Five Keys to Improving your Direct Mail Response Rate

Direct mail continues to provide smart marketers with a highly measurable method of communication that can be strategically targeted to current customers and/or prospects who are likely inundated with email, social and online ads all day every day. Mail is not the dinosaur some marketers have made it out to be. Sure, we can all agree that there is some bad junk mail in our mailbox each day. But as much as we discount some wasteful efforts, there are some interesting, engaging and visually stunning pieces of printed marketing that stand out. Here are five key tactics to improve the likelihood of being one of those memorable, inspiring mail pieces that earns an open, rather than being tossed aside as irrelevant.

Accurate data

Accurate, up-to-date data can make or break your direct marketing campaign. Having a database maintenance plan is a must to maintain a clean list. Simple tactics such as removing duplicate records at a single address or running the USPS required National Change of Address (NCOA) can help reduce wasted resources and postage. More advanced strategies in choosing consumer segments based on behavior, demographics or other selects can help get your message in front of an audience more likely to respond. Having accurate data will allow you the opportunity to utilize the tactics below. Without accurate data, the ability to improve your direct mail response will be much more limited.


Consider addressing your target with their name as a baseline minimum and add personalized info from there to improve response. Depending on how comprehensive (and accurate) your database is, you can digitally personalize each mailer down to details such as their previous purchase, next-likely purchase, birthday, anniversary or other milestone notifications. If digital printing is not an option based on budget or other factors, you can still use tactics to personalize the mailing based on certain selects. For example, you can target your audience and message based on their location, household income, affiliations or other personal information included in your database.


The copy and design of your direct mailer serve as the groundwork for your direct mail success or failure. Finely crafted, applicable copy has the power to initiate a physical or emotional response. With the foundation of accurate data and a personalized experience, engaging your audience with relevant messaging can motivate them to sort it as something to open rather than tossing it right in the recycling. Your design should feature clear and concise copy and appropriate images or graphics to help tell the story in a visually pleasing way. Rather than overwhelming the audience with too much copy or too many visuals, finding the proper balance is key to persuading your audience to take the next step.

Call to action

That next step would be your call to action (CTA). Your copy must include a clear call to action, or the mailing is essentially meaningless. You need to inform your audience of the key message and benefits and invite them to take action. Keep the call to action simple by encouraging your recipients to visit your website, call the provided number, return reply mail, redeem a coupon in store, or whatever your preferred action item is for the marketing campaign. Try not to clutter your piece with multiple CTAs, which can potentially distract or annoy your readers to the point of ignoring the call to action altogether.


Whenever possible you should be tracking the success of your direct mail. Tracking website visits, online form completion, online or in-store purchases, reply mail or phone calls are just a few ways you can measure response. If you are not measuring the results you will not be able to accurately determine whether your campaign met your marketing goals, budget, ROI or other measurable results. Tracking the campaign responses will also allow you to test different offers, creative, list selects and more to determine the winners and to aid in future direct mail testing strategies.

Trent Weber • June 11, 2018

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