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Understanding Marketing Volume VIII: Direct Mail Marketing

Posted by Stanley Malyszka, Marketing Manager, fi360, Inc. on October 23, 2015

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With the rise and popularity of digital marketing, direct mail marketing, also known as DM, has become an endangered species in the marketing world.  I’m here to tell you that direct mail, although endangered, is not extinct and that, if done correctly, could be one of your most valuable marketing tools.  There are 2 things that go into executing a successful DM campaign- 1) Targeting the right audience and 2) Developing the right creative. 

The most attractive attribute of DM is its ability to target your ideal audience in an extremely cost-effective way.  The caveat is that you need to know you’re target audience.  If you “Know Thy Customer” then there is an overabundant amount of list suppliers where you can shop for your target audience.  Say you’re a financial advisor who wants to target individuals who are between the ages of 35-55 with a household income of $100,000+ living in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania region.  There’s a list for that.  Or say you want to target young individuals between the ages of 25-35 who own a house and who are just starting to think about retirement.  There’s a list for that.  In the age of “Big Data”, there is an exorbitant amount of demographic information available which allows you to focus narrowly on your target audience and get your DM piece into the right hands.  So what’s the cost?  The great part is you have a lot of say in what you want to pay.  List prices are usually of the CPM (cost per 1,000 names) nature and will vary depending on audience (always negotiate!).  The cost to print and mail the DM piece will be dependent on the quantity, quality and size as well as the mailing service selected.

There’s also a great service offered by the USPS called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) (  This is an extremely cost-conscious way, specifically for small businesses, to utilize DM without having to pay for a list service.  And, it’s pretty simple to use.  Just go to the website, select what postal routes you want to mail to within a specific zip code, select your audience demographics, and mail.  The USPS will then send your DM piece to all residents that fit your criteria within that selected area.  EDDM can significantly cut your cost by eliminating the list service and by giving you a preferred rate on postage.

Now, you have the DM piece in the hands of the right audience, how do you get them to read it and engage with you?  KISS it!  KISS it?  KISS it stands for KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE (Golden Rule #2).  Similar to email marketing, you only have a short window and limited space to get the attention of your audience and to get them to engage with you.  So, you need to eliminate the fluff, get straight to your message, and have one distinct call to action.  I’m a marketing geek so I love going home at night and sorting through my mail and critiquing the different DM pieces that I receive (pretty lame right?).  The most prevalent mistake I see is companies placing the emphasis on design over substance.  They think “the postcard looks ‘pretty’ so people will read it.”  But when you go to read it, you really don’t know what they’re trying to convey to you and you really don’t know what they want you to do.  Do they want me to go to their site to buy the product or check out their facebook page or call for more information?  I’m lost!  Now, don’t get me wrong, design is important.  The design will be the initial attention grabber so you need to have a postcard that stands out.  A great way to get an idea of a good design is to be lame like me and take a look at your mail and see what pieces catch your eye.  However, if you want a person to actually do what you want them to do, you need to be clear in your message and have only 1 distinct action for them to take.  I’m always a HUGE fan of not trying to sell something via DM but rather offering a piece of content for the consumer to obtain (content marketing!).

In the end, Direct Mail Marketing can have a great ROI if done the right way and can be an extremely valuable marketing tool to utilize.  And, as always, the effectiveness of DM gets even better when used in conjunction with the other marketing tools we’ve discussed and will discuss in this series.

Be sure to keep an eye out for next week’s installment where we will tackle Referral Marketing.


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