What is Direct Mail Marketing?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Direct mail marketing is a marketing strategy that involves the use of postcards or other pieces of mail to promote the purchase of different types of goods or services, or a cause or upcoming event where participation by as many people as possible is desired. Sometimes referred to as direct mail advertising, this method can be used by businesses, non-profit organizations, or even municipalities that wish to promote some type of event occurring in the area. As one of the oldest forms of advertising, direct mail marketing is a low cost means of advertising that requires a relatively low return in order to be considered successful.

Direct mail is a form of low-cost advertising.
Direct mail is a form of low-cost advertising.

Many different businesses make use of direct mail marketing. These include supermarkets that mail out circulars featuring items that are on sale for a limited amount of time. Retailers like electronics stores or large discount department stores often employ the same strategy as a means of alerting consumers of items that can be purchased at a discount in the near future. Companies that offer software and other online services sometimes use direct mail marketing to send out trial CDs to prospective customers. Even credit card providers use this means of marketing, often sending credit card applications to a wide range of people, inviting them to apply for a new card.

Samples of new products might be included in a direct mail marketing campaign.
Samples of new products might be included in a direct mail marketing campaign.

One of the benefits of direct mail marketing is that the campaigns usually involve a low cost in comparison to other alternatives. All that is needed to mount a basic direct mail campaign is a mailing list, the mail piece itself, and money to cover postage costs. With the relatively small overhead involved, even a return rate of two to three percent is often enough to cover the costs of the marketing campaign, plus provide the sender with some additional revenue.

The use of direct mail marketing can also have its drawbacks. Many people look upon any unsolicited mail as junk mail. This means that there is a higher chance that the direct mail piece will be discarded without being read by the recipient. Some businesses have minimized this possibility by using postcards that sport an eye-catching image or slogan on the front of the card, while placing the sales pitch and contact information on the back of the card. Since more people are likely to quickly look at both sides of a postcard, the chances of earning a sale using the cards is slightly higher than using solicitations that are mailed in envelopes.

A direct mail marketing campaign may be targeted or untargeted. A targeted campaign involves only addresses that have been qualified in some manner. Generally, this means that the addressee has at some time in the past indicated he or she is open to receiving solicitations by mail. An untargeted campaign involves the use of all published addresses contained within a given geographical area. No attempt is made to differentiate between households that have expressed some interest in the past and those that have not. The rationale behind an untargeted approach is that even people who rarely read advertising mail may be in the mood to do so the day the advertisement arrives, and thus be a candidate for a sale.

Direct mail marketing may include brochures, postcards, letters and other items that are mailed directly to the home or office of the customer or prospect.
Direct mail marketing may include brochures, postcards, letters and other items that are mailed directly to the home or office of the customer or prospect.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

anon82404

I don't think there is a good excuse for non-targeted mailings. You are wasting your money and time not spending more time to develop a very targeted profile of your very best customers.

Tim L.

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