How many times have you been asked, “Are you ready for the holidays?” It’s a popular seasonal question without much direction. Did you buy all the necessary gifts for your family and friends? Have you picked out a turkey or ham for the holiday dinner? Being ready for the holidays means different things for different people. To the professional marketer, however, it usually means taking advantage of a typically strong spending season by selling large quantities of your products or services.


Direct mail is a great way to do that. Studies show it produces a high return on your investment. In the U.S. alone, direct mail generates a nearly 30% median ROI. When you throw in the fact that Americans are set to spend over $700 billion this holiday season—well, you can see where this is going. Your sales expectations should be pretty high. And that’s a good thing because we’re going to help you achieve direct mail success this holiday season.


Here are five holiday direct marketing ideas you should put into practice to get the most out of this year’s busy shopping season.


1. Nobody Can Resist This Type of Direct Mail

holiday direct mail marketing ideas

Almost 80% of consumers sort through their mail as soon as they get it. That means when you send a holiday campaign there’s a very good chance your intended audience is going to look at it. How you design and deliver it, however, can make all the difference.


We’ve established that most of the people who get your holiday direct mail marketing campaigns are going to at least look at what you sent. Doesn’t it stand to reason that you should go the extra mile to make sure they open it? How do you accomplish that? Well, there aren’t any guarantees, but dimensional mail will give you the most assurance.


If you send a box or tube, you’ll achieve a nearly 100% open rate. Let’s face it. Nobody can resist this type of direct mail. If a package arrives with your daily mail, there’s almost no way you’re refusing delivery or tossing that piece of mail in the trash without at least opening it to see what’s inside. (FYI, “lumpy” mail also works marketing wonders. If your recipients notice there’s something oddly shaped inside the envelope, curiosity will likely get the better of them—especially during the holidays.)


Be Different, Stand Out, Make Them Remember You


There are other ways to help increase the chances your customers open your holiday direct mail piece. The key is to be different. Make them notice you. Yes, sending a box or tube or some kind of “lumpy” mail might accomplish that, but it may not be a cost-effective strategy. Rest assured, there are other methods. Here are a handful to consider.


  • Texture. A “regular” envelope can take on a whole new appeal with some added texture. Consider how a raised design element will help increase intrigue.
  • Color. Many of the personal cards and envelopes people receive during the holidays are red, green, silver, or gold. If you choose one of these colors, you’re immediately providing the illusion that you’re sending a personal greeting of some sort. Don’t worry so much about blending in. Nobody’s so tired of receiving green holiday envelopes that they start tossing them aside in disgust. They’re going to want to see who they’re from.
  • Contrast. To play off the subject of color, take that green envelope and add a bright white, textured snowflake to it. Now you have the best of both worlds. You’ll blend in (in a good way), but you’ll also set yourself apart.
  • Messaging. In addition to texture and/or color, a great way to lure your recipients into the contents of your holiday mailpiece is the message you print on the outside. Use your imagination and come up with some ways to make the consumer say, “I have to see what this is all about!”
  • Handwriting. A handwritten message gets noticed. It stands out amidst our usual daily barrage of emails and text messages. When you add handwriting to your holiday direct mail campaigns, you’re telling your customers how much you care. Try digital handwriting and see the difference it can make.
  • Contents. If you have a product that appeals to your recipients’ sense of taste and/or smell, include a free sample. Be wary of potential allergies or dietary restrictions, though. You don’t want to turn something well-intended into a problem. Also, be sure everything is securely packaged and clearly labeled. Other kinds of samples work, too. It’s always a good idea to include a coupon as an incentive to buy for the holidays.


Construction Company Builds a Better Holiday Greeting


Nicholson Construction Company wanted to give their customers something other than the typical holiday calendar, a gift that was pretty much the status quo in the construction industry. After mulling over some ideas with their graphic designer, they arrived at a custom stand-up desk card that was anything but the norm. The card featured an embedded stress ball that doubled as a holiday ornament. Why a stress ball? Nicholson’s marketing department felt they needed to provide a subtle solution to the uncertainty of the current political climate. (Plus, aren’t the holidays stressful anyway?) The clever promo delivered both holiday cheer and stress relief.


2. Think Outside the Holidays for Direct Mail Success

holiday marketing for direct mail success

When we say “outside the holidays,” what we really mean is the entire month of November and December—and even a little beyond that. More specifically, that’s Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s opportunities that play into the holiday season as a whole. According to the National Retail Federation, 2019 holiday sales are expected to grow around 4%.


NRF President and CEO, Matthew Shay, remarked:


“The U.S. economy is continuing to grow and consumer spending is still the primary engine behind that growth. … Consumers are in good financial shape and retailers expect a strong holiday season. … Current economic data and the recent momentum of the economy show that we can expect a much stronger holiday season than last year.”


Pre- and post-holiday sales events with incentives to buy quickly are powerful marketing strategies. You can offer the event of a once-per-year sale with a limited window of opportunity to make a purchase. You see this a lot with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Black Friday is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year—so busy that retailers typically start their sales on Thanksgiving Day. Online retailers who want to offer their customers great deals with the convenience of no crowds use Cyber Monday as their big day. After all, from a consumer’s perspective, what could be more appealing than sitting in the comfort of your own home to “clean up” on a holiday sales event?


You can use a similar approach with the New Year. It’s like a second chance for those who missed the mark with their holiday shopping—or a fresh start for anyone else. Let people know they can start their year with a great deal that will make their life easier and save them money.


Holiday Direct Marketing Ideas: Send Campaigns Early and Often


As long as we’re thinking outside the holidays, let’s get serious about direct mail timing when we project our holiday direct mail marketing ideas. Some people are annoyed by retail’s early infusion of holiday decor. Others wish they were there year-round. Whatever school of thought you support, plan to get to your customers early. After all, most people don’t like to wait until the last minute to do their holiday shopping. (There are always procrastinators, but we’ll target them in mid-December.)


In addition to getting holiday direct mail marketing campaigns going early, it’s also important to remember the frequency of your campaigns. The “Marketing Rule of 7” says that consumers need to see your message as many as seven times before they’ll take action. It’s also known as effective frequency. Messages are more effective when they’re repeated. The holidays are no exception—although if there were any wiggle room with that theory, it would be in October and November. (Desperate shoppers make desperate decisions.) Thus, plan to send your holiday direct mail campaigns repeatedly to achieve the results you desire.


Are you sending business holiday cards? Create a very merry mailbox for your clients and customers.


3. Look to Your ‘House List’ for Repeat Business


customer lifetime valueIf you really want to turn your holiday direct marketing ideas into successful campaigns, target them to your current customers. Your “house list” will provide a number of target audiences. Depending upon what products or services you’re featuring this holiday season, you’ll get the best results from pursuing those customers who are most likely to respond.


If your current customers have been satisfied with your brand in the past, they’re more likely to buy from you again than someone who’s never heard of you or never made a purchase from you before. The holiday season is a great opportunity to get repeat business. After all, it’s much easier (and less expensive) to keep current customers than it is to find new ones.


4. Consumers Don’t Behave Rationally, So …


One of the most powerful holiday direct mail marketing ideas is to create exclusive content that evokes a response from your recipients rather than using standard sales language. One way you can improve your chances of a successful direct mail campaign is to speak to your customer’s feelings. In other words, use emotion. You can get their attention with time-honored marketing power words, but they’re not fooled by that type of flash. Ultimately, if you make them feel something, they’re more likely to act on your offer. Consumer impulses, behaviors, and moods affect their purchasing patterns. They don’t behave rationally. So you can use these feelings to appeal to their sentimental side. When you create an emotional connection with your customers, you’re establishing trust—and eventually increased business.


Additionally, if your message is interesting and valuable enough, it’s more likely that recipients will keep your direct mail marketing piece out where they (and others) can see it—like their kitchen counter or refrigerator. So even if they don’t take advantage of the offer immediately, they’ll have a constant reminder about your brand and the product or service you’re offering.


5. Give Your Customers What They’re Expecting


direct marketing ideasModern-day marketers know that multichannel and omnichannel approaches work. Multichannel marketing uses all your offline and online marketing channels, but they don’t necessarily work together. Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand, allows those channels to work as one. Almost 90% of retailers agree that omnichannel marketing is extremely valuable to their organization’s success. That’s good for their business because the same percentage of consumers are expecting an omnichannel experience.


Studies show that when you combine direct mail with other channels (like email and social media), you’ll experience close to a 10% year-over-year increase in annual revenue. By adopting a unified cross-media marketing strategy, your direct mail efforts work hand-in-glove with all your other channels. The holidays only help to support those numbers because shoppers are shifting toward omnichannel payments.


Omnichannel Marketing Can Boost Your Holiday Sales


Let’s look at a holiday example. A USPS case study demonstrates the power of direct mail during the holiday season. The unnamed retailer: a national organization with multiple brands (think flowers, gift baskets, gourmet popcorn/foods, and sweets). They already had the goods to satisfy many shoppers who didn’t know what else to buy for their friends, family, and co-workers. But they wanted to boost their already healthy sales during the year’s biggest spending season.

First, they sent catalogs to previous and current customers. Then they added in email and other forms of digital media. But it was their direct mail efforts that really helped their holiday omnichannel strategy succeed. They sent a six-panel self-mailer to customers who had previously made a purchase from one or more of their product lines. The mailer featured all of their brands and had coupons for free shipping and $10 off select purchases. By pairing the direct mail campaign with email, paid search, and direct website traffic, the result was a 13-35% increase in orders.


Here’s How Holiday Direct Mail Marketing Ideas Get Done Right


Your holiday direct marketing ideas will have their best chance for direct mail success when you partner with an established, respected, capable direct mail provider. MSP has more than 65 years of direct mail experience—and we’ve tackled many holiday campaigns from a wide variety of industries. We provide the latest and best printing equipment, the most modern methods of postal optimization, and the best customer service support staff to help you achieve the results you deserve. To get started, contact an MSP representative today. Let’s make this your best holiday season ever.

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