I Analyzed Every Piece Of Mail In My Mailbox And Here’s What I Learned

9 months ago, I ran a direct mail campaign…

… it brought $0 in revenue.

Oh my, did that piss me off. I spent hours writing, printing, cutting, stuffing, stamping, and labeling 300 mailers.

The messaging was spot on; the envelopes stood out, the mailing addresses were verified, etc. Everything seemed to be on track.

However, was it really?

After all, the campaign was not successful by traditional standards – it failed to bring in any revenue. – something must have been missing, I told myself.

It’s not a secret that I hate losing and I’m very curious. So, I decided to sign-up to receive as much direct mail as it was humanly possible in my mailbox.

After analyzing and compiling every single mailer I’ve received in the past nine months, I was able to distill highly insightful learnings that allowed me to launch a better campaign that finally brought in revenue (thanks to my amazing sales team here at Solstice).

These insights took my direct mail approach from zero to one and allowed me to uncover a new lead channel here at Solstice.

Useful insights about direct mail are very scarce, so I decided to compile my last nine months of learnings in 14 best practices for direct mail campaigns so that everyone else can benefit from them.

Here we go…


1. Order Well in Advance

We move fast, but not everyone else is the same. When dealing with third-parties, always allocate additional time for things to move along.

With direct mail, there are a ton of parties involved: the data provider, printing shops, envelope suppliers, postcard suppliers, etc. Each one of these parties has a 1-3 week turnaround time to get things done. Allocate enough time so that you don’t stress yourself to death.


2. Compare a Ton of Vendors

Comparison shopping will decrease your costs by a magnitude. Initial quotes drove the total cost for my campaign close to $4K. With better negotiations and vendor research, we managed to get it down with $1.7K.
Shop for as many vendors to get the best deal.

However, remember that shopping takes time, so don’t forget rule #1 – the earlier you start, the more time you’ll have to benefit from “no-rush deals.”


3. Your Targeting Criteria Matters, Tremendously

Choosing the right mailing list can make a significant difference in your overall response rates.

While target audiences are essential on online ads, they are much more critical for direct mail campaigns, since you end up paying per impression (i.e. each mailer) rather than per lead (i.e. response).

Nine months ago, I spent hours stuffing envelopes for a direct mail campaign – everything was spot on, but the target audience targeting was weak. Now, we use much more advanced modeling techniques that allow us to target people with surgical precision.


4. Test Everything

One of the things we did nail, back in December, was the fact that we tested the effectiveness of handwritten envelopes. That was a huge success and led us to implement it again in the next round.

You can test something as small as the sender’s name, all the way down to the specific offer that you attach. Prioritize your tests, track results, and adapt your strategy based on your learnings.

My assumption on the target audience was wrong by in December, but I moved on. It’s (relatively) fine to miss one thing, but don’t make the same mistake twice.

Most companies get good at direct mail through testing. They spent a disgustingly high amount of money testing until they find a sweet spot. Your job is to do it faster and smarter than them, so the money you spent on testing is never more than what’s necessary.


5. Multiple Touchpoints Are Crucial

It takes people about four touchpoints to convert on one of our online ads. It takes three touchpoints to convert someone through on a radio ad. Unsurprisingly, it takes people four touchpoints to convert on a direct mail ad.

The number of people that covert on the first touchpoint is rare… they are like one call conversions. Do not expect to convert 50% of your list on the first (or even second) touchpoint. Face the facts and plan accordingly.

Layer multiple touch points to make the most out of your list, especially since you paid for every single prospect record when you purchased the mailing list.


6. Switch Up Your Creative to Create A Killer Drip

Tagging along with the last point, you are going to need multiple touchpoints to get someone to take action, so treat this as an opportunity rather than an added cost.

Every single touchpoint is a chance for you to tell a different story around why your product is the best, so pitch your product from a new angle every time to help the prospect gain a holistic understanding of your product.

Make the most out of those touchpoints and set them up to make them meaningful for your customer (and your brand).


7. Use Prominent CTAs

Every single touchpoint needs a prominent CTA. Don’t overdo it, however, don’t hide it along with the fine print.


8. Track Everything

Use a different tracking method for every touchpoint so you can run proper attribution. It can be as simple as using a new landing page/email/phone number.

Plenty of ways to track things accurately, there are no excuses


9. Direct Mail is a Great Brand Awareness Tool

A friend of mine told me that his direct mail campaign generated more brand awareness than TV ads.

I was surprised (and slightly skeptical) about his comment, but every prospect I cold-called from the last direct mail campaign was aware & remembered our product.

This level of brand-awareness is unheard of in online ads!


10. Brand Everything

You want people to be able to recognize your brand from wherever they are. Unconsciously, people will start making a connection between your mailers.

Better yet, people will start recognizing your brand wherever they are: a display ad on a random blog, Youtube, social media, fliers, etc.

Make sure your brand can be easily recognizable, this will help your integrated strategy.


11. Direct Mail Performs Better When Integrated to Other Channels

Direct mail by itself is not the best thing in the world, but where coupled with outbound calls, or social advertising to harvest the demand, you’ll make everything sing.

Outbound calls accounted for a significant amount for 50% the conversions of our last campaign. Without them, we would not have closed the project.

You’ll squeeze out a lot more by going outbound, prepare for it ahead of time.


12. Create Urgency

People take their sweet time to answer mail. By adding a deadline, you’ll create urgency and accelerate the turnaround time.

The faster they reply, the faster you can remove them from your mailing list, and the less you spend by re-sending mail.


13. Offer Great Incentive to Increase Response Rates

Adding incentives (i.e. $50 gift card) also creates the same effect as urgency. It gives people an additional reward for taking the action you want them to perform.

From a behavioral angle, an incentive increases the perceived reward in a prospectus mind. The higher the reward, the lower the risk : reward ratio, which then makes your offer attractive to more people.


14. Have Cold Beers and Good Company Around You

Nothing would have happened without my incredible team here at Solstice. You might end up needing your team’s help manning the phones, stuffing envelopes, designing minor flyers.

Your team is your biggest ally, and nothing would be possible without them. If you ever need to organize an envelope -stuffing party, make sure you have plenty of cold beer and a killer playlist.

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