Does Direct Mail
Advertising Work?

Here’s How to Take Advantage of this Surprisingly Effective Marketing Tactic.

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It’s a question our Houston marketing team gets all the time — does direct mail advertising still work in today’s digital world? As with most things, it depends. Direct mail advertising can be an incredibly effective way to reach new clients and grow your business, as long as it’s thoughtfully executed according to best practices.

In fact, a study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that letter-sized envelope campaigns generated 112% ROI — which is even more striking when compared with the success of other channels1.

Advertising response rates by channel.
In a 2022 report by the ANA, letter-sized direct-mail campaigns significantly outperformed other marketing channels.

The persuasive power of direct mail advertising derives partly from the ease with which we consume it. One study found that consumers expend 21% less cognitive effort on processing pieces of direct mail than they do on digital marketing materials2. Another study used eye-movement tracking and biometrics, such as heart rate and respiration, to compare attention and emotional engagement with direct mail and digital media. Engagement time and recall were significantly higher for direct mail materials3.

Is Direct Mail Marketing Right for Your Business?

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Before you dive stamp-first into direct mail marketing, it’s important to consider your target audience and goals.

Let’s start with the first variable: your audience. Are families with children your company’s bread and butter, or do you cater more to retiree crowds? Are there specific cities or neighborhoods you’d like to home in on? A basic understanding of your target demographics will help you determine if direct mail is likely to yield sufficient returns.

Millennials, for example, are more likely than both Gen X and Baby Boomers to use marketing mail as a prompt to go online and make purchases. They also regularly purchase items marketing to them through direct mail4.

Direct mail advertising engagement by generation.
In its 2021 study, USPS uncovered a surprising trend: across every category, millennials were more likely to respond positively to direct mail advertising campaigns.

Now let’s consider your goals. Are you looking to increase awareness of your business, tout a seasonal sale, or simply get people in the door? Direct mail advertising can help you accomplish all of the above. As with any marketing tactic, understanding your objectives will help you to craft an effective message and make smart design decisions.

If you’re looking to encourage millennial consumers to visit your e-commerce site, for example, you might create a QR code to include in the mailer that makes the transition from print to web more seamless. If you want to entice retirees to visit your restaurant, you could incorporate a perforated coupon and a copy of your menu. Once you know where you want to go, you can determine how best to get there.

How to Create an Effective Direct Mail Advertising Campaign.

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To maximize your investment in direct mail, it’s important to follow a few basic principles.

Prioritize Brevity and Clarity.

Excess text and small print are a surefire way to sabotage your direct mail advertising campaign. On any given day, consumers spend roughly 30 minutes reading and sorting through their mail5. While this affords a longer consideration window than most digital campaigns, you still have a limited amount of time to capture their attention. Communicating your message clearly and concisely will give you the best chance of cutting through the postal noise.

Keep Your Design Simple and On-Brand.

The best direct mailer designs are clean, easy to read, and consistent with the rest of a company’s brand. Simple, bold fonts and sufficient white space make your materials easier for readers to consume. Just as importantly, on-brand visuals allow you to make the most of the opportunity to build brand awareness while ensuring a similar aesthetic experience across channels.

Incentivize Your Target Audience.

Even the best-looking mailer will soon find its way to the waste basket if the recipient doesn’t perceive it as valuable. To keep your advertisement in their hands and homes longer, find an incentive that speaks to your audience and highlight it visually. Special discounts, for example, are a good option for retailers and restaurants, while free consultations may work for professional service providers and medical practices. You could even include a special gift with the mailer itself, such as a bookmark or branded coffee table book. Unsolicited gifts will serve as a reminder of your brand’s value when consumers come across them in the future.

Embrace the Omnichannel Approach.

To take your campaign to the next level, try coordinating direct mail with other channels. You can create a unique URL, for example, to track recipients who visited your website after reading your mailer. Once you’ve collected their information, you could retarget those prospects with a marketing email or digital display ad and, of course, save their information for use in your next direct mail campaign. There are myriad ways to amplify the effectiveness of direct mail marketing through an integrated, omnichannel approach.

Want to learn more about the surprising efficacy of direct mail marketing? Reach out! We’re ready to help your business reach its goals.

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