The majority of modern-day marketers are using direct mail as part of their marketing strategy. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran looking for a new direct mail partner, or you’re brand new to this thriving marketing channel, there are some best practices you need to follow to get to your final destination. Here are 10 steps to building your best direct mail campaign.


1. Identify Your Target Audience


direct mail target marketBefore you can accomplish anything with direct mail, you need to identify to whom you’re sending your campaign. This group serves as your target audience. How much do you know about them? The more you understand who they are and what they require from you, the better you can serve their needs. Everything about your best direct mail campaign depends on your audience’s pain points. Focus on them. This allows you to solve their problems and sell more of your product or service. If you don’t yet have a firm grasp on who your target audience is, here are a few tips to get started.


Create a Customer Profile


Essentially, you need to develop empathy with your audience. What are their problems? How do they feel about them? What are they currently doing to solve them? The people who are most likely to buy your product or service very likely share some common characteristics. Start by answering basic questions like:


  • How old are they?
  • What’s their gender?
  • How much money do they make?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they married or single?
  • Do they have children?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are their hobbies or interests?


You can learn a lot from this basic information. Then you can conduct some of your own market research with surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Look at your current customers first, then seek out potential patrons who fit your customer profile based on some of the aforementioned demographics.


Finally, be sure to reassess your product or service. In doing so, you can more accurately determine what aspect(s) of your business will appeal to your prospects. In other words, now that you know more about them, you can do a better job of delivering targeted direct mail campaigns to serve their needs.


2. Establish Your Goal


marketing goalsNow that you know who your audience is, it’s time to establish what you want to get out of your mailing. What’s the goal for your best direct mail campaign? Naturally, it should align with your brand’s overall objectives, but let’s focus on one campaign at a time for the sake of this article. Do you want to boost sales? Are you specifically trying to find new customers? Maybe you just want to raise awareness for your brand. Begin by asking yourself what action you want your recipients to take when they receive your direct mail piece. This will serve as your primary goal.


Here are a few examples:


  1. Buy a product. The goal here is pretty simple. You want your recipients to learn more about your product, but ultimately you want them to place an order for it. Whether you design a catalog, brochure, or postcard, provide a URL for your customers to visit or a phone number for them to call. You could make it even easier by including a QR code they can scan to go directly to the ordering page for that product.
  2. Download an app. A QR code or PURL makes sense in this case. A QR code is quick and it’s easy to track visits and downloads. Similarly, a PURL is easy to track plus it gives your customers a sense of ownership in your product or service. This is an effective way of personalizing your direct mail campaign.
  3. Visit a franchise location. In this instance, you might consider a postcard that features a map with directions to your store. Include a coupon as an incentive and provide a code so you can track how many people visited your store as a result.


These are just a few of the many goals you can establish to create your best direct mail campaign. By determining your intent early in the process, it allows you to move to the next step with greater confidence.


3. Clean Your Data


clean data​Bad data’s a real problem for marketers. It’s estimated that dirty data costs U.S. businesses over $3 trillion per year. To avoid being a part of this glaring statistic, it’s important to analyze and clean your data regularly. That way you’ll save money, prevent marketing waste, and build your best direct mail campaign. Proper data hygiene can help reduce campaign killers like duplicate records, outdated data, typos, or poor field parsing. You may experience one or all of these casualties, but let’s take “dupes” as an example.


Duplicate records cause marketing departments to over project on their ROI. Let’s say that 5% of your 45,000 leads were duplicate contacts. If you’re projecting that 20% of those 45,000 leads will buy your product or service, you’re not counting on 2,250 leads getting two mail pieces from you. That’s what causes you to over project. Of course, when prospects get two identical pieces of mail from you, it also sends a rather unsettling message. At the very least, it makes it look like you don’t know what you’re doing—plus you’re wasting money and resources. Bad data is bad for your business’s bottom line.


Perform a Data Assessment, Then Clean it Up


Many business leaders don’t know if they have bad data. You can get an advantage over your competitors by not only looking for it but also correcting it. Here are a few data hygiene and list management tips:


  1. Investigate how you enter data into your CRM software. Then establish some data entry rules. For example, require data entrants to look for a person’s name before entering a new customer into the system. If the new contact is already there, obviously you don’t need to do it again.
  2. Create more manageable categories like “top clients,” “former clients,” and “location” to better target or segment.
  3. Setup automatic deduplication. Your CRM likely has a feature that will auto-check for nearly identical records.


Set up a regular maintenance schedule, then clean your data before each campaign. This will help to ensure you’ve got the best chance at delivering a quality campaign. You may not achieve 100% accuracy, but the closer you can get to it the better results you’ll see.


MSP can help keep your data clean by providing NCOA services and checking for dupes. We can perform a data suppression that removes, adds, or amends the information within your database to be sure your data is correct and up-to-date. This will maximize your response rates and ROI.


4. Create a Budget


marketing budgetYour marketing budget is the foundation for building your best direct mail campaign. If you don’t have the luxury of spending whatever you want, you’ll need to create a budget for each campaign. Naturally, you want to know: “How much does a direct mail campaign cost?” After all, it’s not the same as designing an email campaign where your costs are practically nonexistent. In fact, by comparison, an email campaign is much cheaper to create, but direct mail delivers a much better response rate. The key is to spend wisely with direct mail.


Many factors play into the cost of your campaign. If you want to know how to use direct mail marketing effectively and get the greatest return for your marketing dollars, pay particular attention to these items.


  • Design. Keep it simple. It’s a scientific fact that less is more. But don’t make your direct mail piece so ordinary that it gets lost in the daily mail shuffle. If you want to get adventurous and you have the funds, consider incorporating elements of smell, touch, taste, sound, or video into your next campaign.
  • Copywriting. What you say and how you say it are just as important as how nice the piece looks. Keep reading for more on how to write your direct mail letter.
  • Mailing lists. Consider whether you’ll be purchasing lists from third-party vendors. If you do, ask them about their data source and whether their lists have been recently updated. Also, insist on data hygiene and optimization from them. This will give you the cleanest list.
  • Printing. There are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to printing your direct mail campaign. MSP can talk to you about your goals and guide you through the process from the basics to the most advanced particulars.
  • Mailing. The majority of your budget may go towards mailing costs. Postal optimization will not only help you save on these costs, but it will also aid in getting your campaigns delivered faster. MSP can print your direct mail campaign, but we’ll also take care of mailing it for you. Keep reading for more specific information about the aspects we consider before we ship your direct mail campaign.


By weighing all these factors, you can build your best direct mail campaign with the look and feel that best suits your brand’s budget. If you have any questions, please reach out to an MSP customer care expert today.


5. Determine Your Direct Mail Dimensions


After you determine how much money you have to spend, you can decide what your direct mail piece will look like. Here are four of the most popular types of direct mail advertising you should consider.


Letter and Envelope


A direct mail letter inside an envelope is one of the most personal forms of direct mail, but it’s also cost-effective and it provides, on average, a 4.3% response rate, according to Data Marketing and Analytics. A well-written, well-designed direct mail letter is a great way to get started. There are many sizes to pick from, but large envelopes (like 9″ x 12″) deliver the best response rates (between 6-7%).


Budget tip: Consider a self-mailer to save on the cost of an envelope.




If you’re looking for a less expensive way to get your direct mail message to your potential buyers, consider a simple postcard. It’s a great option to announce a new store opening or event, plus you can select from a variety of sizes.




Direct mail catalogs have been a marketing staple for more than 100 years. The majority of merchants (over 90%) say catalogs are their go-to marketing tool because they promote multiple product lines and drive website traffic at once.




You’ll need some extra money in your budget if you want to use dimensional mail but consider its advantages. Your customers open dimensional mailers because they’re irresistible. Whether it’s a box, a tube, or a bag, you’re almost guaranteed of getting a perfect open rate.


6. Carefully Craft Your Content


direct mail copyEarlier we mentioned that what you say and how you say it are just as important as the look of your direct mail piece. Some experts would say even more so. You want to grab people’s attention with your design to get them to read your words. But it’s no secret that there are ways to influence how your readers scan your campaign. Here are a few tips on how to optimize your direct mail letter.


  • Put yourself in their shoes. When you’re writing your letter, think about what’s going to motivate your readers to respond. What’s an emotional reason they’ll want to do business with you in the first place?
  • Create one CTA. Make it very clear what you want your readers to do. If you want them to visit your website, don’t emphasize your toll-free number. If your goal is to solicit an order, lead them through the letter so they’ll make that intended action. Refer to the CTA throughout the letter, and include it in a P.S. at the end, too.
  • Focus on benefits, not features. In addition to using emotion, focus on the benefits of your product or service rather than the features. Your customers don’t care as much about how you do what you do. They only want to know how it’s going to help them.
  • Try A/B testing. There’s more than one way to appeal to your audience. Try A/B testing to determine if one particular aspect of your letter resonates with them more than another. For example, you could split your mailing list in half and include one difference, like color, image, or placement of text.


An important part of writing your best direct mail campaign letter is to declare urgency. If there’s no pressing need, your reader might put down the letter and never return to it. Give them a deadline and reward them for taking advantage of it.


7. Manage Your Mailing Methods


best direct mail campaignThe biggest difference between your direct mail campaign and any email campaign you’ve ever attempted is, of course, the mailing part. Postal rules and regulations can be very complicated territory, but they don’t have to be. There are many postal optimization techniques that can save your brand time and money. That’s why it makes sense to work with a full-service direct mail company like MSP. You’ll get expert advice and direction on what methods work best for your goals and budget.


Postal Optimization


Postal optimization combines technology, logistics, and the size and structure of your direct mailing to give you the best possible rates. There are different ways to make this happen. A postage and freight feasibility report ensures you’re increasing your speed to market while also earning the lowest rates possible. You may choose one or more of the following methods to mail your campaign.


  • Presorting. When the USPS doesn’t have to sort your direct mail, you save money. The requirement is that you have to group each piece of mail according to its zip code. Save yourself the headache (and enjoy a postal discount) by leaving the sorting to your direct mail provider.
  • Commingling. This gives you a deeper USPS discount than presorting. Commingling is when you combine your mailing with other businesses via zip codes. Then the mail is bundled into trays according to a zip code group.
  • Co-Palletization. With CoPAL, you’re thinking bigger picture than commingling. So rather than sharing pieces of mail in a tray, you’re sharing trays of mail on a pallet. This allows for fuller pallets of mail to the USPS, so additional discounts apply.
  • Consolidated. Think even bigger picture. Consolidating mail is when you combine pallets of your mail with other businesses.


MSP optimizes your direct mail campaigns for USPS delivery. We’ll cut days off the production time. Plus, you’ll benefit from the best marketing mail postage rates. We’ll analyze what’s best for your direct mail campaign using a mix of presorting, commingling, co-palletization, and consolidation.


8. Incorporate Digital Marketing


Direct mail drives digital engagements. Almost 85% of people who receive marketing mail use their desktop, laptop, or mobile device as a result. It’s called multichannel marketing. When you combine digital marketing channels with your direct mail campaign, you’re setting yourself up to achieve your best results.


Almost 100% of Americans switch back and forth between their desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile devices every day. And over 90% of those consumers expect you to deliver a multichannel experience. In fact, they’re disappointed if you don’t. Plus, multichannel shoppers spend 3x more than single-channel customers. That makes multichannel marketing your new best friend.


A consumer can receive a direct mail piece and based on your preferred instructions they can call a phone number, type a URL, or scan a QR code to complete a task. Whether you’re initiating a conversation or prompting them to complete a sign-up form or visit a product page, etc., adding a digital marketing component to your direct mail campaign is a sure-fire way to jump-start your success.


9. Analyze Your Results


direct mail marketingWithout knowing how well (or how poorly) your marketing campaigns performed, it’s impossible to make the proper adjustments. The same holds true for direct mail. That’s why you should always use advanced reporting methods to build your next best direct mail campaign. If this is your first shot at direct mail, you’ll want to analyze direct mail marketing metrics like response rate, conversion rate, cost per acquisition (CPA), and return on investment (ROI). When you add this data to your CRM, you can determine if your efforts were successful. Accordingly, it allows you to then plan your next best direct mail campaign.


You can analyze on your own in this fashion (with whatever CRM you use or plan to use) and get some decent results. But it’s a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. Alternatively, you can save yourself the hassle by using a revolutionary new software solution called Direct Mail Panorama. This next-gen product will not only track your key performance indicators (KPIs), but it will also streamline and manage your entire direct mail production platform.


Direct Mail Panorama provides transparency into your campaign’s performance and it allows you to track and analyze every step of the mailing process. For example, you can access in-depth reports regarding production, delivery, and engagement. This provides the insights you need to improve future campaigns and increase your ROI.


10. Partner with the Best Direct Mail Marketing Company


Are you working with a proven, full-service direct mail marketing provider? This is a vital part of improving your direct mail success. MSP can help you with all of the previously mentioned best practices to ensure you’re building your best direct mail campaign. But this last step is the most important. To talk about your brand’s marketing goals using direct mail and other channels, contact MSP and speak with a customer care expert today.

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