direct mail

Does direct mail marketing still work? Yes, and it’s very much alive, as a matter of fact. Although direct mail’s response rate has gradually dropped over time, it’s still a valuable tool for business owners and marketers today. According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail’s response rate is 4.4%, which is substantially higher compared to 0.12% for email.

However, what exactly is direct marketing? Read on to learn the basics about it, including how you can effectively—and creatively—incorporate it into your marketing campaign.

What is Direct Mail Marketing?

Direct mail marketing is a strategy that involves sending a letter, package, mailer, brochure, or postcard to your prospects or current customers. It’s used in business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) selling, although more commonly with consumers.

Advantages of Direct Mail 

Aside from having better response rates than email, direct mail has other advantages. Here are some of them:

  • People trust direct mail ads

According to a study, 76% of people trust ads they receive in the mail. This can be attributed to the fact that buyers are constantly bombarded with emails. Survey says that consumers receive 121 emails per day on average, which means that if you’re using email as a marketing approach, you have to work incredibly hard to cut through the noise and generate a response.

  • Consumers enjoy getting mail

Based on a survey, four in 10 people enjoy checking their physical mailbox as it tends to create an emotional connection between the sender and the recipient. Plus, there’s that excitement of seeing if you’ve got anything good. When was the last time you were thrilled about checking your mailbox?

  • A valuable asset for account-based marketing 

Account-based marketing (ABM) is an approach where sales and marketing work together to target key personnel rather than individuals. With ABM, you group leads based upon the account, which results in more focused leads. Personalized messages delivered through direct mail help engage the account, ultimately driving lead conversion.

Essentially, incorporating direct mail into ABM campaigns strengthens customer engagement since it helps provide focused content through a medium that drives deeper connection than email.

Disadvantages of Direct Mail

On the flip side, direct lags behind email in terms of return on investment (ROI) and cost:

  • Email has better ROI than direct mail

Email offers better ROI than direct mail, mainly because it costs lesser to send in bulk. The average ROI for email is $28.50 compared to $7 for direct mail.

  • Direct mail can be expensive

Compared to outsourcing email services, direct mail is typically more expensive, mainly due to printing costs. Direct mail pieces can cost anywhere from $0.30 to more than $10 per person, depending on the design, printing, and distribution rates.

Examples of Direct Mail Marketing Strategies

Here are some inspirations for your direct mail campaign.

  • Business-to business direct mail ideas

Corporate direct mail campaigns should be customized and targeted. It may be effective for your organization to personalize each package or letter, depending on how many you’re sending.

  • iPad

Want to book appointments with your prospects? Send them empty boxes—of iPads. Each package can include a note that says, “We know your time is valuable, but if you’d be willing to come and have a conversation with us to solve your problem, we’ll give you the iPad that was in this box.” This strategy has worked for Heinz Marketing, generating twice as many appointments as they gave away iPads.

  • Portraits

Hire a freelancer to draw cartoons or portraits of your prospects. Put each one in an envelope with a note like this:

Dear [prospect’s name],

I hope this work is a good addition to your desk art. Is there a [related business issue] that’s staring you in the face? If so, I have some ideas that may help. I’ll follow up via [phone, email] to arrange an appointment.


[Your name]

Few people will throw away personalized artwork, so there’s a better chance your proposal will be front and center. In addition, it’s a great way to make an impression and show customers you’re not a typical marketer.

  • Swag boxes

A swag box contains merchandise and customized items. It can include treats, fashion accessories, skincare products, best-selling books, stickers, T-shirts, and hoodies, among others. After all, who doesn’t like to receive a package full of goodies?

  • Content kit

You can put together printed versions of your most popular resources—blog posts, reports, case studies, etc. —and then send them to your prospect company’s decision-maker. This can help your recipient better engage with the ideas, as there’s something special about reading information from a piece of paper in your hands compared to staring at it on a screen.

Consumer direct mail ideas

  • Tiny business cards

People are familiar with receiving a traditional “Happy Holidays!” card from their local grocery store or dentist. But what they’re not used to? Tiny business notes. Shrink your holiday greeting card to miniatures and make a big impression on your prospects.

  • Coffee or hot chocolate

Send each potential customer a packet of hot chocolate or instant coffee with the note “Just add water.” You should also include a postcard saying something like:

Wouldn’t it be nice if [finding your next home, buying health insurance, choosing a car, etc.] was as easy as making instant coffee [or hot chocolate]? We can’t promise you it will be as simple, but [your company name] can definitely help with [X process]. Call one of our agents at [phone number] or make an appointment on our [website] today.

  • Personalized brochures

Personalization is a highly effective strategy in capturing potential customers’ interest. According to a survey, 80% of buyers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.

So, don’t forget to include each recipient’s name in your brochure so they won’t feel like you just sent them some random promotional material. Also, make sure your leaflet is of good quality as to its content and printing. To ensure you’re giving away quality brochures, look for established printers.

  • Toys

Gimmicky items such as toys can be highly effective, especially if they’re creative or quirky enough to make your recipients want to keep them around. In 2013, Land Rover sent tiny cars to its customers, which they could use to replace the “Escape” key on their keyboard. Now people remember Land Rover and how the brand can help them “live an adventurous, exciting life.”

You can borrow this idea to come up with a toy or tool related to your product or service. For instance, if you sell homes, you can send out keychains. Or, if you’re a dentist, you can mail toothbrushes—maybe ones with a “singing” design to make it more fun.


With the advent of technology, it may feel like direct mail no longer works. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Given the constant influx of information online, people tend to lose interest in browsing each marketing email in their inbox. This is where direct mail comes in, offering customers a highly personalized experience, which is something that can’t be replicated in the digital space.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C organization, using direct mail can help generate conversations with your customers in a way they’ll never see coming.

David Williams is the Marketing Manager of Intermedia Print Solutions, a print media and packaging solutions company in Princeton, NJ notable for its high-end print quality printing and on-time delivery. A mixture of technology and creativity is what makes David enthusiastic about his work. He likes to spend his free time reading books, watching sci-fi films, and writing articles.

Direct mail stock photo by Juan Enrique del Barrio/Shutterstock