Direct Mail Strategy

Strategy, or strategic planning, is an essential first step in the direct mail process that helps you address, debate and answer the most critical questions that will contribute directly to your results.

These are questions you will need to address at some point in the process.

But it’s much better to handle this in the beginning instead of later after you commit to a particular direction when changes are more difficult.

Here’s what we cover:


This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised.  It’s important to establish upfront what exactly is the purpose of your campaign – to generate leads, appointments, quote requests, direct sales, store traffic, donations, etc.  Different objectives will  require different strategic approaches.

Type of Program

You may be starting off with a single (test) mailing, but what is your long-term goal?  What type of program are you hoping this will become? Will you be targeting a small group of prospects with a repetitive multi-touch mailing campaign? Or will you be rolling out additional mailings on a weekly or monthly basis to generate a consistent flow of leads?  This may be dictated by the size of your market, your sales structure and capacity, your ability to handle new work or your budget.

Sales Process

We all know what our own sales process looks like, right?  But have you written it down, or mapped it out? Does everyone on your team understand how the sales process works? The reason we do this here is that different strategic decisions in your direct mail campaign could change the way your sales process works – at least for that particular promotion.

Sales Support

A key part in planning your direct mail campaign is understanding what type of sales support you have in place.  Who is going to handle the leads that come in?  Will they go directly to your own sales team or a telemarketing team to qualification first?  Or will your leads be going to third-party partners like independent sales reps, agents or distributors?

Ideal Customer Profile

Before to start searching for mailing lists, it’s important that you develop an ideal customer profile where you identify the exact characteristics of your target audience. This may include demographic characteristics or behavioral characteristics, or both.You may find that you have multiple profiles that require separate marketing messages. You may also find that you have tiered profiles – top tier target markets and secondary target markets.

Mailing Lists

Finding mailing lists that match your Ideal Customer Profile can be simple and straightforward, or difficult and complicated.  There is no shortage of lists out there. And each list needs to be considered individually. You start with the core foundation of the list, but then you can drill through the use of so-called selects (filters). The list is also one of the most important elements to test. 

In some cases, you may want to use your internal list, or House List. This is a list made up of current customers and prospects – people who have previously shown an interest in what you offer. The House List will almost always generate a higher response than a third-party mailing list. 

Offer Strategy

More than anything else, the offer drives response – both in terms of response quantity and quality.  We will spend time working out exactly what your offer should be and how it should be structured to generate the right type of response. Offers vary greatly depending on the objective of the campaign.

Format Selection

Direct mail offers many choices of mailer formats – postcards, letter mail, folded self-mailers, snap-pack mailers, booklets, etc. Each format comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. We will help you a select a format that is appropriate for your application and audience, and delivers the best results for you.

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 try, 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.

Digital Marketing Support

One the best new developments for direct marketers has been the use of digital marketing to support the direct mail campaign. This includes uploading your mailing list to a digital platform, then sending out an advertisement before and/or after the mailing is delivered. Ads are sent to those who are on your list but also can be matched to the platform’s members. You can also use the postal service’s own email program (called Informed Delivery) to announce the pending arrival of your mailer.  These and other digital programs should all be considered as part of your strategic planning process.

Testing Strategy

Testing (which is covered here in more detail) is a critical component in every direct mail program and it should be a factor in your strategy. We try to incorporate a testing element in every campaign we do. But this will be limited mailing quantities and budgets.

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