How to make direct mail work for your business |

How to make direct mail work for your business

Kelly Coffey
Vail, CO, Colorado

One morning I decided I needed a new credit card. That afternoon, American Express sent me an application in the mail. Amazing.

Does American Express have psychics on staff to predict who will want their product? Of course not. They send mail to me just about every day of the year. I happened to pick out this envelope when I threw out the 364 others without a second thought.

For that reason, American Express finds it profitable to send daily credit card applications to credit-worthy people. That one time I responded helps assure that I will continue to receive an avalanche of credit card offers. Although most people will throw away most letters most of the time, the small percentage who respond makes it all worthwhile. Hence, the beauty of direct mail.

Direct mail ” a marketer’s euphemism for junk mail ” is an inexpensive way to advertise. While daily mass mailings won’t fit the budget for most local businesses, some form of direct mail campaign should be in your marketing plan.

The 2 percent success

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Direct mail is good for two purposes: To get immediate responses and to build your brand. Get those immediate responses with an effective call to action. Build your brand and keep your company at the top of your prospects’ minds with repetitive pieces, often complimented by other forms of advertising. Whether you send out postcards, letters, or even 3-D boxes, the basic principles stay the same.

It’s easy to use direct mail to precisely target your customers. As a result, even with only a 1 or 2 percent response rate (the industry average), direct mail campaigns often reap big rewards.

The list, the message, the call

The most important part of a direct mail campaign is the mailing list. You want to mail your piece to the right people: Those most likely to buy your product. Luckily, there are so many databases out there that you could purchase a list of left-handed guys named Ted who subscribe to three or more fishing magazines. Whether you purchase the list or build your own, it needs to be highly targeted to your ideal prospects.

Next comes the message. Imagine your prospect sorting through the mail while standing over her trash bin. You have about two seconds to get your main point across before she drops the piece into the bin. The more personalized and targeted the message, the more likely your prospect will hold onto your piece. If you have a targeted mailing list, it becomes easier to craft a targeted message.

Always wrap up your message with a call to action ” what you want your target to do. Responding to direct mail is a spontaneous thing. Your prospect is either going to take action right then, or never take action at all. So what do you want them to do? “Call Now!” “Visit our Web site.” “Return the postage-paid envelope.” Give them a compelling reason to contact you right away.

Become a student of the junk mail you get every day. Which pieces compel you to open them? What stands out? How do they craft their messages? Borrow ideas from the piles of postcards and envelopes that come to your mailbox every day.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll get responses far above those averages, and returns far above your investment. As for the American Express mail clogging up your post office box, sorry about that.

Kelly Coffey is the founder of Harebrained Marketing, a firm that specializes in connecting local businesses with local customers. Reach him at or 926-0888. For more marketing tips, resources, and to sign up for his newsletter, visit

Support Local Journalism