What is direct mail marketing?

Direct mail is the bread and butter of RNB Group. 

But we appreciate, if you’re not au fait with the world of mail marketing, you might not know exactly what direct mail is, let alone the benefits it could be bringing to your business.

That’s why we’re answering some of your direct mail FAQs, to give you all the information you need on direct mail.

What’s the definition of direct mail?

Look it up and you’ll find various definitions of direct mail marketing. Here’s a couple we found… 

“Direct mail is a method of marketing which involves companies sending advertising material directly to people who they think may be interested in their products.” – Collins Dictionary

“Direct marketing method in which carefully targeted prospects (chosen on the basis of age, income, location, profession, buying pattern, etc.) are presented with custom tailored offers for goods or services via ordinary mail or email. Marketing firms usually ‘rent’ lists of prospects from mailing list compiling firms who maintain a large inventory of names and addresses of prospects, divided into hundreds of categories and sub-categories.” – Business Dictionary

Our definition?

Direct mail is a fantastic way of reaching targeted prospects and customers alike via a channel that is often overlooked in this digital era. But that’s exactly why it does work and provides cut through, whilst complementing your digital activity. Win, win, right?

What can I expect from a direct mail campaign for my business?

A direct mail campaign can be sent to a specific list of prospects or customers.

Direct mail is the comeback kid these days with email being regarded more so as ‘junk’ in comparison. According to statistics, 87% rate messages delivered by mail as believable, compared to messages delivered by digital channels such as email which only got 48%*.

You can send a piece (or a series) of direct mail to raise the profile of your business regionally or nationally, promote an event, encourage sales and highlight special offers. To name just a few examples of how it can be used.

Direct mail should certainly have a place in your marketing strategy, even if your focus is on digital channels, you may be surprised at what can be achieved by pairing with offline too.

Is direct mail better suited to B2B or B2B marketing?

Regardless of the audience, direct mail marketing can be an incredibly effective channel, as long as you’ve taken the time to plan out your activity based on the end needs of your recipient.

Your data list may be considerably shorter for a B2B market vs B2C but the value of a sale to that audience may well be greater. Therefore if you have the budget we would certainly recommend investing more in personalisation for your mailer. 

Another consideration of B2B vs B2C is the language you use. Copy in a mailer designed for business will likely be formal and lean towards logic, where as a mailer to a customer would tend to play on emotions. Benefits and statistics both offer conviction to a B2B mailer.  

Benefits are also important for a B2C direct mailer but none more so than the emotive factor. Emotion plays a key role in influencing personal buying.

What comes first – who to send to or what to send?

The most incredible direct mail campaign could fall completely flat if it’s sent to the wrong audience. So always begin with your mail data list first. Who’s on the list? Where do they live? What are their interests? The more information you have on your audience the better. 

Your data lists should be carefully segmented so that when you do consider your message it speaks to the audience and addresses their exact needs or interests.

Only when you’re confident in your list(s) should you begin to think about what you would like to send them.

And don‘t forget about your existing database too. It does depend on the nature of your business but retention will likely feature in your marketing plans.

Should my direct mail campaign be personalised?

We would always answer this with a big fat yes. The more personalised you can make your direct mail marketing, or any marketing for that matter, the better. Lead with ‘to the homeowner’ and you quickly fall into the murky realms of junk mail. Hello bin!  

Build a relationship, make an emotional connection and see your response rates increase. Digitally produced letters allow for that high level of personalisation.   

How do I decide who to send direct mail to?

If you have no pre-existing database or lists you might be wondering where to start. A reputable mailing house (look no further) can purchase a data list on your behalf and will work closely with you to define your audience. 

A good place to start is by creating some physical customer personas. These should profile your ideal customers and the more detailed you can get here the better.    

If you have an existing customer base consider building a ‘lookalike audience’ based on their demographics, interest and behaviour (if you have this insight available). 

What costs are involved with sending out a direct mail campaign? 

Every direct mail campaign will carry a different price tag but typically your mailshot will involve costs for the following:

  • Postage or delivery charges
  • The mailer itself including any insertions
  • Printing costs
  • The cost of purchasing the data list
  • Any service and labour costs

And all of these elements have varying factors that can affect the cost such as paper type, weight of mail pack, size of data list etc. It’s important to try and balance savings vs the quality of the final product, particularly if you’re a premium brand.

What kind of response rate can I expect from my direct mail campaign?

The average response rate for direct mail is 4%, according to the DMA (Data & Marketing Association) but it really all depends on the nature of your business, the quality of your marketing material and equally the quality of your data list too.

Another factor to consider is the frequency of your activity. 

You shouldn’t necessarily rest on your laurels after sending a solitary mailer too. A sequence of mailshots sent over a period of time could inflate the impact of your activity as your audience becomes more accustomed to your brand and services. 

It’s important to track and record the performance of each mailer you send so you can put any learnings into optimising future activity.

How long will it take for my direct mail campaign to see results?

You should start to see response to your direct mail campaign in around a week or two. If you’ve ticked all the boxes in terms of the quality of your campaign and data, you should (fingers crossed!) start to see some response. But if you experience poor response rate it can be quite difficult to pinpoint the exact reason immediately, however there are things you can do to investigate further.

You could try to get in touch with a sample of contacts from your list and ask them directly why the mailer didn’t appeal to them.

You could also factor in better testing of your campaign by sending out your mailer to an initial sample group to gauge their response first before committing to a data list of thousands potentially.               

What must I do to comply with data protection rules?

Unlike digital channels such as email, direct mail marketing doesn’t require consent in a GDPR world. That means you can still post out to your database without them having to tick an opt-in box first. What it does require is that the mailing meets the criteria for legitimate interest.

How do I prove my mailing ticks the legitimate interest box?

As long as you can prove that your direct mail campaign is of legitimate interest to the recipient, you don’t need to obtain consent first.

Companies planning on sending direct mail can do so on the basis of Legitimate Interest.

But what does legitimate interest mean, you ask? Well, it’s a term coined by the Information Commissioner’s Office and an option which offers greater flexibility for customer data processing.

As long as you meet the following criteria, you will meet legitimate interest:

  • The direct mail is of relevance and interest to the recipient
  • The use of data is valid
  • The mailing has a minimal impact on data privacy

You can find more information on GDPR and Direct Mail here.

Source: *Royal Mail MarketReach, The Value of Mail is Uncertain