Direct Mail Success Checklist

There is an intrinsic response consumers experience when they receive tangible mail in their mailbox. The design, the colour, the feel of the paper, and the personalization all work together to create a psychological impact for your brand that cannot be replicated by other forms of marketing communication. The results speak for themselves – with a 90% open rate, targeted direct mail has a higher response rate than any other marketing channel.


So where to get started? To help set you up for success, we have compiled a list to consider when navigating through the strategic development and production of your direct mail campaign.


Direct Mail Strategic and Tactical Planning

  1. SET YOUR BUDGET: Don’t get caught off guard by hidden direct mail costs. These costs can lead to exceeding your campaign budget or impacting your reach.
  • Creative costs such as design, copywriting, and choice of paper and format. Select stock based on usage (laser friendly, ink adherence).
  • Printing and handling costs.
  • Mailing list size.
  • Personalization and data handling costs.
  • Postage Rates based on size, weight, and format chosen.


  1. ESTABLISH A DIRECT MAIL QUANTITY: It may seem elementary, but it is important to start by establishing an expected mail quantity as it is critical to so many stages in your direct mail campaign.
  • Compile a highly targeted list and determine if a list rental is required.
  • Establish criteria for reducing house data files if required. For example, cull oldest customers/donors, farthest from location, etc.
  • Establish overrun required for production.
  • Modify quantity after receiving an estimate to stay within the budget if required.
  • Estimate response rates.


  1. SELECT YOUR DIRECT MAIL PRINTING AND PRODUCTION SUPPLIER: Choosing the right direct mail printing and production supplier(s) is critical to ensuring the success of your campaign. Some critical things to look for:
  • Request an estimate.
  • Canada Post Smartmail Marketing Expert Partner.
  • USPS Marketing Partner.
  • ISO 27001 Certification to ensure your confidential business data is secure.
  • Robust data processing programs.
  • Variable imaging and printing services.
  • Production Services.
  • Production control and mail automation systems.
  • Proven Quality Control in the form of ISO 9001Certificationn.
  • Forest Management Certification to align with consumer environmental concerns.
  • Experience managing the volume of direct mail you will be sending out.
  • Proven track record of adding value to direct mail programs.


  1. UTILIZE A MULTI-CHANNEL STRATEGY: Multi-channel marketing refers to the use of multiple mediums to get your message across to your audience including direct mail, social media, print, or TV advertising, and other forms of digital media.
  • Multi-channel strategy is more effective than a single-channel strategy.
  • Most consumers use multi-channels to complete a purchase and spend on average 3x more than single-channel consumers.
  • Direct mail combined with digital ads increase conversion rates by an impressive 28%.


  1. CREATE A TARGETED STRATEGIC CAMPAIGN: Identifying the target market that has the highest ROI potential is critical to your direct mail success and often the most challenging part of the direct mail process.
  • Use direct mail data programs to create highly targeted campaigns.
  • Understanding your audience demographics and psychographics can expand your reach and provide your brand with a competitive edge.


  1. PACKAGE FORMAT: It is important to decide on the mail package format early to determine what works with your creative design and what will garner the most attention from your audience.
  • The format will depend on your goals with your direct mail piece. Do you want something that will gain attention quickly with a postcard, or are you looking to make an impact with a complete brand experience?
  • Decide what kind of package is best suited for your communication to avoid unnecessary and time-consuming option variations.
  • Allows you to streamline budget and schedule planning.


  1. CREATIVE AND GRAPHICS DESIGN: Not all direct mail is created equally. Direct mail provides the perfect opportunity for your brand to engage all the senses to elicit a memorable experience. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and even smell can increase brand recognition and improve response rates.
  • Everything from the images you choose, fonts, paper, colours, and other design elements, all can get your messages noticed in a way that nothing else can.
  • Companies who use touch marketing, a strategy that allows consumers to touch and feel products by offering samples, increase brand connection, and influence consumer decisions.
  • Graphics and mail design have an impact on the budget.
  • Evaluate possible A/B testing to determine direct mail effectiveness.


  1. COPY DEVELOPMENT: Use compelling copy that is benefit-driven. Copy that is clever, funny, memorable, and creates buzz can make or break a campaign. Your copy must not only deliver key messages, but it must also suit the format you choose for your direct mail piece.
  • It is important to state your benefits right in your headline. On average 5x as many people read the headline as read the body copy.
  • Evaluate the amount of copy presented based on the direct mail format.
  • Evaluate possible A/B testing to determine direct mail effectiveness.


  1. PERSONALIZATION: Direct mail offers marketers the ability to leverage consumer data to create one-to-one campaigns. With 91% of consumers saying they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them, and 70% saying direct mail is more personal than online interactions, it is the perfect channel to generate personalized offers.
  • One-to-one (1:1) marketing is a customer relationship strategy that involves personalized interactions with consumers based on their individual preferences, including consumer behavior, demographics, and economic indicators.
  • Specialized software programs can contribute insights into consumer behaviour by analyzing historical brand interactions.
  • Names, text, and graphics can all be personalized to create a highly effective direct mail piece.
  • Segment direct mail programs based on data points of groups including age, sex, and income to fully customize a marketing piece.
  • Advanced high-speed digital printers offer variable imaging that incorporates consumer data into personalized messages. It allows marketers to address audiences as individuals, customizing each printed piece with unique information relevant to each distinct consumer.


  1. CALL TO ACTION: Utilizing a call to action is essential for driving results in your direct mail campaign. It helps to engage the consumer and allows you to direct them to preferred channels. Ensure your campaign includes a specific, easy-to-respond, incentive-driven call to action.
  • Being specific means providing direction with exactly what you want them to do – call now, e-mail us, visit our website, read more, buy today, or download now.
  • Easy-to-respond includes links to websites including a personalized URL, QR codes, business reply envelope, and toll-free numbers. The less time between the offer and their ability to act on the offer, the more successful your campaign will be.
  • Provide an incentive for people to respond with compelling offers. Incentive-driven call-to-action incorporates limited-time offers, bonuses, samples, offer expiration dates, and special promotions that create urgency and drive consumers to act immediately.
  • When appropriate, tie your brand into the esteem needs of your audience such as, ‘be the first to own’, ‘show your style’, ‘be the envy’, and ‘limited edition’.
  • Builds your relationship with the recipient, by pre-populating their personal information as much as possible.


  1. COORDINATED MARKETING CAMPAIGNS: Coordinating your promotions to ensure that your direct mail piece is dropped when other media is in the market allows you to create a uniform brand image and message to your target audience and improves results!
  • After receiving a direct mail piece 88% of consumers visit a website and 87% make a purchase.
  • Direct mail has a 90% open rate! Use direct mail to get consumer attention and re-direct them to digital channels to make a purchase, sign up for offers, visit a website, read more, buy today, or download now.


  1. MAIL PROGRAM SCHEDULE: Timing campaigns means reaching consumers at the right time and place and can help to speed the sales cycle. Missing this cycle can be devastating for your mail program. That is why creating a schedule is critical.
  • Create a work back schedule based on a projected mail date.
  • Establishing a mail date allows you to line up the timing on all other moving parts of the schedule to ensure it is mailed on time.


  1. CREATE A MOCK-UP: Creating a mock-up of all components ensures that the sizes of all pieces in the direct mail piece work together and are the most cost-efficient variation. This helps to ensure you stay on budget by avoiding issues before going to print and preventing costly reprints.
  • Ensure layouts make the best use of materials.
  • Check fold sequence, and use of gutters, and perforations.
  • Test name and address in the window of the envelope before creating a letter template.


  • Verify which postal class your mail piece qualifies for.
  • Verify correct postal indicia are being used.
  • Clean your data with ‘Address Correction’ to avoid address accuracy penalties.
  • Weigh a mock-up of your final package to stay within postage range.
  • Check if any postage promotions or discounts are available.


  1. DATA INTEGRITY: Ensuring that your data is secure and accurate is critical to the success of your direct mail campaign.
  • Only transfer data via the secure method (SFTP, Secure Web Portal, PGP encryption).
  • Use a common data file structure.
  • Maintain clean data (garbage-in, garbage-out).
  • Update your data/clean up the format with ‘Address Correction’.
  • Append source codes on incoming lists.
  • Remove duplicates or incomplete records.
  • Suppress CMA ‘Do not mail’ list.
  • Approve data dumps and counts, and field population reports before proceeding with data processing.
  • Add team members into your data to evaluate the final product after delivery.


  1. QUALITY CONTROL (QC): Taking the time to build in QC requirements is critical to avoid additional costs and direct mail program delays.
  • Define any unique quality control requirements.
  • Know your vendor’s standard quality control processes.
  • Review and approve printer proofs.
  • Use unique stock codes for inventory management and quality control.
  • Know what’s important in your data when checking initial data reports.
  • Check laser lives against data dumps.
  • Approve final lettershop package before production.


  1. PRODUCTION CONTROL: Communication with production partners on various components of production helps to ensure you stick to timelines and avoid unnecessary delays or additional costs.
  • Create a production control document that establishes criteria that is critical for the efficient development of your direct mail campaign.
  • Provides a road map for your production partner so everyone is on the same page.
  • Helps to identify any missing critical information.
  • Receive internal approvals before supplying artwork.
  • Involve your production partner with layouts.
  • Involve production partner to ensure components work together.
  • Use unique stock codes for inventory management and quality control.
  • Provide native files as well as high-res PDFs for positioning to the printer.
  • Verify if printing with PMS colours or 4 colour processing.
  • Allow for material overs to account for set-ups, spoils, and samples.
  • Confirm timing on receiving components.
  • Check final quantities on receiving reports.


  1. ESTABLISH MEASURABLE TESTS: Establish tests that are measurable and statistically significant (typically test one factor per package).
  • Apply what you learn to future communications.
  • Find out what works best to establish a control package.
  • Test one thing at a time so you know what is affecting responses.


To discover how Cover-All Business Communication Management can help you achieve your direct mail objectives, give us a call today at (416) 752-8100.

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