How to Launch a Direct Mail Campaign in 12 Steps



In an era dominated by digital marketing, direct mail remains a powerful tool for reaching your audience. It combines the tangible nature of physical mail with the strategic insights of modern marketing.

If you’re interested in how to launch direct mail campaigns, this step-by-step guide will help you navigate the process and maximize your impact!

How to Launch a Direct Mail Campaign infographic with image of a letter and envelope and woman opening a direct mail letter
Download our campaign checklist now to follow along and enhance your understanding as you read through the steps in this guide!


Step 1 | Preparing for Your Direct Mail Campaign

Before diving into the specifics of your direct mail campaign, it’s essential to answer two foundational questions.

Question 1: How do I send direct mail?

The most popular and cost-effective way of sending direct mail is through the United States Postal Service (USPS).

You can also use private couriers, such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL. However, using private couriers is typically more expensive than USPS, especially for bulk mailings.

Both USPS and private couriers offer several direct mail services, so be sure to look into the options available to you before deciding on what service to use. At Sharpdots, we use and recommend USPS to our clients for their cost-effective rates!

Question 2: How many mail pieces should I send?

If you’re sending a postcard to your top 50 customers, then you wouldn’t meet the USPS minimum requirements for bulk mail.

In this case, you would pay for postage to send your postcards through postage stamps, a postage meter, or buy postage online via USPS Click-N-Ship.

However, if you’re sending a postcard to 2,000 of your top customers, then USPS offers discounted bulk rates you can take advantage of.


Here are the minimum quantities required:

  • USPS Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail) requires a minimum of 200 pieces.
  • First Class Mail requires a minimum of 500 pieces.


To take advantage of these discounted rates, you’ll need to open a business account with USPS to pay for bulk mailing postage. You can also work together with a mailing partner, like Sharpdots, to send your direct mail through their business account. A mailing partner can provide even lower postages rates based on sending a greater volume of direct mailers.

By addressing these foundational questions, you can begin allocating a budget for your mailer and postage while also preparing to launch an effective direct mail campaign.


Step 2 | Budgeting for Your Direct Mail Campaign

Creating a budget is a crucial step in planning your direct mail campaign. Understanding the costs involved helps you allocate resources effectively and maximize your return on investment.

Important factors you should consider when creating a budget include printing and postage costs. However, because printing and postage costs vary greatly, the overall costs for direct mail campaigns varies as well.

What’s does an affordable direct mail campaign look like?

The size of your direct mailer should be based on your campaign goals and budget. We recommend combining an affordable mailer with a cost effective postage rate. Consider the amount of information you need to convey and the visual impact you want to create!

Postcards are generally the most cost-effective option for direct mail marketing, as they are cheaper to print and have lower postage rates compared to larger or more complex mail pieces.

USPS offers different postage rates based how quickly you need your mail piece to arrive and the size of the mailer.


Types of direct mail postage:

  • First Class Mail (1-5 days)
  • Marketing Mail (4-10 days)
  • Non-Profit Mail (4-10 days)


Direct mailer sizes that determine your postage rate:

  • Postcard rate – 4×6″ or 4.25×6″
  • Letter rate – postcards 5×7″ to 6×11″, letter campaigns, tabbed brochures
  • Flat rate – Postcards and envelopes larger than 6×11″, catalogs


What are other factors to consider in my budget?

Another factor in direct mail campaigns that is often neglected is design. Your mailer should grab the recipients attention and generate responses.

If you need help designing an effective mailer, then you should consider the cost of having a designer create the artwork for your mailer before you get it printed.

You may have someone who can design your mailer. If not, we offer design services ranging from $50-$100 per hour for customers needing design services.

By carefully planning your budget and choosing the most cost-effective options, you can execute a successful direct mail campaign without breaking the bank.

Sharpdots Direct Mail Campaign Goals infographic with image of woman at mailbox reading a direct mail letter

Step 3 | Define Your Goals

Now that you’ve considered the budget and size of your campaign, it’s crucial to be clear about your objectives.

In fact, a study by Dr. Gail Matthews found that 76% of participants who wrote down their goals successfully achieved them, which is over 33% higher than those who didn’t follow this practice!

Having specific, measurable goals will guide the rest of your campaign planning and execution. What do you hope to achieve with your direct mail campaign?


Common goals include:

  • Driving Sales: How many coupon redemptions do you want to generate?
  • Increasing Brand Awareness: How many landing page visits do you want to achieve?
  • Generating Leads: How many form fills or inbound calls do you want to receive?
  • Promoting a Special Offer or Event: How many meetings, or RSVPS, you consider successful?


Step 4 | Identify Your Target Audience

Knowing who you’re trying to reach is fundamental to any marketing effort. The more you know about your audience, the more tailored and effective your direct mail pieces will be.
Use customer data and market research to create detailed buyer personas or an Ideal Customer Profile.


Consider factors such as:

  • Purchase History: Are you promoting a product similar to what they’ve previously purchased? Is it time for them to renew or reorder?
  • Demographics: Do they match the buyer person you want to target or your ICP in age, gender, or income?
  • Psychographics: Do they match the buyer person you want to target or your ICP in interests, values, or lifestyle?
  • Geographic Location: Are you sending your mailer to recipients that can easily travel to your event or retail location? According to a Lob’s 2022 The State of Direct mail Consumer Insights Report, 60% of consumers responded to a mail piece because it included a local event or location.


Step 5 | Create a Compelling Offer

Your direct mail campaign should present a compelling offer that motivates recipients to take action.

64% of consumers reported that they take action when an offer or promotion is included on their direct mail according to the same 2022 report by Lob.

Don’t miss out on this consumer behavior by including a compelling offer on your mailer. Make sure the offer is clear, attractive, and relevant to your audience’s needs and interests.


Compelling offers to consider:

  • A Discount or Coupon: Generate repeat customers by sending them exclusive discounts as a thank you for their previous purchase.
  • A Free Sample or Trial: You can send free samples to anonymous website visitors that need a little push to make a purchase.
  • An Exclusive Event Invitation: Increase customer loyalty by sending personalized, exclusive invites to high-value customers.
  • Valuable Information or a Free Resource: Provide value without the need of purchase in order to increase engagement from your prospects or customers.


Step 6 | Design Your Mail Piece

The design of your direct mail piece is critical. It needs to grab attention and communicate your message effectively.
In fact, 36% of consumers took action simply because the mailer’s design caught their attention. Consider different formats such as postcards, brochures, catalogs, or personalized letters, and choose what best suits your message and audience.

Here are some best practices:

  • Use High-Quality Images and Graphics: The images should showcase your product or the benefits of your service.
  • Keep the Design Clean and Uncluttered: In order for your mailer to be effective, the recipient should be able to easily read it and comprehend your offer.
  • Highlight Your Offer Prominently: If you’re offering a discount, free trial or samples, or any other form of offer, make sure the recipient can see it clearly without having to look for it.
  • Include a Strong Call-to-Action (CTA): Make it easy for the recipient to know the next step whether that’s visiting your website to make a purchase or scheduling a consultation.


Step 7 | Write Persuasive Copy

The text on your mail piece should be engaging and persuasive. Focus on the benefits of your offer, not just the features. Use a conversational tone and keep your copy concise and to the point.


Key elements to include:

  • A Headline that Grabs Attention: Highlight the pain your product or service addresses, the benefit you provide, or the offer you’re promoting.
  • Clear and Compelling Body Text: Get to the point without skimping out on key details!
  • A Strong CTA: Tell recipients exactly what to do next. Use a QR code to make the next step as easy as possible. In fact, 37% of consumers are more likely to open or read a direct mail piece if it includes a QR code per Lob’s 2022 report.


Step 8 | Personalize Your Message

Personalization can significantly increase the effectiveness of your direct mail campaign.

The same Lob 2022 report shows that 35% of consumers take action simply because the mailer is personalized to them.

Use variable data printing to customize each piece with the recipient’s name, relevant offers, or personalized URLs (PURLs). This makes your mail more relevant and engaging.

If you need help visualizing the possibilities of personalized mail, here are some examples from our customers!


Step 9 | Create Your Mailing List

Your mailing list is one of the most critical components of your direct mail campaign. You can use your own customer database or purchase a targeted mailing list from a reputable provider.

So, it’s not surprising that our Omni Mail campaigns have on average achieved double-digit response rates for our clients.

If you’re looking to increase the effectiveness of your digital efforts, then adding direct mail into the mix will help you reach your goal!

Ensure the list is accurate and up-to-date to maximize deliverability and response rates. If you need to purchase a mailing list or update your customer data, we can help! Schedule some time to meet with our marketing specialist to discuss our Granular Targeting services.


Step 10 | Campaign Timing and Frequency

Timing is everything! Whether it’s having enough time to plan or whether you’re considering the best time to send your direct mail. You need to plan out a timeline for your campaign!

To ensure a smooth process and timely delivery, start planning your direct mail campaign at least 6-8 weeks in advance. This lead time allows for adequate preparation, including target audience research, content creation, design, printing, and addressing any unforeseen delays.

You should also consider the time it takes to have your mailer delivered. Of course, that depends on the postage rate you decide to go with, but you should typically allow 3-10 days for mailing through USPS.

The timing of your mailer delivery should align with your audience’s behavior and your campaign goals. For example, if you’re sending a holiday promotion, you should do that well in advance of the holiday season. This way your offer is delivered before your audience starts shopping.

In addition, consider the frequency of your mailings.

According to research by Rain Group, an award-winning sales training company, it takes about 8 touch points for new prospects to convert.

This is why a single mail piece can be effective, but a series of mailings can reinforce your message and increase response rates even further! Generally, sending direct mail every 4-6 weeks is effective for maintaining engagement without causing fatigue, but the ideal frequency may vary based on your industry, audience, and campaign goals.

However, sending multiple mailers may not be in everyone’s budget, so we created an affordable way of adding more touch points to your mail piece!

Our Omni Mail service combines the effectiveness of direct mail with the versatility of digital marketing to provide you with 8-12 touches per recipient for less than the cost of a postage stamp. Check out how affordable it is by using our Omni Mail calculator.


Step 11 | Track and Measure Results

To gauge the success of your direct mail campaign, you need to track and measure results.

Key metrics to monitor include:

  • Response Rate: The percentage of recipients who take the desired action.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of responders who complete the purchase or desired action.
  • ROI: The return on investment, calculated by comparing the campaign’s cost to the revenue generated.

Use tracking mechanisms like unique coupon codes, dedicated phone numbers, or personalized URLs to measure responses accurately. If you want to learn more about direct mail attribution and tracking, you can learn more here.

At Sharpdots, we help our clients track and measure their campaign results through their own Omni Mail dashboard. We combine the responses and conversions from every channel, including direct mail, Facebook Ads, and email, in order to give you an overall view of campaign performance. This way you know what’s working, what isn’t working, and what to do next!


Step 12 | Analyze and Optimize

After your campaign has run its course, analyze the results to identify what worked and what didn’t.

Consider A/B testing different elements such as offers, designs, or mailing lists to continually improve your results.

According to Invesp, 58% of companies utilize A/B testing for the purpose of conversion rate optimization.

If you’re not A/B testing your campaigns, then it’s time to start, so you can use your findings and insights from the tests to optimize future campaigns!


Planning your Campaign

Launching a direct mail campaign involves planning ahead, creative execution, tracking and follow through.

By following the steps in this guide along with our downloadable checklist, you can create effective direct mail campaigns that engage your audience and drive results.

Start planning now and set yourself up for success!


Ready to get started?

Submit our Direct Mail form below. One of our marketing specialist will contact you to guide you in launching your next campaign!


Why do people use direct mail?

People use direct mail for several compelling reasons—primarily because of its effectiveness in reaching targeted audiences and generating tangible results. One key advantage of direct mail is its ability to reach specific demographics with precision. This approach increases the likelihood of engagement and conversion compared to more generalized marketing methods.

Direct mail also provides a physical, tangible experience that can make a lasting impression on recipients. Unlike digital ads that can be easily ignored or forgotten, a well-designed piece of direct mail can capture attention and be retained for future reference. This physical presence often leads to higher response rates, as recipients are more likely to read and respond to mail they find interesting or valuable.

Is direct mail good for small businesses?

In short, yes! Direct mail can be highly effective for small businesses because it allows small businesses to target specific local markets, which is crucial for small businesses that rely on a local customer base. By focusing their direct mail efforts on nearby neighborhoods or communities, small businesses can raise awareness, drive foot traffic, and foster a strong local presence.

Additionally, direct mail offers a personal touch that can help small businesses build and maintain customer relationships. Personalized mailings, such as birthday offers, loyalty discounts, or personalized thank-you notes, can make customers feel valued and appreciated. This combination of targeted reach and personal engagement makes direct mail an excellent tool for small businesses.

What is the difference between mail and direct mail?

Mail refers to any physical item sent through the United States Postal Service, or USPS. It encompasses a wide range of purposes, including personal correspondence, official documents, business communications, and publications.

Direct mail, on the other hand, is a specialized form of mail used specifically for marketing and advertising. It can be sent via USPS or private couriers, and it involves sending promotional materials directly to a targeted group of potential customers. The primary goal of direct mail is to generate responses and drive sales.

How do I get addresses for a direct mail campaign?

To gather addresses for a direct mail campaign, you can start by leveraging your existing customer database, which includes current and past customers who have shown interest in your products or services. This database is valuable because it contains individuals already familiar with your brand, increasing the likelihood of a positive response. Additionally, you can enrich this list by segmenting it based on purchasing behavior, demographics, and preferences to tailor your direct mail pieces more effectively.

Another method is to purchase a mailing list from a reputable marketing or data company, like Sharpdots. These lists can be customized based on various criteria such as geographic location, age, income level, and purchasing history, allowing you to target specific segments of the population. When using purchased lists, ensure that they are up-to-date and compliant with data protection regulations to maximize the accuracy and effectiveness of your campaign.

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