In a world of emails, texts, and social media posts, people still look forward to checking what’s in their physical mailbox each day. Direct mail industry statistics show about 94% of people open their mail. Yet some marketers still question the role of direct mail in an increasingly digital world. Let it be known: the truth is in the impressive direct mail response rates. Savvy brands are not only using direct mail, they’re finding new and innovative ways to get greater returns on their direct mail investments. It’s called direct mail optimization. It sounds complex, but it’s really quite straightforward. And your brand can do the same with all types of direct mail, including the direct mail letter. Let’s learn how to optimize your direct mail letters to get the results you want.


1. Clean Up Your Bad Data

direct mail optimization

Knowing the wants and needs of your target market is vital. For your direct mail letter to be successful, you need to know who you’re selling to. This aspect of direct mail optimization begins with an up-to-date database—via data hygiene and list management.


Your campaign’s ROI is strong when it’s delivered to targeted mailing lists. Clean up your current list by detecting and correcting inaccurate records, like duplicates. Track your duplication percentages for specific lists and try to assess the root of the issue. This helps you clean up your lists before each campaign.


Dupes lead to over projections. Consider this: what if 10% of your 10,000 leads were duplicate contacts? If you’re projecting that 25% of those 10,000 leads will make a purchase, you’re not basing it on an accurate audience. Hence, over-projection. On the receiving end, if you’re the consumer, you’re receiving the same mailing twice. That’s bothersome to your prospects and it sends a message that your brand doesn’t know what it’s doing. Lastly, it’s wasteful. Almost 40% of marketers waste money because of bad data and approximately 30% have lost customers because of it.


The key is to analyze your data, clean it regularly, and find a “data ambassador” (assigned employee) in your organization to take charge. If you raise your standards, you’ll win the battle against dirty data.


2. Select the Best Direct Mail Letter Format


We’ve already established that we’re using the direct mail letter format, and that’s a good thing. But what size letter should you use? There are so many possibilities. Contrary to popular belief, you do have options. The standard size letter is the most popular format, and a large or “oversized” envelope provides the best response rates (6-7%). But there are a variety of direct mail letter sizes for you to consider with direct mail optimization. There is some crossover among the varying sizes, but we’ll categorize them to help you decide what’s best for your marketing needs. Let’s take a look:


  • Standard envelopes. These are #10 business and correspondence envelopes (4.125” x 9.5”). Standard, yes, but also very reliable.
  • Monarch envelopes. This size is sometimes known as the “all-purpose” envelope (3.875” x 7.5”). It’s versatile, with a longer triangular flap than standard envelopes.
  • Announcement envelopes. These sizes are numbered and known as A-style envelopes. Announcements come in a wide variety of sizes—from A-2 (4.375” x 5.75”) to A-10 (6” x 9.5”). They’re popular for mailing pictures, greeting cards, small booklets, and more.
  • 6” x 9” envelopes. This size is ideal for folded letters accompanied by printed materials like brochures and other sales materials.
  • Larger envelopes. The 9“ x 12” is suitable for sending proposals or booklets that can’t be folded. Fair warning: this size is susceptible to higher postal rates from the USPS, but oversized letters (AKA flats) have the greatest household response rates (6.6%). So if you’re going to send a letter, consider going big for the best result. How big? According to the USPS, the word “flats” refers to large envelopes, newsletters, and magazines. However you choose to label them, they must have one dimension larger than 6.125” high or 11.5” long or 0.25” thick.


One More Option: Self Mailers


If you’d like to save on the cost of an envelope, consider a self-mailer. Not only is it more budget-friendly, but you’ll have room for more copy. You can also implement a perforated reply card or coupon as part of the design. To get the recipient more engaged, use a unique fold (multi-panel gatefold, roll fold, or Z-fold) and get creative with the way you organize your information. Other popular options include a sleeve, Snap Pak, or booklet mailer.


Does this sound complicated? We have over 65 years of direct mail experience. We’ve seen it all and we can answer any questions you have. We’ll work with you to help you decide what direct mail letter is best for your next campaign. Contact an MSP representative to discuss your goals.


3. Personalize to Connect with Your Customers


Personalized direct mail is about more than just using someone’s name. That’s a great part of direct mail optimization. People love to see their names in print. It creates a connection between you and your customer, plus it could lead to a response rate increase of as much as 135%. And that’s a great direct mail marketing strategy. But there’s more to it than that. Here are a few personalization ideas to try:


  1. If you center your mailing around a franchise location, try adding a local angle to the piece. Include the address and hours of operation of the closest or most frequently visited store using geo-location and user shopping habits as variables.
  2. If you’re using a mailing piece with a return reply card, save time for the customer by filling in data, like their mailing address. This increases the chance of a response by making it easier for them to complete.
  3. In your copy, direct your recipients to a personalized URL, or PURL. Here they’ll find custom content, plus you can more effectively track what they do. You can even use custom QR codes to make visiting these personalized pages easier than ever.


Is personalization time-consuming? It doesn’t have to be. Variable data printing capabilities allow you to create hundreds or thousands of variations of a mailing piece at mass-production rates. That way, you enjoy the benefits of personalization without sacrificing time.


4. Use a Successful, Proven Direct Mail Letter Format


When you’re creating your direct mail letter or mailing piece, there’s a formula you can use that has been proven successful. You’ll maximize your results by following a few direct mail optimization tips:


  • Headline. Have a clear headline that reflects your goal. After all, humans have an attention span of eight seconds. Get their attention right away.
  • Body. People spend more time with physical mail than they do with email, so include more information. But don’t get carried away. Simple is still better. Also, sell your story with images and visuals. Our brains process them faster than words.
  • Call to Action (CTA). When you’re crafting your call to action, clearly tell the recipient what you want them to do. And because some people will only skim the content, repeat the CTA several times—in an obvious manner. Don’t forget to use a P.S. at the end to repeat it.


Allow for a variety of ways to respond. Direct mail campaigns that include email, web, and social channel options (aka omnichannel marketing) receive a 37% increase in responses.


Consider the power of the outside of your mailing, too. A callout of the special offer waiting inside (or something similar) can increase your open rates.


5. Send Your Direct Mail Letter Midweek


Did you know Monday is generally the day when people receive the greatest amount of mail? That’s great for Monday but bad for your brand. Avoid sending a campaign that arrives on the first business day of the week. The same goes for Fridays. Everyone’s usually in weekend mode at this point. By scheduling your direct mail piece to arrive on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you’re increasing your chances of direct mail success.


6. Measure Your Success

sending advertising mail

There’s an age-old advertising rule that claims it takes at least seven impressions before people decide to connect to a product or service through a marketing message. Embrace the concept. Plan on sending multiple mailings and use direct response for more immediate feedback. Your customers can:


  • Sign up for an email newsletter,
  • Call for more information,
  • Visit a web page,
  • Place an order.


However you decide to elicit a response, you’ll be better prepared to track and measure your results.


A/B Testing


Here’s a fairly obvious but important question to ask yourself with any direct mail campaign. How can you increase your ROI if you don’t know what’s working? Don’t let A/B testing intimidate you. From the simple to the complex, these direct mail optimization comparisons can provide valuable information for future mailings.


Simple Test. At the very least, run a simple A/B test that includes one difference, like the offer. Split your mailing list in two so one half receives one version, and the other half gets the second version. Then track the results to see which offer was redeemed more often. Remember to use a unique coupon or promo code, or even unique URLs to make comparing redemption rates easier.


Control Group Test. A control group test would involve something you’ve mailed before plus a test piece. Decide what you want to test, such as design, color, images, etc. Then split the list in half to see which gets the better response.


Complex Test. Of course, you can conduct a more complex test. You could break up your mailing list by purchase history or demographics—then create mailings for each one. You could also test a variety of direct response methods, as mentioned above, to determine what works best. For instance, see how a phone number CTA performs against a website URL or QR code.


7. Innovate and Integrate Your Direct Mail Letter

If you really want to know how to optimize your direct mail letter, consider a new approach. One of the main reasons people ignore direct mail is because there’s too much of it. They don’t have the time to sort through it all. So you need to get creative with direct mail optimization techniques.


Experiment with Sensory Devices


Innovative marketers are testing sensory devices with their printed materials. Incorporate smell, touch, taste, sound, and video into your mailers. It’s called “embodied cognition.” The more senses you appeal to, the better encoded the message. The result: increased response rates.


Direct Mail Optimization for USPS Delivery


There are other ways to innovate. Take advantage of postal service discounts by optimizing your direct mail letters for delivery.


  • Presorting. Get a cheaper postage rate by presorting your outgoing mail by zip code.
  • Intelligent Mail. This 65-bar image provides the USPS with more information and functionality.
  • Commingled Mail. Consider mixing your individual pieces of mail with other direct mail marketing companies to receive USPS discounts.
  • Co-Palletization. This method shares trays of mail on a pallet for a discount.


Both commingled mail and co-palletization reduce the times the post office touches your mail. This results in faster shipping and discounts.


Try integrating some of these innovative steps into your next direct mail campaign to see which works best for you. MSP has dedicated staff that runs a postage and freight feasibility report on every job. You get the lowest postage rate while also meeting your “in-home” date requirements.


Direct Mail Optimization: How to Create Your Best Direct Mail Letter


You can create a direct mail campaign that stands on its own—or you can design an omnichannel campaign that compliments your electronic efforts. No matter what method you choose, you can learn how to optimize your direct mail letter so it becomes a very effective form of marketing.


MSP can help you make the most of your next direct mail program with competitive rates and enhanced personalization techniques, like those mentioned above. Contact us for a free consultation.

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