You’re aware of some of the tactics that help you to create your best direct mail campaigns. But do you know what makes this legendary marketing channel work even better? The seldom-used strategies that other businesses either ignore or haven’t bothered to implement. That’s why we came up with 10 secrets that will help you achieve the direct mail success you’re looking for. Let’s get started.


1. Choose the Right Size for Direct Mail Success


direct mail successAs you’re planning for direct mail success, it helps to know the types of direct mail that will best serve your needs. This is the first and most basic step in creating a campaign. You may have several ideas in your head, but do you know which one will put your brand in the best position to succeed?


The most straightforward answer is: it depends on your budget and needs. The most commonly used sizes are postcards, letters, and flats. So let’s take a look at each to determine what will work best for your needs.




Postcards are a practical and affordable way to quickly get your message into the hands of your customers. There’s no need to open an envelope, so you’ve already cleared that hurdle. Plus, you’ll pay a lower price than a First-Class letter with the same benefits, like forwarding and returns. You can also send postcards as USPS Marketing Mail, but you’ll pay the same price as you would for a letter.


Postcard Size Requirements

  • Minimum 5″ x 3.5″ x 0.007″
  • Maximum 6″ x 4.25″ x 0.016″




A standard direct mail letter goes inside a No. 10 envelope. But don’t feel limited to that size. You can get creative by using your own style and dimensions. This will help you get people’s attention. Just be aware of its length, width, and thickness to stay within a certain price range for letters.


Letter Size Requirements

  • Minimum 5″ x 3.5″ x 0.007″
  • Maximum 11.5″ x 6.125″ x 0.25″


Unlike postcards, you can get a price break by using USPS Marketing Mail or you can send them via First-Class Mail.




The USPS describes flats as large envelopes, newsletters, and magazines. You’ll need to stay within certain size dimensions to qualify, plus the price will vary depending upon the weight of each piece, especially if you want to ship via First-Class mail.


Flat Size Requirements

  • One dimension (length, width, or thickness) has to be greater than 11.5″ or 6.125″ or 0.25″
  • It can’t exceed 15″ x 12″ x 0.75″


Bonus Secret


If you choose a letter or flat as your direct mailer, add an item inside that makes it obvious that something’s in there. This will pique the interest of your recipients enough to get them to open your campaign to see what it is. It’s one way to win the biggest part of the direct mail battle: getting your recipients to open your mail.


2. Pay Attention to What Time You Deliver Your Mail


direct mail timingYou can create your best direct mail campaigns, but if you send them out at the wrong times, you won’t achieve your best results. Something as simple as the arrival time of your campaigns can make a big difference.


There are varying opinions on direct mail timing, but as a standard practice, delivery on three days stands above the others: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. These mid-week options give you the best chance to get your direct mail into the hands of your target audience.


Why? Recipients are typically going home after work and they sort through their mail more often on these three days. It’s more of a routine for them than a Monday, Friday, or Saturday. Think about it. Are you more distracted on a weekend than a weekday? The answer is likely a resounding “Yes!” Your customers are no different.


3. Know What Colors Appeal to Your Customers


When you’re designing your best direct mail campaigns, be sure to know what colors appeal the most to your audience. It helps to understand color psychology. Consumers take about 90 seconds to form an opinion of a product. Many of those same consumers spend almost the entire minute and a half analyzing the color of the item. So the more you know about color—specifically the colors that convert consumers to customers—the better. Proper color choices lead to direct mail success stories.


  • Red. If you’re looking to make a bold statement, red is the way to go. It evokes strong emotions, from anger to excitement. Use it to create urgency for consumers to “Buy Now!”
  • Green. If your brand is in the food or healthcare industry, green is a great way to show feelings of peace and contentment. Studies show that green actually relaxes your customers.
  • Blue. Financial services and fintech brands oftentimes use blue as a symbol of trust and honesty. If your industry is based on serving people’s daily needs, consider blue colors in your direct mail marketing to help build that trust. Also, men tend to respond well to blue.
  • Purple. Luxury brands oftentimes use purple to elicit feelings of royalty, passion, or esteem. It sends a strong message to your affluent customers. Women tend to respond well to light purple (lavender).
  • Orange and Yellow. These bright colors promote a sense of urgency that can cause spontaneous buyers to act on your offer.
  • Pink. If you’re trying to attract women and/or young girls, think pink. This color promotes everything from feminism and fun to romance.


Note: Stay on-brand with your marketing color selections. Brand management is extremely important to direct mail success. That’s why you don’t want to distract your recipients with clashing colors that can divert them from your brand’s message.


4. Truly Understand Your Target Audience


direct mail target audienceIt’s one thing to know who your target audience is, with basic demographics like age, gender, occupation, etc. It’s another to truly understand them on a deeper level. A more in-depth analysis of your customers includes psychographics like buying behaviors, interests/hobbies, lifestyles, values, etc. You need to understand how your customers think and act on a daily basis. To do this, you’ll need to answer important questions about them. Some questions are directly related to your product/service, while others are more about their daily habits.


  • How does your product/service fit into your target audience’s lifestyle?
  • When (and how) will they use it?
  • What features do they like the best?
  • Where do they “hang out” online?
  • Do they read the newspaper or search for information online?


The more questions you can answer, the better you’ll understand your audience. Then you can truly attend to their needs as customers. Naturally, as you solve their problems, you’ll earn more business for your brand. Now that’s direct mail success.


5. Don’t Stop at One Mailing


One thing you don’t want to do with any direct mail campaign is to create one mailing and then call it quits. When you do this, you’re depriving your business of achieving its best results. Research shows that consumers need to see a message at least seven times before they’ll buy your product or service. It’s known in advertising circles as “The Rule of Seven.”


This age-old philosophy states that a prospective buyer needs to hear or see your marketing message a minimum of seven times before they act. Why seven times? Well, it’s less about a magic number as much as it’s about repetition and consistency. Someone may buy your product after one direct mail letter. Congratulations. That was an effective campaign. But more often than not, consumers are going to need more mailings from you.


Cut Through the Noise


Consumers are bombarded with advertising every waking moment of their lives. On their laptops, tablets, smartphones, and in their mailboxes, too. That means it’s becoming more difficult to get their attention. Repetition is one way to accomplish that. Multiple direct mailings will keep you from getting lost in the mailbox shuffle, so to speak. Eventually, if you stick with it, you’ll stand out.


Familiarity Leads to Trust


If your brand is new to a consumer, why should they trust you? You need to prove yourself to them—or at least keep sending them messages until they’re used to your brand’s offers, styles, colors, etc. This familiarity will eventually lead to trust. The more that consumers know about your brand, the more likely they are to trust you with their money.


‘You Love Me, You Just Don’t Know it Yet’


Legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “You love me, you just don’t know it yet.” That same concept applies to your marketing messages. The consumers to whom you’re sending your direct mailings may soon find that they want/need your product/service, even if they didn’t think so at first. By staying repetitive with your mailings, you’re increasing your brand’s chances of direct mail success. Stay the course to achieve the results you’re looking for.


6. Split-Test Your Way to Better Results


split testingOne way to achieve your best direct mail campaigns is to split-test them. With this strategy, you send out two or more different mailings to prospective customers with varied messages and designs to see which ones achieve better response rates. When you’re thinking about how to optimize your direct mail letter, split testing goes a long way to achieving your best results. Let’s look at a few different types.


Simple A/B Test


If you want to test the waters with split testing, begin with a simple A/B test. Just split (hence the name) your mailing in half and send a different version to each. Let’s say each rendition has a different offer. You can track the results to see which one performed better. Be sure to use a unique redemption code or URL so you can quickly and easily compare the results.


Control Group Test


If you’ve done a previous mailing and you want to test it against a new campaign, you can try a control group test. Determine what you want to evaluate (like an offer or design element, etc.), then split your mailing list into two parts and see which gets a better response.


Complex Test


Once you’re comfortable with the concept of split testing, you can try a more complex approach. For example, you could split your list according to demographics or purchase history. Then create a campaign for each. Another approach could be to compare one response method to another, like a toll-free order hotline vs. a website URL or QR code.


7. Grab Your Customer’s Attention with Catchy Headlines


Don’t underestimate the importance of how you write your direct mail piece. You may have the best product or service in your industry, but if you don’t pay particular attention to your marketing writing, you’ll experience lackluster results. Research shows that humans have an attention span of approximately eight seconds. That’s the time needed for someone to decide whether they should read your direct mail letter. It begins with a catchy headline to draw them in.


Your headline should reflect the goals of your campaign and you should write it in a way that’s both clever and concise. If you know your audience, as we mentioned earlier, you’re already aware of what makes them tick. Use that to your advantage. Speak their language and use words that elicit emotions. British advertising tycoon David Ogilvy stated that 5x more people read headlines as they do the rest of the copy. It’s a concept that still applies today, so give your headlines the attention they deserve. Here are a few tips:


  • Don’t use more than eight words (subheads can be a bit longer).
  • Focus on the benefits of your product/service, not the features.
  • Your product/service likely has many benefits. Include the best one in your headline.
  • Consider asking a question. It’s engaging and it shows empathy.
  • A/B test your headlines to see what words, styles, etc. work best.


Take your time and create the best headline you can. It’s worth the effort. If you get your customers to read your direct mail letter based on your headline, you’re well on your way to convincing them to buy from you.


8. Make Your Direct Mail Piece Useful


direct mail marketing planYour direct mail piece has one purpose: to elicit a response, right? Well, sort of. Naturally, you want those impressive response rates that lead to direct mail success. It proves the efficacy of the campaigns your brand created. But, if your direct mail piece serves a practical purpose for your recipients, you’ll get more mileage from your mailing. It helps to serve a purpose beyond the goals of the campaign. Here are a couple of examples to better illustrate the point.


Include Something People Use


When you’re creating your best direct mail campaigns, include something that your customers will find handy. Depending upon the product/service you’re selling, it could be something directly associated with it or simply a promotional item, like a pen or notepad, inside the envelope.


Offer a Discount


Part of your campaign could be to give your customers something for nothing. A discount is a sure-fire way to get people to react. Naturally, the more generous the discount, the better response you’ll get. Here’s an idea. Consider celebrating your customers’ birthdays with a special giveaway or exclusive discount.


9. Provide a Free Sample of Your Product


You’ve certainly heard the phrase “put your money where your mouth is.” The same thing applies to your best direct mail campaigns when you provide a free sample of your product. This way, consumers can not only read what you have to say about it, but they can also experience it for themselves. This goes far beyond mere words. If you’re confident people will like what you’ve created, put it out there so they can sample it. If it’s all you say it is, they’ll place an order for more. Also, be sure to offer an incentive for them to order, like a discount.


If you have a service rather than a product, you can still put this direct mail secret into practice. Provide a QR code or PURL that links to a landing page where consumers can redeem your special offer.


10. Pay Attention to Your Results


direct mail panoramaHow will you know if your direct mail marketing campaigns are working? Look at the results. Not only will this tell you about the campaigns you’ve already sent out, but it will help guide you to better results on future campaigns. Naturally, there are many ways to measure success—or failure—in your marketing efforts. But direct mail success begins and ends with knowing what happened.


Direct Mail Panorama: The Future of Direct Mail Management


MSP has a direct mail management software solution called Direct Mail Panorama that allows you to track and analyze every step of the direct mail process, from production to delivery. It performs many other functions to produce your best direct mail campaigns. This revolutionary platform also allows you to simplify the editing and approval process using an automated proofing system. Our Direct Mail Lookup feature helps your customer support staff see exactly which piece of mail was delivered and when as they take calls about your direct mail campaigns. Ultimately, you’ll reduce your management time, improve your speed to market, and have more control and a better understanding of your direct mail marketing campaigns than ever before. The end result equals improved campaigns and greater ROI.


Create Your Direct Mail Success Stories with MSP


We hope these 10 secrets will help your brand achieve greater direct mail success. MSP can help with all your marketing and mailing needs. All it takes is a phone call or email to get the ball rolling. Contact us today and let’s get started creating your best direct mail campaigns.

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