How Does Direct Mail Work?

How Does Direct Mail Work?

Direct mail is a form of marketing that involves targeting an audience of potential customers and delivering a specific message via printed mail. Direct mail can take the form of a physical letter, flyer, brochure or postcard and usually carries a promotion for a particular product or service.

Why Use Direct Mail?

Direct mail is a relatively cost-effective form of marketing and especially popular with start-ups for its high ROI. It’s an extremely effective form of advertising that allows you to target a specific audience by having a letter or brochure sent directly to their doorstep. When compared to other forms of marketing such as radio or TV adverts, it’s a cheap way of promoting your business and this makes it a much more accessible medium for small businesses.

Identify Your Audience

The first stage of a direct mail campaign is to identify your audience. One of the benefits of direct mail is the fact it doesn’t have to strictly adhere to the guidelines set out by the GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May 2018, set stringent rules on how companies’ market via email and telephone. These rules don’t apply as strictly to direct mail and direct mail has seen a solid growth as a result.

So, unlike email marketing where recipients need to specifically opt-in to receive your promotional emails, direct mail can be posted without explicit permission.

Despite this, it’s still a good idea to have a target audience in mind when starting your direct mail campaign. Many businesses, especially in the food and beverage industry will target past and current customers with direct mail. This could be as simple as posting out an updated menu, along with a special offer. This form of direct mail acts as a reminder to the customer and can spur them into action. It relies on ‘impulse buys’ and has been proven to be a hugely successful form of direct marketing.

Whatever audience you are targeting, you should tailor the message of your campaign specifically towards their needs. You should take the data of your audience demographic and use it when working on the design of your flyer.

Design for Your Audience

The design of your flyer or brochure should address the specific audience you are targeting. A main image should be carefully selected which carries your message in the form of a picture. So, if you are selling pizza for example, then a photo of your pizza should be the main focus of your design. This should then be followed up with a catchy and concise headline. If you are offering a special offer, then the focus of this offer should be included in your headline. For example, if you are offering a free trial of a service, then ‘Free Trial’ should be loud and proud in your design. This message is then built upon within the main copy of your advert.

Copywriting Your Direct Mail Advert

The copy of your advert should enforce your main message in a way that is snappy and easy to read. When it comes to any form of advertising, you only get a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. This is why your copywriting needs to be short and concise, using bitesize chunks that contain emotive words to capture your readers attention. The more time your reader invests in your message, the more likely they are to remember you and hopefully buy your product or service.

Printing Your Literature

After you’ve completed your design, you need to have it printed. There are many different forms of printing and you need to decide on the weight and type of paper you’ll be using. If you’re having large quantities printed, then it’s more cost-effective to use lithographic printing which we can produce quickly and efficiently in-house. For shorter runs, you may want to choose digital print which is perfect for postcards and mailshots. If your direct mail campaign consists of letters, then you need to have envelopes printed which again come in different sizes and paper stocks. The quality of the paper you use can greatly affect the cost of your campaign but can also have an impact on how recipients view your brand. If the paper and print is cheap, then there’s a higher chance your recipients will view your brand as cheap. So, it’s important to get the balance right between your budget and the quality of the literature you’re sending out.


After the printing stage, you may need a fulfilment service. Fulfilment involves folding and finishing any of your printed materials. If you have a brochure for example, you may need the pages stapled or glued together. If you are sending out catalogues they may need to be polywrapped and letters need to be placed in envelopes and sealed. The Mailing People offer fulfilment as a service separate from the printing stage, but over companies may include it in their price. By the end of the fulfilment stage, you now have a product that is ready to be delivered to your targeted audience and your direct mail campaign can begin.

Delivering Your Product

Finally, after your direct mail literature, whether it be a letter, leaflet or brochure is designed and printed, you need to arrange for it to be sent out to your target audience. Again, how this is achieved can vary widely from company to company. Our track record at TMP is unsurpassed when it comes to saving our clients' money on postage and our mailing service is a key part of the direct mail campaigns we complete.

Measuring Your Success

If you’ve strategised your direct mail campaign effectively, then you would have targeted your audience, designed your leaflet to target their needs, had it printed in the correct format and delivered to your recipient's doorsteps in a timely manner. The next stage of the process is to measure the success of the campaign. A good way of measuring the success of a direct mail campaign is to have a dedicated telephone number, web page or email assigned to the campaign. This way you can track how many ‘hits’ your campaign has received. Most mailing services think that a 69% open rate is good for a mailshot. While this may be true, TMP aim higher and work with our clients to surpass this by working with you from concept to delivery.

So, if you are considering a direct mail campaign, contact us today and our experts will help to guide you through the entire process.

Written by Kristian Harrison, General Manager at The Mailing People. Kristian is an industry professional with over 20 years experience in Direct Mail and Fulfilment.