Direct Mail

Direct Mail Can Help You Find and Keep Customers

Direct mail, or mail shots as they are sometimes called, can be an excellent way to keep in touch with existing customers and find new ones, although it sometimes gets a bad reputation – the name ‘junk mail’ is often justified. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. When used correctly it can boost the sales for your micro-business.

So how do you do it correctly? The following guidelines will help in developing your mail shots.

Mailing Lists

The mailing list is crucial. Contacting the wrong people wastes money and creates a bad reputation. You can buy lists of potential purchasers or people with characteristics which you feel may indicate likely purchase intentions, e.g. age, income or occupation.

Whether you buy a list or use your own, it needs to be ‘clean’. That means names and addresses up-to-date, with the deceased and those who have moved home excluded. Also check the age groups or market sectors you are mailing to – the under 25s are generally not interested in life insurance and the over 70s don’t often sign up for hen and stag weekends.

The UK has suppression lists of those people who have specifically requested not to receive mail from companies who they do not currently deal with. Details are available from the Mailing Preference Service. You might also want to read up on Database Content and Management to ensure your database is maintained effectively.


You need to send something to the recipients, known as the creative or ‘mail pack’. You can read more about this in Making Direct Mail More Creative.

Producing a Direct Mailing

Sending a direct mail pack can actually be quite complex and time consuming. At its most basic level, printing, signing and then inserting 200 letters into envelopes will take some time. A mail merge will also be needed, to transfer your list of names to the letters prior to printing them.

But if you want to use personalisation or large volumes then it can start to become very complex indeed. Imagine a mailing to 15,000 people where you had produced slightly different letters and leaflets for several groups within the list, perhaps based on age or where they live. There needs to be a system to highlight the different groups and then ensure the members of those groups get the right items.

If your mailing is complex or large you would be well advised to seek the services of a mailing house, lettershop or printer specialising in mailings.

The Secrets of Successful Mailings

Successful mailings are more likely to:

  • Be sent to those on an existing customer database or to high-quality purchased mailing lists.
  • Contain a call to action to obtain information, e.g. telephone number or website, rather than expecting the purchaser to buy directly from the mailing.
  • Have a strong creative approach (consider using a graphic designer if you are sending more than just a letter in an envelope).
  • Look highly professional (a graphic designer can also help with this and you may also want to use a copywriter to ensure you word the letter effectively).
  • Be integrated with other marketing activity, e.g. run in parallel with other advertising.

However, one of the key secrets to successful direct mail is testing and continuous improvement. Read more about how to do this in Testing.