Direct Mail Advertising: Definition, Does it Work and How Do I Do it?

Go back 17 Feb 2022
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If you have ever received an offer from a local business, a promotion for a new service operating in the area or even a nationwide catalogue, you will understand what it is like to receive direct mail advertising. It is simply advertising, through the mail, that goes directly to the consumer.

There are many common types of direct mail advertising, such as the following:

  • Ads and flyers: The most common type, whether it is a pizza coupon, restaurant opening event invite, a reminder to get a vaccine or perhaps vote for an upcoming election. Physical paper ads are the most common form of direct mail advertising.
  • Newsletters and mailing lists: Community events, updates from a national charity or other informative types of direct mail are also forms of advertising companies can use. Communicating directly with an audience keeps contact and maintains awareness.
  • Business mailers professional advertising: Direct mail advertising might also include professional mailers for businesses, speculative letters for a new business-to-business service or even notices asking a company to fill in a survey, census or registration form.

Any marketing that comes through the mail from businesses is a type of direct advertising. As providers of a range of delivery services, including direct mail campaigns for small and medium-sized businesses, we can explain a bit more about its advantages, drawbacks and how it works.

We can offer fast, reliable and cost-effective direct mail delivery – something many eCommerce and other businesses struggle to find. We also provide impeccable levels of client service; you will see our professional and friendly team at work when you get in touch with us to find out more.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Direct Mail Advertising?

The following are some advantages of direct mail advertising:

  • Cost-effective: Getting mail to a destination at a cost-effective price is something many businesses find frustrating. However, direct mail typically involves small items in the post, so there are minimal costs in terms of shipping. Additionally, creating a direct marketing campaign is simple, efficient and scalable to a large audience.
  • Personal touch: It is quite simple to format all of your direct mail with a personal touch, especially when you have an existing mailing list. Using specialist audience segmentation tools from a reputable direct mail provider will also help you give that personal touch to people who do not have current contact with your business.
  • Multi-format: Unlike an email, you can send many types of items through the post. Catalogues, leaflets – even a full magazine – can go through the mail, providing a tactile experience that digital simply cannot offer. Many people feel that a physical piece of marketing presents a higher sense of legitimacy and reliability, too.
  • Excellent targeting: Direct mail is not about shoving a postcard through every door; it is highly targeted. By using details from your existing customers or relevant new leads, you make sure that people will only get mail that fulfils their current wants – or future needs. Speculative approaches using direct mail marketing are often more successful.
  • Response rates: People tend to open their physical mail much more readily than they open a digital email. There is something about physical media that also makes it much more likely to stick in the mind of the reader. A piece of mail can hang around a room in the recipient’s vicinity, too, thereby increasing the odds that they or someone else will respond.

It is also possible to measure the effectiveness of a direct mail marketing campaign by using a unique offer code, which will help you to build and curate an even better-targeted mailing list. Direct mail also means you can send a piece of mail using a partial address (with addresses like ‘To Homeowner’ or similar), which is perfect for acquiring or reactivating customers at scale. 

Click here to learn more about our partially addressed mail service.

The following are some disadvantages of direct mail advertising:

  • Environmentally-unfriendly: If you are eco-conscious, minimising your use of paper and transport infrastructure might dissuade you from direct mail advertising. It is a sticky point for green businesses. But, for many companies, it is easy to mitigate these impacts by using mail with recycled or recyclable materials and efficient mail carriers.
  • Unwanted mail: Sometimes people who receive direct mail advertising consider it to be ‘junk’ mail. While it is true that there are many pieces of unwanted mail, direct mail advertising at its best is targeted to the point that it is super relevant to the recipient – and even speculative approaches can be targeted with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Time-consuming: Direct mail needs to be physical, so printing, designing and formatting will take time to do. Many businesses do not have the time to do this, so this could be considered a major drawback if you need to focus on other areas of your business. Effective printing or outsourcing services may help to alleviate this worry.
  • Delivery time: You are not going to launch a high-demand product through the mail, as it takes time to arrive at the address. Digital mail is better when you require instant communication, such as for a flash sale, pop-up event or even an urgent warning or awareness campaign. Achieving this is impossible with physical mail.
  • Less easy to track: Although response rates are high, getting a clear idea of who has opened your mail advertising (and when) can be difficult. You can track when your mail is en route and has been delivered with a good carrier, but specific data on open rates, time of opening or other digital-only information are much harder to gauge.

Every type of advertising comes with its drawbacks, and direct mail can sometimes be considered one of the more ‘old school’ marketing channels. However, even modern digital companies, such as Uber or Deliveroo, make use of direct mail so it entirely depends on the nature of your business and the strategy you choose to pursue.

Is Direct Mail Advertising Effective?

Direct mail is highly effective when it is done correctly. There is a lot that goes into an effective campaign, which will involve good targeting, a personal touch, reliable delivery, and low costs.

Effective direct mail advertising is proven to help with the following:

  • Brand awareness
  • Customer retention
  • Customer acquisition 
  • Increasing repeat business
  • Upselling or cross-selling

Direct mail advertising is also effective for highly-localised advertising, which makes it an excellent option for small businesses targeting less-populated areas like towns and villages.

Many people cause trouble for their organisation by not properly considering their responsibilities to consumers. For tips on how to avoid reputational damage to your brand when you do direct mail advertising see our Advertising & Responsible Mail Content Guide.

You can also check out our helpful Advertising Mail Guide for more information on increasing the effectiveness of your existing campaigns.

presorted post delivery

How Much is Direct Mail Advertising?

The implementation of direct mail advertising does come with associated costs, but the costs can often be mitigated if you hire a professional. Costs vary but will depend on the following:

  • Postage rates
  • Mail contents; large envelopes and other, bigger mail is more expensive than a postcard
  • Size of your mailing list
  • Graphics, design and other production costs
  • Time costs, although this is only relevant when you are doing it yourself.

Physical always costs more than digital. However, effective physical marketing strategies alongside digital marketing campaigns will usually provide a good return on investment.

Get a Quote for Direct Mail Advertising

Overall, direct mail advertising is a trustworthy and tried and true method of marketing – with several benefits and drawbacks compared to other forms of advertising. The best strategy is to use direct advertising as a part of your overall marketing activity for a holistic approach.
We offer cost-effective, fast and highly-targeted direct advertising services for companies across the UK – as well as many delivery services internationally. Please feel free to get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help your business with direct mail advertising today.