Direct Mail Products

Marketing 101: Fundamentals of Direct Mail for Big Companies

Myth: Many big companies and household-name brands have cut way back on sending direct mail because digital marketing is a much better way of reaching people.

Fact: Some companies have felt the pressure to cut back or eliminate direct mail. However, direct mail is still a vital player in the marketing mix for big companies in major verticals. What’s changed is how those companies are using the channel for maximum effect.

Not your father’s direct mail

These companies have not lost faith in direct mail as one of the channels they use to reach their audience. Instead, they’re right-sizing how much mail they send because they’re smarter in what they send and whom they target.

They take advantage of printing efficiencies and postage discounts. They segment their databases and target messages to specific audiences instead of relying on “spray and pray” mailings to a general audience.

And, they’ve become choosier with their marketing efforts, identifying which business lines are more successful with direct mail.

Digital natives connect with modern direct mail

E-commerce companies like Wayfair, Amazon, and Google use mail to reach customers that might otherwise be unreachable. Millennials and Generation Z, the first generations of consumers who don’t remember life before the internet and video games, are big fans of print.

Digital clutter in their inboxes and on their phones? Not so much.

Besides this “youthquake” trend, traditional retailers like Nordstrom and J.Jill recently disclosed that cutbacks in their direct mail spending led to sales declines.

Does this mean marketers envision a return to the days when a purchase from one direct retailer generated a flood of catalogs and circulars in the mail? No.

Business of all sizes – from mom-and-pop small businesses and startups, to medium businesses and major companies – face the same challenges: cost and time. You must spend the right amount of time in the right places in your campaign and manage costs without sacrificing brand integrity, campaign impact or returns.

Apply the 40/40/20 rule

The late marketer Ed Mayer laid out a success formula for marketers to follow. Forty percent of a marketing effort, he said, is due to data, 40% is the offer or message, and 20% is everything else, like format, copy, and other creative elements.

To put this rule into practice in your large company, answer the questions on this four-step checklist.

1. Set up your data and mailing lists

  • Who is your audience? Hint: The answer is not “everybody” – not even for large businesses that can perhaps afford not to be choosy.
  • Do you have clean data on your audience? This is the MOST CRUCIAL part of your decision to mail – data is EVERYTHING – so it MUST be accurate and as up to date as your budget allows. Run NCOA (National Change of Address) and other processes for your postal addresses to save money. Also, tear down all those channel silos, and centralize all of your customer data in one place.
  • Is this a mass mailing or a targeted one? You increase your chances of success and save money if you tailor your offer to distinct segments of your audience.
  • Which data points will you use If you want to segment your database? The major choices include location, age, gender, income, and household size. If you sell business to business, also consider occupation, job title or market niche.
  • Do you want to incorporate variable data into your copy, offer, and images? Not all prospects in a segment are the same. Use data from customer profiles to create 1-to-1 messages. This gives you a mailer that is more relevant and engaging and more likely to succeed.

NOTE: Large businesses and brands should have analysts who look at all of their customer data, from whatever channel or source (online and off). Many small and medium businesses don’t have the resources to enjoy this advantage.

2. Create your offer

  • What do you want your mail campaign to do? Usually, it’s to make more money (duh!), but if you’re a new business, driving traffic or customer contacts and building up name recognition are important, too.
  • What’s your plan to get there? Strategies like generating more leads, converting new customers, or persuading past customers to buy again or buy more will help you achieve your goal.
  • How will you carry out your plan? Tactics include sending prospects to a website or retail location, offering a premium or discount or dangling some other relevant carrot to motivate them to call on your business.
  • Is your offer aimed at your entire audience, a segment of the audience, or individuals (1-to-1)?
  • What is your budget and schedule? Nail this down before you start because it dictates your target audience, how often you’ll mail, and your quantities.

3. Decide on mailer format and creative

  • What are you sending? Postcards, envelopes, and folded self-mailers give you a wide variety of options. Learn about the details you need on each format, their pros and cons, and their impact on design, printing and postage costs.
  • How will you present your message? Your copy, images, and overall design should attract attention, build interest or desire, and drive action.
  • Does your copy incorporate the 7 major emotional copy drivers?
  • Does your mailer use white space and a message design that directs your recipient’s eyes to your key points? Don’t cram too much info into one message. Your mailer’s job is to whet your customer’s appetite to learn more. Save the details for your website, phone call, or in-person visit.

4. Run the campaign numbers

  • What is your cost per piece?
  • How much do you need to sell to reach your break-even point?
  • How will you track your results? This will tell you whether your campaign hit its goal. Options include campaign codes, visits to a website landing page, calls to a phone number, etc. For large campaigns, invest in a system that lets you track responses in real time.
  • How will you calculate your campaign’s return on investment?

9 success tips for large enterprise direct mail

Once you set up your campaign, consult these pointers to create a successful campaign strategy:

  • Highlight the benefits of your product or service, not its features.
  • Use the magical word “free.” No need to worry that it will trigger a spam filter!
  • Keep your message simple.
  • Provide valuable information or content to help your customer or prospect.
  • Use your data. Response rates for house lists doubled in 2018, according to the ANA-DMA Response Report. So, use your data warehouse to reactivate and/or cross-sell or upgrade your past customers with personalized offers.
  • Go multichannel. You have resources – money, personnel, and data – to market across channels where it is appropriate. Because customer satisfaction depends more on customer experience, a unified brand reaches customers wherever they choose to engage you: in print, online, or in person.
  • Remember that direct mail is selling, not advertising. That being said, you can use it for advertising and brand-building, as long as you present an offer of some kind, or use a CTA to direct prospects to your website, retail location, etc.
  • Get your discounts. Cost of entry to the USPS mailstream is not a barrier for large companies. In fact, the postal service has specific discounts and easier processes for companies that mail in large volumes.
  • Start faster. Prepare any existing art materials you already have or use. Make sure that your colors are accurate before sending on to the printer.

Wrapping it up

Use your company’s size to maximum advantage.

Your large business needs to grow, expand, and compete.

The direct mail pros at have years of experience working on complex campaigns for large companies like GEICO, Subaru, Health Net, and Renewal by Andersen. We can help you put together a complete and cost-effective direct mail campaign to accomplish your goals quickly.

Drop us a line or call us! We’d love to show you how you can put modern direct mail to work in your next campaign.

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