used as a starting point to direct your customers toward a specific action, such as visiting your website. The best way to do this is by including QR codes or short, trackable URLs in your direct mail campaign that leads customers toward your website, store, or a specific landing page.
Website builder Wix offers a free QR code tool that lets you create free QR code images. Simply follow the instructions to add the page you want the QR code to lead to, and then download the code to use on your direct mail and other marketing materials.
Pro tip: To increase conversions, create dedicated landing pages for your direct mail campaign with a clear call to action and next step to take (e.g., buy something, sign up, book a consultation, and so on). In addition to streamlining the site visitor’s journey, this makes it easier for you to track engagement and results.
5. Include a Clear Call to Action (CTA)
Like in any marketing campaign, the best direct mail ideas produce campaigns with a clear call to action. Use clear, persuasive copy and hone in on the action you want the recipient to take. Make sure your CTA stands out by making fonts bold, or boxing in your CTA and placing it at the center of your postcard or mailer. It’s also essential to keep it simple—give your customers one place to learn more about your business or redeem a discount.
6. Offer a Limited-time Promotion
Direct mail can also be used for more than just letting your customers know about your business and what you do. To better encourage actions and conversions, offer your customers and leads a limited-time promotion in the mail.
Whether it’s a limited free shipping discount or a week-long 50% off sale, limited-time promotions create a sense of urgency that encourages customers to take action immediately. These promotions are often used for holiday seasons or to give prospects an extra incentive to become new customers.
7. Send Objects Inside Envelopes to Pique Curiosity
One of direct mail’s unique features over email is its tactility—when someone is sifting through mail, how it physically feels also plays a part in whether or not they’ll open it. If you add a small object inside an otherwise flat envelope, it can pique your customer’s interest. Some successful direct mail marketing campaigns have included a penny, a gift card, a fake credit card, a pen, or a USB drive, to name a few.
8. Give Away On-brand Items
Sending customers branded items in the mail keeps your business top of mind and makes your brand more memorable. Get creative with your ideas. For example, toy stores could send branded paper airplanes, bookstores could provide bookmarks, or bakeries might send custom cookies stamped with their logo. This will immediately make a positive impression and keep their brand top-of-mind.
9. Give New Customers Something to Keep
In line with keeping your brand memorable by sending on-brand items, you can go a step further and give away items that are fun and practical. Handy trinkets like fridge magnets with calendars or schedules of local sports teams, calendars, sticky notes, and the like are more useful and memorable, and will more likely be kept rather than thrown away. A printing service like VistaPrint lets you print anything from branded magnets to custom notebooks at an affordable price.
10. Send Existing Customers Birthday or Anniversary Discounts
Direct mail is also a promising avenue for customer retention—a good way to make your customers feel special is by offering discounts or promo codes as gifts on their birthdays and anniversaries. Doing so keeps your business top of mind and fosters brand loyalty. While it’s possible to send birthday discounts through email, research has proven that direct mail has a far higher response rate than email.
11. Promote Solutions, Not Products
One of the best tips for any direct mail marketing campaign is to tap into what customers want and how they’ll benefit from using your business. When writing marketing copy, rather than focus on what your business has (e.g., your products or services), highlight what customers gain from doing a specific action.
For example, an air conditioner repair service can fix your A/C, but simply writing that on a postcard campaign isn’t likely to excite any interest. Instead, revise your copy to focus on being available for customers 24/7 (“Get your A/C working—yes, even at 3 a.m.”).
12. Amp Up Direct Mail Campaigns With Die-cut Brochures
Brochures always make for great direct mail promotion ideas. They’re lightweight and require no envelopes, so they can sometimes be more affordable than other marketing materials. A simple way to make your brochure stand out is by using die-cutting. This gives your brochure a custom, unique look and texture, immediately making it more noticeable.
PsPrint offers custom die-cutting, so you can work with the direct mail service and printer to get the exact shape you want for your marketing campaign. There is a $45 flat fee for design help from the company, and you’ll need to get a custom quote for your project.
13. Try an EDDM Campaign
Setting up an Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) campaign is easy and affordable. As the name implies, EDDM campaigns allow you to target a city or ZIP code with postcards and other mailers, letting you cast a wide local net. Because EDDM campaigns are run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, there’s no need to purchase a mailing list, and it costs about half as much as standard postage.
You might see pieces of EDDM in your own mailbox after making a significant purchase or moving to a new city. If your address change is on public record, or you buy a house or car, that information may be available to marketers. So, if you bought a house, you might see mailers from home goods retailers, or if you bought a car, you might get postcards from insurance companies.
An Every Door Direct Mail campaign can help you gain new local customers you wouldn’t otherwise reach with your mailing list alone—and because you’re targeting a specific ZIP code, you can hone in on a location-based audience. There are several direct mail services available for small businesses that offer EDDM, including PostcardMania, which also gives you $50 off your first Every Door Direct Mail campaign.
14. Make Your Mail Interactive
Sorting through mail at the end of the day is often seen as a bit of a chore. Break the tedium by making your direct mail interactive and fun. With your business and message in mind, think up ideas to transform your mail into something more exciting, but still relevant to your industry. Some examples are scratch-off sections that reveal a discount, 3D pop-up cards, or even short games and quizzes that customers could answer.
15. Add Multiple Coupons—One for Now, One for Later
A great way to find out which discount is more popular with your audience is by offering multiple coupons on a single piece of direct mail—like A/B testing for discounts. A $10-off promo code could work well for new customers, while a 20%-off code could be perfect for a customer who wants to stock up on something. Ideally, they’ll use one discount now and the other later, encouraging customer loyalty.
16. Use Bold (but Meaningful) Designs to Stand Out
There are many ways to make your mailer stand out, from strong copy to die-cut materials. One of the easiest and most important ways is through your mail design, as 90% of the information transmitted to our brains is visual. If you don’t have an in-house designer, you may want to hire a freelancer from Fiverr to create a modern postcard, brochure, or catalog that looks professional and modern.
Also note that while it’s tempting to include all the reasons why your business is the best, it’s better to keep your information and design as clear, direct, and simple as possible. Focus on the most relevant details and have one clear and easy-to-follow call to action. They can find out more at your store or website.
17. Personalize Your Direct Mail Campaign
It may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting that one of the best direct mail ideas is to address your recipients by name. Similar to email campaigns that include recipients’ first names, do the same with direct mail campaigns. Personalizing, even with just a first name, can have a significant impact on customers.
Personalization can also include a customer’s buying interests. If someone recently purchased a luxury car, they might be a good candidate for a high-end jeweler or a local museum membership. And when you get personal, you get a higher return on investment (ROI)—by up to 200%.
18. Design Your Mail Like Personal Correspondence
In addition to personalizing your mail content, how it looks to each recipient also counts. To maximize the chances of your mail being opened and read, design and customize your mail materials as if they were personal correspondence. Some ways to do this are by sending a greeting card in a colorful envelope and leaving off “current resident” from the front of your envelope. Use a business letterhead to strengthen your branding with each customer.
19. Create a Handwritten Stamp for Postcards
When it comes to creative direct mail campaigns, a handwritten note is one of the best and most personal ways to connect with customers—but it’s also time-consuming if you have a large mailing list. A solution is to get a custom stamp with your copy in a custom handwritten font that you can press on the back of postcards. In the age of digital ads on practically every screen, having an old-fashioned, ink-stamped message gives any message a more personal and premium feel.
20. Send Catalogs or Free Samples
Catalogs and free samples are one of the more well-established direct mail ideas, and with good reason. Catalogs are great if you offer physical products and have proven to be effective, even in the digital age. In fact, a study found them to increase ROI by up to 870% when combined with email marketing. Free samples, on the other hand, effectively introduce customers to your product and are less likely to be thrown away, which could eventually lead to more sales.
Basic Elements of Direct Mail Campaigns
As with any marketing campaign, a direct mail marketing campaign starts with a goal. Decide what you want to accomplish with your direct mail idea, from increasing web or foot traffic to upping subscriptions, sales, or sign-ups. Then, you’ll need a mailing list, a printer to get your postcards or other mailers, and any extras, such as inserts, QR codes, and other ways to track your campaign’s success.
Here are the basic elements you’ll need to run an effective direct mail campaign:
- Create a goal for the campaign (e.g., increase sales, generate leads, drive referrals, and so on)
- Set up a targeted mailing list (unless doing an EDDM campaign)
- Choose the type of direct mail to send
- Make your design using online editing tools on sites like VistaPrint, graphic design platforms like Canva, or hire a low-cost graphic designer via Fiverr
- Find a direct mail service that fits your needs, such as VistaPrint or PostcardMania
- Employ tracking to measure the success of your campaign, such as with promo codes, QR codes, and landing pages, or use physical coupons
- Analyze results and use insights to inform future marketing campaigns
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the best direct mail services?
When looking for the best direct mail services, you can’t go wrong with VistaPrint. There are ready-made templates for nearly any type of mailer you would want to send, plus intuitive editing tools, so you can quickly put your brand and messaging in place, upload your mailing list, and get your mailer into the hands of your prospects and customers. Learn more about VistaPrint and other providers to find the best direct mail service for you.
Is direct mail still effective?
While digital marketing abounds, direct mail is still an effective marketing strategy—in fact, it has a higher average response rate of 2.7% to 4.4% compared to email’s 0.6%. It’s also effective for driving sales by up to 49%, as well as increasing inquiries by 125%.
Direct mail campaigns also allow far more opportunities for customization. Instead of having to stand out in a cluttered inbox with a catchy subject line, you can fully customize direct mail’s overall design, look, and feel. Finally, people simply love receiving mail: 73% of American consumers stated they prefer being contacted by brands through direct mail, as it allows them to read it at their convenience.
What percentage of direct mail is opened?
According to the Association of National Advertisers, or ANA (formerly the Direct Mail Association), up to 90% of direct mail is opened. It’s estimated that at least 42% of recipients at least scan, if not fully read, the direct mail they receive. To increase the efficacy of your direct mail campaign, use it in conjunction with other marketing materials to promote your small business, such as adding a QR code to your mailer that sends visitors to dedicated landing pages.
The best direct mail ideas are relevant to your business and marketing budget. Always start with a goal of what you want to achieve with your direct mail campaign so you can stay on track. Using the direct mail marketing ideas above can help inspire you to come up with more creative ideas to reach out directly to your customers, clients, and new prospects.
For a one-stop shop for direct mail collateral, templates, design ideas, and intuitive editing tools, use VistaPrint. They have thousands of premade templates to streamline your creative process and can take on your direct mail campaign from start to finish, at an affordable cost.