Direct Mail Process

A step-by-step overview of the direct mail process

On one level, direct mail marketing looks pretty straightforward.  You put your message down on a letter or a postcard, add an address and postage – and you’re done.

But as you will see below, there is much more to this process than might meet your eye.


Strategic Planning

Here’s what we will cover in the Strategic Planning phase of your campaign:


Establish upfront what exactly is the purpose of your campaign – to generate leads, phone calls, appointments, quote requests, direct sales, store traffic, donations, etc.

Type of Program

Will this be a single mailing or the start of multiple mailings?  Will you be reaching new people with each mailing or the same people with each mailing?  This has an impact your direct mail planning.

Sales Process

Have you mapped out exactly what your sales process will look like after the leads come in?  Leads usually travel through a process – from initial response to lead qualification to an appointment to a quote or proposal to a sale.  

Sales Support

How are the responses going to be handled once they come in?  Do you have team to follow-up and qualify the leads?  Have you defined what a qualified lead looks like?  Who will get the leads after they are qualified?

Ideal Customer Profile

Before to start searching for lists, develop a target customer profile where you identify the exact characteristics of your target audience. We do this with both demographic and behavioral data.

Mailing Lists

Finding mailing lists that match your Ideal Customer Profile can be simple and straightforward, or difficult and complicated.  We will look at multiple approaches which may include some field testing.

Offer Strategy

More than anything else, the offer drives response – both in terms of quantity and quality.  We will spend time working out exactly how your offer should be structured to generate the right type of response for you.

Format Selection

Direct mail offers many choices of mailer formats – postcards, letter mail, folded self-mailers, snap-pack mailers, booklets, etc. You want to select a format that is appropriate for your application and audience.

Response Channels

To maximize your response, you want to give people different ways to respond – by phone, landing page, QR code, reply mail or a face-to-face visit. Not all of these will be practical for you, but the more, the better.

Response Expectations

You never know for sure until you actually run a mailing, but with certain parameters in place, we can give you an educated guess on what to expect. At the very least, it’s important to have realistic expectations.

Budget and Schedule

At this stage, we will be preparing a preliminary budget and schedule.  But specifications can change in the development process. You will get a final estimate and timetable before we go to production.

Testing Strategy

Testing is a critical component in every direct mail program. We try to incorporate a testing element in every campaign we do. But this will be limited by mailing quantities and budgets.

Creative Services

Message Development

Before your creative team can begin to develop your mailer, they need direction. They need to know what message you want to convey to a specific target audience. Our creative team will help you develop your message with your input and feedback.

Creative Concepts

A creative concept is the first draft of your mailer. It is developed together by the copywriter and the graphic designer. This gives you a good idea of what your mailer will look like. It often includes a complete layout with headlines and some images.  We can do more than one creative concept upon request. 


Copywriting will have started during the Creative Concepts stage, but will then continue upon approval of the concept. The copywriter should be following the message that has been previously developed.

Graphic Design

The graphic designer works closely with the copywriter to make the mailer visually appealing and even more importantly to make the message crystal clear.

Final Artwork

Once the mailer has been approved, the final artwork files are then prepared for the printer. The graphic designer and the printer need to coordinate to be sure all specifications are being met.

Landing Page Creation

Included in the creative process is the creation of a related landing page for those prospect who choose to respond online. Landing pages are often simple opt-in pages with a thank you page. But they can also include a longer “sales” page which requires a more extensive creative effort.

Lead Magnet Creation

For some lead generation campaigns, the direct mail strategy might call for the use of a so-called lead magnet. A lead magnet is an informational document – like a whitepaper, an e-book or a checklist – that a prospect can downloaded or mailed upon request.  In this case, our creative team will work with you to create a customized lead magnet for your campaign.

Production Services

List Acquisition

Your lists were selected during the Strategy phase of the campaign. But now it’s time to order the lists in the exact quantities you need.  Very often, you may be ordering just a small portion of a much larger list.

Data Processing

Once the lists are delivered, they are uploaded and prepared for your mailing. This typically involves running your list against the National Change of Address (NCOA) database to improve deliverability.  At the same time, the lists are prepared for maximum postage discounting.

Response Tracking

Included in your data preparation is the addition of response tracking tools – a dedicated phone number for call tracking, a dedicated landing page for online tracking and form codes for reply mail tracking.


Every mail piece needs some level of personalization if only to get it delivered. But when available, we also try to add even more personalization to increase reader engagement and response.


Once the artwork arrives at the printer, a final proof is prepared for customer review and approval. This is your last chance to make changes.


Some printers also provide mailing services, but in most cases, you will need to arrange for a separate mail house (also called a lettershop) to handle the mailing.  The mail house will handle all the addressing and bulk mail sorting before delivering to the post office.


Thanks to pre-sorting and barcoding, most campaigns are able to achieve significant discounts on postage.  But first, you need to decide whether to mail first class or standard class.

Support Services

Direct mail can certainly stand on its own, but you can imagine how much more effective it can be if you surround your direct mail with additional advertising and email.

Network Display Ads

Using the Google Display Network and other advertising networks, we can put your ad out to the same audience you’re targeting in the direct mail. You can run these ads before or after the delivery of your mailer.

Facebook Ads

We can upload your mailing list to the the Facebook platform and send ads out to everyone who matches the Facebook database.


If we have the email addresses for the people on your direct mail list (or we can append email addresses to your postal records), you can send out multiple emails before and after the mailer.

Follow-up Services

Landing Page Sequences

Every direct mail campaign should have some form of landing page – usually a short opt-in page to capture leads. Generally, the opt-in form also comes with a thank you page. But today, we are seeing more and more thank you pages getting replaced by longer-form sales pages, or video pages, or webinar pages.  These landing page sequences are also known as funnels.

Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads are those online ads you see after you leave a particular website. Retargeting ads are a good way to stay top-of-mind to those who have previously shown interest in your business. We can run retargeting programs on Google and other ad networks as well as Facebook and other social media platforms. 

Email Follow-up

When a prospects responds to your direct mail (or other advertising), they need to fill out a form to convert into a lead. That form usually includes an email address.  Once that lead is acquired, you can begin a lead nurturing process using what is known as drip email.  You can also stay in touch with that prospect for many weeks, months, even years by sending out a repeatable brand awareness email. 


Let’s start with a chat

If it looks like we can help you, let’s get acquainted. Just a brief chat would do – maybe 15 or 20 minutes.

Click here to schedule a call (or Zoom meeting). Or call 508-473-8643 (M-F/9-5/Eastern).