As much as direct mail marketing gets overshadowed by digital marketing channels, it remains an effective and low-cost way to reach customers. In fact, some direct mail ideas are arguably more effective at connecting with new audiences and existing customers alike. And in addition to attracting new customers, a good direct mail campaign can also help with customer retention and acquisition. To help you draw inspiration, we found the 20 best direct mail marketing ideas for your next campaign:
1. Send a Simple Postcard
One of the easiest direct mail marketing ideas is to send a simple postcard with bold colors, clean design, and a clear call to action. Be sure to include contact information. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, list your address (maybe a small map to show your location) and phone number, at a minimum. If you’re online, include a short URL made specifically for the campaign so you can track the response rate.
Although your customers’ email inboxes have far more clutter than their physical mailboxes, we’re all still getting a lot of mail every day. To make sure your marketing materials stand out among the others, try using oversized mailers. A standard postcard is usually 4” x 6” and oversized postcards usually run 6” x 11”—the difference in size might make someone notice.
To easily design your own postcard without any graphic design skills, use Canva. It’s a free, drag-and-drop graphic design tool that offers hundreds of postcard templates to easily design your own postcard. Use these postcard examples to help you customize your campaign.
2. Consider Sending Unusually Sized Mail
Just like an oversized postcard could draw one’s attention, a piece of mail that someone doesn’t usually receive could spark interest. Consider starting a brochure direct mail campaign, instead of the typical postcard. A brochure gives you more room for more information. You still want to keep it clean and simple so you don’t overwhelm your recipient with information overload. One of the best brochure examples is for restaurants to send their menu, along with a coupon for first-time customers.
3. Use Short URLs or Promo Codes on All Direct Mail
If your goal is to drive traffic to your site, you need to provide a URL for people to enter. Avoid using a long address, or people might type it incorrectly and give up, or never even bother. A promo code can help you track the success of your campaign—provide a landing page or pop-up with a box for the promo code. It’s easy for your new lead and easy for you.
Website builder Wix offers a free QR code tool so you can make your own QR code images. Just follow the instructions to add the page you want the QR code to point to, and then download the image to use on your printed materials.
4. Include Objects Inside Envelopes to Pique Curiosity
As a person sifts through mail, they’re using a few of their senses to determine what they keep and give a closer look, and what they’ll recycle immediately. If you add a small object inside an otherwise flat piece of mail, it can make a person pause. Some successful direct mail marketing campaigns have included a penny, gift card, fake credit card, a USB drive, and other direct mail inserts, to name a few.
5. Give Away On-brand Items
There are plenty of direct mail ideas and examples for branded items that could work in your small business’ favor. The best tip is to send customers and potential leads items that are memorable. Anything that makes sense for your business that you can slap your logo on will work. A toy store could send paper planes with their logo on the paper, an office supply store might consider sending a branded red stapler (bonus points for millennials who might recognize the “Office Space” reference), or anything else that fits your brand.
6. Send Existing Customers Birthday & Anniversary Savings
Timing is important in any advertising campaign, and direct mail marketing campaigns are no different. Birthdays and anniversaries are when people often look for extra savings. To keep your business top of mind for customers, send them special savings coupons or promo codes to celebrate their big day.
Why not just send an email campaign? Send both email and direct mail birthday savings coupons, and then compare the results. You may get better response from an email campaign, but often promotional emails get lost in the inbox noise. Direct mail usually gets higher response rates.
7. Give New Customers Something They’ll Keep
For local businesses, magnets have always been popular. They’re lightweight, so it doesn’t cost much to ship. You can add your contact information on them, and they’re useful. Consider sending something that just keeps your brand in their mind, such as a stress ball (Design Pickle sent new customers stress pickles, which is unique).
8. Sell Customers on What They Get, Not What You Have
One of the best tips for any marketing campaign is to tap into what customers want and how they’ll benefit from using your business. Rather than focus on what your business has, focus on what customers will gain from you. An air conditioner repair service can fix your A/C, but a good direct mail idea is to send a postcard campaign that focuses on being available 24/7 (“Get your A/C working—yes, even at 3 a.m.”).
9. Mail Custom Cookies to Your Best Customers
Postcards are usually synonymous with direct mail, but you have lots of options to get creative. Some direct mailing services offer out-of-the-box solutions, such as custom sugar cookies with your logo on them. This is a pricier option, so you might want to save this for a smaller customer retention or returning-customer campaign.
10. Mix Up Your Direct Mail Campaign With Die-cut Brochures
Brochures are a great direct mail idea. They’re lightweight and require no envelopes, so they can be more affordable than sending other marketing materials. You can make sure your brochure stands out even more so with die-cutting. Some printers offer this service to give your brochure a unique look and texture, which might make someone look closer at your promotion.
PsPrint offers custom die-cutting, so you can work with the direct mail service and printer to get exactly the 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.
11. Send Coupons (& Coupon Codes) Attached to Postcards
Make the most of your postcard direct mail campaign by attaching coupons. A physical coupon works wonders for getting people into your store to buy. Nearly 90% of millennials surveyed said a coupon could sway them to try a new brand (86% of Gen X, 78% of Gen Z, and 76% of baby boomers agreed). Digital coupons are strong too—they recently became more popular than paper coupons.
12. Try an EDDM Campaign
Finding a new audience for your business can be challenging, but setting up an Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) campaign is easy—and affordable. You can target a city or ZIP code with postcards or oversized mailers, which lets you cast a wide net. There’s no need to purchase a mailing list, and it costs about half as much as standard postage. An EDDM campaign can help you gain new customers you wouldn’t otherwise reach with your mailing list alone—and because you’re targeting a specific ZIP code, you can home in on a location-based audience.
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 public record, you buy a house, or buy a 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.
13. Make Your Mail Interactive
Sorting through mail at the end of the day is often seen as a bit of a chore. When you make your marketing materials interactive and fun, you break up the tedium. Consider your business and how you can create a mailer that’s exciting, but still relevant to your industry. Scratch-off sections to reveal a discount could be enticing. Even a folded card that includes a 3D pop-up interior can catch one’s eye.
14. 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. When you have an email list, you use first names in your campaigns, and you should do the same with a direct mail marketing campaign. Personalizing (not retargeting, in this case), even with just a first name, can have a big 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%.
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 to offer multiple coupons on a single piece of direct mail. It’s 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.
16. Use Bold Designs That Stand Out
There are many ways to make your mailer stand out, from bold headlines to die-cut products. The design of your direct mail is just as important, so if you don’t have an in-house designer, you may want to look into hiring 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, you want your customers to know that you do everything from A to Z in your field. It’s better to keep the information and your design as clean and simple as you can. Give readers of your direct mail one direction to follow to the call to action. They can find out more at your store or on your website.
17. Make Mail Look Like Personal Correspondence
All you have to do is check your own mailbox to know that most of the mail anyone in the U.S. receives looks similar. You can easily distinguish between a bill, an ad, and a personal letter. One direct mail idea is to make your marketing materials look like a piece of regular mail. Try sending a greeting card in a colorful envelope, and leave off “current resident” from the front of your envelope. Be sure to use business letterhead to strengthen your branding with each customer.
18. Include Clear Calls to Action for High Response Rate
Just like any marketing email or landing page, your direct mail needs to include a clear call to action (CTA). There are multiple ways to ensure the reader follows through with what you want them to do. Make fonts bold, use bright colors, or box in the CTA at the top of your postcard or mailer. It’s also important to keep it simple—give your customers one place to go to learn more about your business or redeem a discount.
19. Create a Handwritten Stamp for Postcards
A handwritten note is one of the most personal ways to connect with someone through direct mail. It’s also incredibly time-consuming if you have a large mailing list. One way to save time is to get a custom stamp with your ad copy in a custom, handwritten font (perhaps the CEO’s handwriting) for the back of a postcard. Yes, you could just use a regular handwritten font and print on the postcards, but ink gives it that extra special touch.
20. Send Catalogs or Free Samples
There are multiple direct mail ideas that could work for your company, including catalogs if you offer physical products (it could even work for digital products, if you offer multiple options). A catalog can have a longer shelf life, and it’s effective—catalogs can influence 60% to 67% of people to visit the business’ website, according to a USPS study. A free sample introduces prospects to your brand and product, which could lead to more sales.
How to Set Up a Direct Mail Campaign
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 the success of your campaign.
Here are the steps to setting up a direct mail campaign:
- Create a goal for the campaign
- Set up a segmented mailing list
- Choose the type of direct mail to send
- Make your design using a graphic design tool like Canva, or hire a professional
- Find a direct mail service that fits your needs, such as Vistaprint
- Employ tracking to measure the success of your campaign, such as with promo codes, QR codes, and landing pages, or use physical coupons
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the best direct mail services?
The best direct mail services start with design and end with either printing or mailing services. If you have a small mailing list, you may want to spend your marketing budget on the best design and highest-quality materials and handle the mailing yourself. Otherwise, you can find a service that handles all of it for you—just provide a mailing list (or purchase one from the service). Find the best direct mail service for you.
How do you optimize direct mail marketing?
As with any marketing campaign, start by knowing your audience. Segment and target the right group with the right message, discount, or offer. Make sure your direct mail stands out from other mail people receive. And make sure you track the success of your campaign. Using a combination of email marketing with direct mail can improve your efforts.
What percentage of direct mail is opened?
The best direct mail ideas are the ones that are relevant for your business and your marketing budget. Always start with the goal of what you want to achieve with your direct mail campaign, so you can stay on track. Using the direct mail ideas above can help inspire you to come up with more creative ideas to reach out directly to your customers, clients, and new prospects. If you need some extra help, hire a graph designer for as little as $5 on Fiverr.