How to Plan a More Powerful Direct Mail Campaign

Working on your first – or a new – direct mail marketing campaign? Knepper Press will help you save time, costs and headaches.

For our example, we’re going to walk through the creation of a variable data postcard campaign. The goal of our postcard mailing is to get recipients to visit a specific website page or to visit a physical store. The same basic planning steps would be involved if your campaign is a self-mailer or a multi-piece mailer in an envelope.

The process of creating a direct mail marketing campaign consists of 6 major components:

  • Planning
    Physical properties
  • List
  • Copy & Design
    Offer development
  • Printing
  • Lettershop
  • Analysis

Start by planning. Direct mail advertising costs can be reduced with a good plan. Find out in advance how much all of the services needed will cost. Try a few physical sizes or quantity variations to recognize how the total budget will be affected.

For example, while a typical postcard might be 7” x 5” we’re going to explore pricing for a larger 11” x 6” size. We love the extra-large postcard for its visual impact. And, the postage (one of the major costs of a direct mail marketing campaign) is the same for both sizes. The 11” x 6” size is the maximum allowable for the lowest postage tier in bulk mailings.

The printing of the larger postcard is generally not much more than the typical size, so we’ll choose it for our example.

Many people/departments are needed to create your direct mail campaign: marketers, writers, designers, list managers, printers and lettershops. Create a schedule to keep everyone informed. List the dates and tasks for each department. Generally, campaign development time is about 4-6 weeks. Marketing should have about a week to get planning and budgeting started. Copy and design – 1 week. List management – 1 week. Printing – 1 week. Lettershop – 1 week.

Your list is one of your top priorities. The list has to be right. If your list is being created from internal sources, have your staff review the data. Update all names and addresses, delete old names and addresses. Add new names and addresses.

Can your list be segmented in any way? If you own a pet store, for example, can you segment the list by dog owners and cat owners? Cat owners won’t respond to a campaign about dog products and vice versa. With variable data printing, we can easily create a direct mail campaign showing dog products for the dog owners and cat products for those who own cats. Similarly, the headlines and body copy can change based on the audience.

Other ways to segment lists may include things such as recent buyers vs. prospects or in-store purchasers vs. web purchasers. Create a different offer and text for each group.

Use your list to personalize the postcard in as many places as possible. Add the recipients’ name in several places on the postcard. Don’t simply use the list to address the piece. Capture the attention of the recipient by including copy such as “Thanks for shopping with us, John, we appreciate your business. Today we have a special offer for you and your cats.”

Writing and Design:
Write your copy with your audience in mind. Ask yourself “what is it that my buyers want, what motivates them?” Start with an offer – tell your audience what they get. Tell them in the headline, don’t bury the best for later. Audiences have little time to look deeply into your campaign, so make sure the understand it quickly, otherwise they won’t bother to read on.

Design is important. Assuming you have an established brand, stick with it. Make it attractive. Good graphic design attracts the recipient. Once you have the recipient’s attention, your copy and offer should do the job of selling/motivating them.

In our example case, we will create appropriate copy and design for both direct mail campaign versions. We’ll design one template that will have dog images on one version and cat images on a second version.

Choose an appropriate printing technique. If you have smaller quantities (maybe between 1,000 – 2,500) choose variable data printing. If you get into larger quantities (over 5,000) you may be able to print using offset at a lower cost.

Work with your lettershop to clean your list. Use merge/purge, national change of address (NCOA), CASS certification and sortation. Once they’ve run your list, use their files to update your list, saving you future postage dollars and wasted effort.

Finally, do some analysis upon completion of your direct mail. Quantify the number of web visitors after receipt of the postcard versus before. If you were able to add a coupon to your offer, find out how many people used it, in-store and online.

With proper planning you can create an efficient direct mail campaign. Ask the experts at Knepper Press for guidance on any of the topics covered in this article.