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Direct Mail – The Basics

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Direct mail is any advertising or other printed promotional material that is sent directly through the mail to current prospective customers, with the aim being to make a sale or raise awareness.

Direct mail is often dismissed as junk mail. However, it does enable companies to place information about their products and services directly into the hands of people who may be interested in them. Planning and testing is the key to effective direct mailings.

Statistics in the UK support its potential effectiveness. In 2005 direct mailings accounted for 12.5% of all advertising expenditure, and it’s estimated that it generates over £27 billion worth of expenditure every year, that’s £14 for every £1 spent.

Despite the negative publicity surrounding the industry 67% of consumer direct mail is opened, with 45% being opened and read. The average response rate for direct mail campaigns to consumers is 8.8%, slightly higher than the 8.4% response rate for business to business direct mail.

Action Taken as a Result of Direct Mail:

  • 47.9%: Used a voucher or coupon
  • 44.3%: Purchased something in a shop
  • 40.9%: Visited a store
  • 33.6%: Looked for information on the internet
  • 27.5%: Ordered something by phone
  • 27.5%: Kept it for information
  • 27.0%: Ordered something by post
  • 26.5%: Made an enquiry by phone
  • 26.0%: Tried out a new product or service
  • 23.5%: Ordered something on the internet

Along with the mailing letter a number of other promotional items are usually included, such as a product brochure, order form and pre-paid reply envelope.

Direct mail holds a number of significant advantages over other forms of marketing:

  • Highly Targeted – direct mail is an excellent way of targeting previous customers and generating repeat orders.
  • Personalisation – the mailing can address the consumer personally and include offers tailored directly to them.
  • Optimisation – through testing each campaign people who don’t reply can be removed from future campaigns and various lists, offers and the timing can all be tested and subsequently optimised.

The success of the mail shot depends on excellent promotional material and the quality of the mailing list. The most effective mailing lists are sourced in-house from previous customers.

However, many new companies don’t have an existing customer base, in which case a list can be sourced from a commercial list provider. For more information see our direct mail targeting and creating a direct mail campaign sections.

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