Direct Mail Products

Unlocking the Power of Advertising Mailers

advertising mailers

Advertising mailers are one of the most effective and time-tested ways to reach prospects and customers. Whether you’re mailing postcards, folded self-mailers, or envelopes, your printed piece combines the tactile and visual appeal of ink on paper with the best marketing techniques to move consumers, businesses, and donors to act on your offer.

In this article, I’m going to provide a rundown on how to create advertising mailers that meet your marketing goals and deliver great ROI. Because mail has the advantage of decades of experience, I’ll identify successful best practices. And I’ll finish by answering a few common questions about using advertising mailers to help you plan your campaigns.

Creating an Advertising Mailer Campaign

To use advertising mailers effectively as one of your marketing strategies, you must come up with a plan and then, put it into practice. You must know most, if not all, of the important details that will ensure that your resources (people, money, time) aren’t going to be wasted.

A marketing plan is a blueprint that guides your use of all of the resources and tactics at your disposal. With a good one — the right one — you will attract new customers, as well as retain or reactivate current ones.

Identify Your Target Audience

Instead of a spray-and-pray strategy, it’s smarter and more cost-effective to send your advertising mailers to specific groups of people who have something in common, like geography, demographics, behavior, and lifestyle. With a segmentation strategy, you improve your direct mail response by tailoring your offers, copy, and more.

However, a single message may not be exactly right for every prospect or customer. Developing buyer personas combines data with informed speculation about preferences, concerns, and motivations to create ideal customers. Based on your campaign or company goals, you can then prioritize which personas you want to target with your mail marketing efforts.

Crafting effective headlines and messaging

When writing a headline, you have to communicate the captivating essence of your offer in a very few words. Because many people quickly scan advertising mailers, you need to grab their attention and keep them reading.

There are two main types of headlines:

  • Big Headline – A brief, bold statement about a problem you can solve, an offer, etc.

  • Subhead – This explains more about what you can do for the customer, enough to keep their interest and read more of the mail piece

To make these headlines stand out and help customers understand how your offer may help them:

  • Work with a visual hierarchy that includes images, graphics, and white space to guide the reader to your main points and the call-to-action

  • Use short words or sentence fragments

  • Simplify by running only a few fonts and font sizes

Including eye-catching visuals

Your advertising mailers need designs that successfully get the recipient to notice them and eventually, to take action. How they accomplish this depends mostly on which format you choose for your campaign. For example, what works for the outside of an envelope won’t work for a postcard.

There are some basic visual best practices which can guide your campaign:

  • Create a visual hierarchy of your copy and headlines (see above) to work with your images and graphic

  • Use clear, high-resolution images that support your copy and offer

  • Substitute digital design icons for words to guide customers more quickly

  • Get personal with an image that leverages personal data or segmentation factors

Choose the best mailing list

Your mailing list is responsible for at least 40 percent of the success of your advertising mailers campaign. The right data leads to better response and increases customer loyalty and trust.

While there’s certainly value in saturation campaigns, you are more likely to achieve better ROI with a targeted campaign that reaches customers and prospects based on one or more segmentation factors, such as:

  • Demographic

  • Geographic

  • Behavioral

  • Psychographic

  • Firmographic (for B2B advertising mailers)

You have choices for how to get the best list available to use for your advertising mailers:

  • First party data – the house list of your customers

  • Second party data – lists of actual buyers of products and services similar to yours

  • Third party data – lists compiled from different sources to match your audience’s demographic and behavioral profile

Leveraging personalization techniques

Personalization is certainly one of the most eye-catching techniques for advertising mailers. People love to see their name in print. It allows companies to present consumers with more options based on their own data history and demographic profile. As a result, there are more opportunities for them to create customized touchpoints for customers, such as charts, images, maps, headlines, or offers. Variable data printing (VDP) puts that 1-to-1 marketing to work on a printed direct mail piece.

Besides supporting retargeting and programmatic efforts, personalization also helps marketers to improve their modeling as well as to try more effective testing of offers and creative elements.

Tracking success metrics

In direct mail, response matters. If your advertising mailers don’t produce the results you expect or need, you need to make adjustments or start over.

Here’s how to calculate the most important metrics.

  • Response rate – Divide the total count of responses by the number of advertising mailers sent, then multiply by 100. This figure, though, can be misleading, as it doesn’t always indicate if a mailing succeeds or fails.

  • Conversion rate – Divide the number of sales by the total number of responses, then multiply by 100. Again, the quality of the sales achieved may be more important to the overall success of the campaign than the amount of sales.

  • Average order size/Average order value – Divide your total revenue by your total number of orders; average amount of money a customer spends in one transaction.

  • Cost per acquisition – Divide total cost of campaign by total number of sales for the cost to acquire one paying customer.

  • Return On Investment (ROI) – Subtract revenue generated by the mail piece from the campaign costs, then divide by the campaign costs. Next, multiply that result by 100 to get this figure.

With the right insights, your success metrics – which may not necessarily be ROI – will help you decide what customers to focus on and get the biggest and best bang for your buck

Advertising Mailers Best Practices

We’ve already looked at a few essential steps needed for advertising mailers campaigns. Now, let’s get more granular with some best practices that can increase your chances for success.

Using a strong CTA

A direct mail call-to-action (CTA) is the most crucial part of a formula that results in a successful campaign. After moving your customer along the sales funnel, your customer needs to take action. To get more customers and better sales:

  • Be specific – tell them what they should do (e.g., “Call for a FREE Quote”)

  • Add value – explain what’s in it for them (e.g., “Scan this QR code to Save $100!”)

  • Emphasize urgency – tell them what they miss out on (e.g., “Stop in TODAY – Sale Ends Thursday!”)

  • Make it easy – help them take action by using large type, subheads, shading, or other tactics to set your CTA apart for anyone reading or skimming your copy

Running tests

Direct mail thrives on the constant testing of various elements of a message or mail piece to improve response. For example, try different variations of your copy, pricing, and formats, among other things. Testing is especially important because it provides an opportunity to roll out new products, services, or messaging in secret. This process also saves you from making expensive mistakes later.

Integrating with other channels

If you’re a direct marketer, chances are very strong that you already have a presence in the digital space. Some of the cost advantages and efficiencies involved make it a necessity today.

Whatever digital channels you use, they don’t have to work alone. They can be part of campaigns that include advertising mailers to draw the attention of your prospects or customers and keep them engaged.

Depending on your goals and budget, advertising mailers can be integrated with digital marketing solutions like:

  • Email

  • Retargeting/programmatic

  • Video

  • Websites

  • Informed Delivery

Because they are all heavily based on data, they each provide individual opportunities to reach customers while providing attribution. And when integrated with advertising mailers, you gain valuable insights based on customer demand and preferences.

Tracking responses

To truly understand if and how your advertising mailers are effective, you must track and analyze their performance. Several approaches exists that allow you to see when and how your target audience is responding to your campaigns, such as:

  • Call tracking software

  • QR codes

  • URL tracking

  • Response/coupon codes

Once you have insight into how your advertising mailers reach customers, you’re able to plan future campaigns.

Advertising Mailer FAQs

Need more help? You’re not alone.

The following questions are often asked by brands, small businesses, and startups when considering advertising mailers as a marketing channel.

What are mailers in advertising?

Mailers are printed marketing materials that are sent by businesses through the USPS to acquire and retain customers. Companies send postcards, folded self-mailers, letter mail, catalogs, and other print matter to engage consumers and businesses with their marketing messages.

Are advertising mailers still effective?

Direct mail statistics show that advertising mailers are still effective at driving response, increasing customer loyalty, and producing great ROI. According to several large surveys of industry leaders and practitioners, advertising mailers work because they engage customers and prospects while creating a cost-effective tactile presence that digital channels can’t match alone.

For example:

  • Lob’s State of Direct Mail Report for 2023 found that 74% of marketers agree that direct mail delivers the best ROI of any channel they use, up from 67% in 2022

  • In the annual ANA Response Report, marketers reported that house lists produced a 9% response with advertising mailers, while prospect lists achieved a 5% return, both higher than email

  • A forecast by Statista says that spending will reach $43.3 billion in 2023. That’s an increase of 3.5% from $41.9 billion spent in 2020

What is the best day to send advertising mailers?

Advertising mailers can be sent at any time. However, depending on your mail class, campaign size, time of year, and other factors, bulk mailings must be carefully planned to arrive in mailboxes within the desired target range of days.

Ensuring a specific in-home date for Marketing Mail, for example, may be difficult due to the reasons just listed. First Class advertising mailers are an option that gives you faster delivery times and more date certainty.

If you have good confidence for your in-home dates, you will probably want to target Tuesday through Thursday for your campaign. Studies have shown that more consumers review or read their mail on those days than Mondays, Fridays, or Saturdays. As with many decisions, though, keep your target audience in mind, and test your campaigns.

Wrapping it up

With advertising mailers in your communications plan, you have many opportunities to connect with an audience by getting inside the head and under the skin of your customers. Here at, we have many years of experience in working with companies of all sizes to make the advantages of mail work for them.

Call or reach out to us today to get started on your mail advertising campaigns!

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