A Two-Tiered Direct Mail Strategy

direct mail strategyWhich direct mail strategy is better?

Frequent mailings to the same audience or fewer mailings (maybe just one) to a broader audience?

This is a common problem for many business owners and marketers who look at their market size and then look at their budget – and realize they can’t do both.

Well, they can – sort of – but only with this strategy.

It’s a direct mail strategy designed to reach your best prospects with frequent mailings and your lesser prospects with less frequent mailings.

Step 1 – Start by identifying your total market universe. How many prospects do you have? Take into account every business or individual who could be a likely prospect for you. If you’re targeting businesses, you might have more than one contact per business.

Let’s say your market universe is 5,000 prospects.

Step 2 – Segment your list. Within those 5,000 prospects, who are your best prospects? Not every one has equal value. Some have higher potential – and deserve a greater amount of your attention (meaning time and money).

Most marketers would base their selection on the sales potential (dollar value) of their prospect base, but you can also base it on ease of sale (low hanging fruit), or convenience (local customers only), or another factor that is important to you.

There’s no magic number here.  It’s totally up to you and your budget – so pick a percentage – say 10%.

This gives you 500 prospects that you consider to be your best prospects. The remaining 4,500 are still prospects. They’re just not on the same level – not yet anyway.

Step 3 – Create a large postcard (or a series of postcards) for this top group. The copywriter in me wants to create a series of postcards, but one postcard would be sufficient – at least to get started. This postcard will be sent to this top group multiple times over the course of the year. It should be designed for both branding and direct response.

Step 4 – Develop a mailing schedule for this top group. I think a monthly mailer makes the most sense. Don’t worry, that’s not too frequent. You will barely be on the radar, but over time, it will have an impact.  Once a month will keep your name in front of these prospects. Every other month is okay, but if you can only afford a quarterly mailing, your top group may be too large for your budget.

Step 5 – Create a lead generation letter mailer for the larger list. Now we are back to the original 5,000 prospects.   You want to develop a direct mail piece that builds awareness (branding) and generates leads (response).  An oversized postcard is a good option here.  Most importantly, you want to mail it multiple times over the course of the year.

Should it be one postcard or a series?  The copywriter in me wants to create a series of postcards, but one postcard is sufficient – at least to get started.

Step 6 – Develop a mailing schedule to reach this larger list. This is likely to be once or twice a year depending on your budget.

Step 7 – Add names to your top group.  As you generate leads from this larger mailing, you will want to add those names to your top group because they will have indicated an interest in hearing from you.  So your 500 list will grow every month depending on your response rate (not show in the chart).

Over time, your top group will grow larger and your larger list will reduce in size.

Here is the direct mail strategy in chart form:

2-tier mailing strategy

Your quantities obviously will vary depending on the size of your universe, the size of your top group and your budget.

This strategy is not unlike what we do with direct mail and email – where we generate the lead with direct mail, but stay in touch with email. Clearly, email is cheaper but direct mail has a greater impact.


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About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."

2 comments to A Two-Tiered Direct Mail Strategy

  • Eric Hines

    We direct marketers have to get out of our principled stance. Direct mail either works as part of a strategy or it supports part of another strategy.

    This is a good test model; however I would double the qty and run over 6 mos. this is enough to show that it works and you can justify more budget. If not, it’s the same money and still learn enough to have an impact for the rest of the year.

  • Thanks for your input Eric. The numbers were for illustration only. You pick the quantities and the frequency.

    My point is that your absolute best prospects should be hearing from you frequently even if they don’t respond. Everyone else should be contacted periodically as part of a lead generation effort. Thanks for contributing.

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