How to Make Direct Mail Work for Your Business
Credit: Mail box image via Shutterstock

While email and social media marketing are increasing in popularity, most small businesses haven't abandoned their direct mail campaigns.

Research shows that spending on direct mail reached nearly $45 billion in 2013 and still generates more  consumer reaction than electronic marketing does. According to the Harvard Business Review, direct mail has a 25 percent response rate compared to 23 percent for emails.

To help small businesses, the U.S. Postal Service  now offers its Every Door Direct Mail program, which provides businesses with a way to reach every address in a neighborhood without the need for names or addresses. The programs helps small businesses find demographic data for specific delivery routes; review and inspect the size of mailings, to be sure they meet standards; and view larger ZIP code area maps.

Tom Foti, manager of direct mail and periodicals for the USPS, said with the average household bombarded by more than 150 email ads a day, direct mail is a way for businesses to stand out from the crowd.

"Direct mail creates a one-on-one connection that's hard for other media channels to match," Foti said, adding the average household receives just two pieces of direct mail each day.  "It lets you incorporate coupons, reply cards, mobile barcodes — such as QR codes—URLs and other response mechanisms."

Direct mail gives businesses the opportunity to target advertising dollars on those most likely to respond, Foti said, adding that they can be used for a range of purposes, including promoting a product or learning more about the customer.

"Direct mail is a workhorse for generating leads, traffic and sales," he said.

Foti offers several tips for businesses looking to succeed with direct mail.

  • Feature an offer prominently on the front of the ad to boost readership and response. Choose the format, list and offer for the highest return on investment, rather than the lowest cost. Then track responses to measure the mailing's effectiveness.
  • Include mobile barcodes, certificates and product visuals to engage the recipient. Use the mailing to ask customers what they want or need.  However, be careful to avoid overwhelming the reader with too much copy or graphics.

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  • View direct mail as an ongoing customer relationship management tool that picks up where other media leave off. Understand that customers will feel misled and will likely ignore messages in the future, if the piece is marked "urgent" when it's not.
  • Use mailings to achieve business goals such as acquisition, relationship building and stakeholder communications.

Every Door Direct Mail can be used with a wide range of formats, from oversize postcards to fliers. Mailing permits are not required, and at a postage cost of 17.5 cents per piece, Every Door Direct Mail is a cost-effective way to place coupons, menus and promotional calendars into the hands of customers and prospective customers, the USPS says.