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Direct Mail Marketing – 5 Step Complete Guide for Running a Campaign

Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing is an age-old method of advertising that is still effective today.  It is the strategy of directly targeting a specific audience by using physical mail to a deliver a message about your products or services.

Compared to email marketing it is less utilized and more costly due to the price of postage but it is much more effective and generally returns a greater response rate.  Because it isn’t free to send out direct mail as it would be with emails, the higher barrier to entry creates value relative to spammy emails.

In today digital age, there’s a chance your competitors are not using direct mail as much as digital mail, but going against the grain isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Receiving physical mail such as postcards will always generate higher quality impressions than emails which can often go unnoticed.

One caveat about direct mail marketing is the price tag with running a campaign but this article will help you get started in the most cost effective way without having to hire a direct mail marketing company.





Direct mail is relevant in 2019 because it still works.  In fact, targeted direct mail can be 30+ times as effective when compared to email marketing and generates a 4.4% response rate versus 0.12% for email.

A direct mail campaign with a clear call to action (CTA) is likely to trigger an online response from the recipient.  The top 3 actions taken by consumers in response to direct mail they are interested in are:

    • 44% of people visited the website on the direct mail.  This is a great way of funneling customers directly to your website with all the information to help make a buying decision – hopefully you’ve setup a CTA button on your website homepage.
    • 34% searched online for more information.  Customers are likely checking the legitimacy of your business because they are genuinely interested in your products or services – they may be also checking past experiences of other customers via reviews.
    • 26% of people kept the direct mail for future reference.  The effort and cost of a direct mail campaign can pay off because they tend to have a longer shelf life.  Marketing emails are almost never opened again if at all, but mail sitting on a desk can have a lasting impression because you’ll likely notice it more than once.

There is a 10% greater percentage of people who visited a brand’s website listed on direct mail compared to an email.  Figuratively, in comparison, this is a big number considering that emails are received via the internet where websites are easily accessible.  56% of people perceive direct mail as the most trustworthy marketing channel.  These are indications that direct mail is deemed more legitimate.  Source: thedma





Every type of direct mail serves its own purpose but before deciding on which to send, it is a good idea to weigh out the pros and cons of each format.  Popular cost-effective ways to send direct mail include letters, postcards, oversized envelopes and every door direct mail (EDDM).



Letters are the conventional way of sending direct mail.  Because it is sealed in an envelope it is more personal and should be used to target a specific audience.  For instance, it’s common to see creditors and banks use this type of an approach to advertise to consumers about loans and other financial products.

Recipients are usually already profiled based on credit scores and debt to income ratio so the types of offers can vary depending on a person’s financial reputation.  Direct mailing with letters should be used if you want to add a personal touch or if confidentially is a priority.

According to dma, their 4.3% response rate is the lowest when compared to oversized envelopes and postcards.



Oversized envelopes are similar to letter envelopes but screams attention.  They have the highest response rate at 6.6% compared to postcard’s 5.7% and standard sized letters’ 4.3%.  Source.  The main reason for this is obvious – the size of the mailer grabs the most attention and tends to get opened first.

They have the biggest real estate in terms of ad space and letters don’t have to be unfolded to be legible leading to less path of resistance.  One common myth is that oversized envelopes cost more to ship than standard letter envelopes but according to USPS, this isn’t always the case.

As long as the dimensions doesn’t exceed 6-1/8 inches x 11-1/2 inches, it would still be eligible for standard-sized letter pricing.

usps letter size
source: usps



Postcards with a mailing list command the best value for your money because they are cheaper to ship than standard first class letter mail.  As long as the dimensions of a postcard do not exceed 4-1/4 inches in height x 6 inches in width, they’d qualify for the discounted postcard shipping rate @ 35cents per piece.

Their 5.7% response rate falls just shy of oversized envelopes but running a direct mail campaign with postcards may be the preferred route for most people on a budget.

Although standard postcards are smaller in size compared to oversized envelopes, they are highly impressionable because they aren’t enclosed and hidden in an envelope, eliminating the possibility of never getting opened. That is why self-mailers like postcards are the leading choice for direct mail marketing campaigns – they are effective and economical.

usps postcard size
source: usps



Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is the cheapest and least expensive option if your business services can cater to anybody and targeting your audience isn’t as important.  For instance, restaurants, dry cleaners, and auto repair shops are just several types of businesses that can benefit from EDDM.

However, because the audience isn’t as targeted, the response rate may not be as high but the argument is that it can be offset by the cheap mailing cost.  At just 18 cents per piece mailed, EDDM is a good choice if you want to get your brand’s name out to your community.

It has less of a personalized feel but can have a wider outreach.  If EDDM seems suitable for your needs, here are some requirements:

    • EDDM postcard dimensions have to be bigger than 6-1/8 inches x 11-1/2 but no more than  15 inches x 12 inches.
    • Maximum of 5000 pieces per day.
    • Must provide enough pieces to cover the complete door-to-door route of a carrier with a minimum of 200 pieces.  If a carrier’s route has 300 address, you have to ship 300 pieces.  If a carrier’s route has 150 addresses, EDDM would not qualify for this route.
    • Weight limit of 3.3oz per piece.
usps eddm size
source: usps





If you’ve now determined which direct mail format is right for you, it’s time to put it together.  In order to run an effective direct mail marketing campaign, it is important to identify your target audience, establish an action inducing offer, design an eye-catching print, and construct a mailing list.



The objective of a direct mail campaign should be clear – build brand awareness, generate leads and increase sales.  However, identifying your target audience may not be as cut and dry so it’s important to identify who can benefit the most from your mailer.

If sent to the wrong audience, it can just become wasted marketing budget and more trash to throw out for the recipient.  For instance, a web designer who specializes in designing websites for small businesses shouldn’t send direct mail to businesses that already have an established and up-to-date website.

Chances are they already have a webmaster they’re working with that fulfills their needs.  Narrowing down your target audience will drastically minimize your direct mail campaign expense while increasing your conversion rate.



As with most types of advertisement it is important to convey your message quickly and to the point – a person’s attention span for direct mail doesn’t go that far.  Hence, this isn’t the time to rant about your accolades and accomplishments.

For example, if your direct mailer is a postcard, including a clear one-liner with a few bullet points that shows the value can you bring to your audience can be more effective than writing paragraphs with too much information.  Instead, funnel prospects to your website because that’s what websites are for.

How to make a website – A step by step DIY guide

Now that you got your message across, it’s time for your audience to take action so don’t’ forget to include a call to action (CTA).  Include contact information such as phone number, email address, website URL, and mailing address.

If you have a home based business and would rather keep your address private, use a PO Box – you can rent one for about 10 dollars a month.   USPS now allows you to use the street address of the Post Office, making it look more professional.



A properly designed mailer should instantly engage your prospect to read more.  Come up with a basic sketch of what you’re visualizing or if you need design ideas, just Google “postcard design ideas” and under the images tab, you should be presented with hundreds of direct mail marketing examples.

Blatantly copying design is not advocated or encouraged but looking at samples of direct mail can help visualize the layout and how you want to convey your message.  If you feel inclined to design your own mailers, Adobe Creative Cloud or Canva are popular design software you can use.

However, if you’re not much of a designer, you can hire freelance designers to do it for you.  Fiverr is a useful site to find freelance designers who’ll complete the task for as little as 5 dollars.  Just provide them with your copy-written text, design idea, and high quality images – avoid low resolution images because it can cheapen your presentation.

Awesome Sites with Free Stock Images and Royalty Free Photos

To track your campaign, you can also include a QR code in your mailer design.  Scanning QR code from your mobile devices have never been easier with Apple and Android’s software updates – QR codes can now be scanned directly from the native camera app without the need to install any third party software.

To keep track of the scans that brought traffic to your site, you would need to setup Google Analytics on your website.



Verify that your new postcard design meets USPS mailing guidelines.  It would be a waste of time and money if they reject your postcards after you’ve already printed them.

    • USPS will not accept postcards with rounded edges.
    • The Post Office may or may not accept mailers with glossy UV coating on the address side.  It is important to check with them prior to printing.

For a complete checklist, visit USPS.

postcard design requirement



Your mailing list should include the name and address of the persons or businesses you want to send your mailers to.  If you are working with an in-house warm list, this is where you can really profile and target your prospects.  However, if you’re working with a cold list, you can still fine-tune your audience with the right tactics.

If your audience is local businesses within your community and you don’t plan on sending too many pieces of mail, doing a little research on Google Maps or local directories can go a long way – you can find all the information you’d need to make contact.

If however, you’re targeting a bigger audience, copying and pasting from Google Maps can get tedious very quickly.  Buying mailing lists online is clearly the better solution but they can get quite expensive depending on the quantity.

Instead of buying a list, you can be more resourceful by mining data.  You can find data mining services on Fiverr for a small fraction of the cost of a mailing list – don’t blow hundreds of dollars of your campaign budget on a mailing list.





The cost of a direct mail marketing campaign has many variables so the price will vary depending on the type of mailer, quantity printed, design cost, postage rates and cost for the mailing list.  For sake of simplicity, if the quantity of mailers for a campaign is 1000 standard sized postcards, you can expect your budget to be reflected as such below.



If using a standard sized 4 x 6 postcard for your campaign, the cost of postage is 35 cents per piece – at 1000 pieces, it’ll be 350 dollars.  You’ll also need address labels and they can be purchased on Amazon or eBay for about 10 dollars for 3000 labels.



The price of a mailing list will be different based on the broker but typically can cost about 20 cents per contact – using a broker will run you at least a few hundred dollars or more per 1000 addresses.  However, if you use a data mining service on Fiverr, you should expect to pay only a quarter of the price.



Hiring a copywriter for long content makes sense but since postcards aren’t content-heavy, you should be able to write it yourself – after all, nobody knows your products and services better than you.  If you followed this guide from the beginning, you should already have a catchy slogan to use with a CTA – just combine it with some key bullet points and use the copywriting budget elsewhere.



Online printing companies are useful for printing professional looking postcards.  They have many different options for different mailer formats but for standard sized postcards, you should be able to print 1000 pieces for less than 100 dollars.  Usually the price difference between 500 and 1000 pieces printed is only marginal so printing 1000 pieces carry better value.



If you design your own mailer with Adobe Creative Cloud or Canva, time is your only expense.  If you used a freelance designer on Fiverr, it probably only costed about 15 dollars.  Either way, it’s only a fraction of what you’d pay at a design studio.  Save your budget for your biggest expense – postage.





Assuming your direct mail marketing campaign is for 1000 postcards, your approximate expected costs should be:

    • • Design Cost: 0 – $15
    • • Printing Cost: $100
    • • Postage Cost: $350
    • • Mailing List Cost: 0 – $50
    • • Label Cost: $10

The costs can vary significantly depending on the format of your mailers and where your services were acquired but if you followed the recommendations in this article, a direct mail campaign can be run for roughly $525 on the high end.





With the mailing list and design ready, the final step is to print your mailing list from an Excel file to individual address labels – you’ll need to use Microsoft Word’s label printing function.  Word has a mail merge function to print from an Excel database and here’s how to do it.

The properties of the address on your mailing should be separated in columns by name, address, city, state and zip code in an Excel spreadsheet.

mailing list

1. Open Microsoft Word and choose Start Mail Merge and click Labels.

mail merge

2. Select the label format 30 Per Page and click OK.

label format

3. Choose Select Recipients then click Use Existing List and choose your mailing list Excel file.

mailing list recipients

4. The first cell is the only cell you’ll need to edit to add the address properties.  Choose Insert Merge Field and, one by one, choose all the address properties you want to add for your label.  You’ll need to add a space between each property.

address properties

5. Click Update Labels and all cells should reflect the address properties.  Ignore <<Next Record>> as this will not show up when printing.

update labels

6. You can now preview the results by clicking Preview Results.

label preview

7. Exit Preview and choose Finish & Merge and Edit Individual Documents.

finish and merge

8. The labels are now updated based on the database from the Excel file.  It is ready to save and print.

save and print labels





When your direct mail pieces are ready for shipment, do a test run.  Hopefully your campaign will be successful and generates a high response rate.  However, if you’re limited in man-power, you don’t want to be overwhelmed with phone calls and inquiries all at once.

Instead, split up your mailing into multiple batches – 300 pieces per batch is a manageable number.  You can always track your progress with Google Analytics.





Direct mail marketing is a method of advertisement that can really help jump start your business by physically getting your brand into the hands of your prospects.  Although it is considered an old-school method of marketing, it is still impactful today and the value it can bring to your audience shouldn’t be overlooked.

Until physical mail becomes obsolete, don’t be surprise to see direct mail in your mailbox for generations to come.  Here is a recap of the steps covered to run a cost efficient direct mail marketing campaign.

    • • Choose a mailer format
    • • Derive a marketing strategy
    • • Design your print
    • • Construct a mailing list
    • • Asses your costs
    • • Do a test run

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