Direct Mail: 7 Tips for Making the Most of the Post

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros
direct mail BCBS
Targeted pieces, such as welcome kits, help BCBS connect with members and prospects.

Marketers are constantly shifting dollars toward digital channels, but don’t count direct mail out just yet. The USPS reports that 77.3 billion pieces of marketing mail were sent in 2018, proving that many brands are still integrating direct mail into their strategies.

Direct mail can be an expensive channel, but when done right it can drive awareness and engagement at multiple points in the marketing funnel. Here’s seven tips to improve your luck in the mailbox.

Get to the point. One of the mistakes many people make is wanting to fill every bit of white space, says Nancy Harhut, chief creative officer of HBT Marketing. “They want to get their postage stamp’s worth, and figure people will find what is interesting to them. But you need to stay focused. If you’ve got something to say, say it. Don’t have a long wind-up.” Marketers with multiple messages to relay should consider multiple mailings, or cross-marketing with other channels. “Cramming everything into one piece is not a good idea. It’s a rookie mistake.”

Don’t be afraid to think big. In B2B direct mail, dimensional pieces can cut through the clutter and create a “wow” factor that can open the door for future communications and engagement. Think about how you can “surprise and delight” recipients with pieces that they will show or pass along to other people in their office, either with something fun (like a personalized Coca-Cola can) or valuable (a report on industry research). “When something shows up in an overnight envelope, it can look like the recipient would be passing up on something important if they don’t open it,” Harhut says.


Want to hear more tips from Nancy Harhut and John Sisson on improving your direct mail strategy? Join us at LeadsCon’s Connect to Convert 2019 in Boston, Sept. 25-27


Make your list and check it twice. Sending the right message to the right audience is crucial, notes John Sisson, president of HBT Marketing. Take the time to make sure your list is clean and targeted to the prospects and/or customers you really want to engage. “Otherwise, it’s a wasted effort.”

One size does not fit all. When it comes to targeting individuals for healthcare coverage, direct mail is a key component in BCBS of Michigan’s marketing strategy. The insurer works with PFL and Salesforce Marketing Cloud to help score its membership based on various criteria to see what buckets they fall into and where a direct mail piece might be appropriate to drive engagement. “We used to have a scattershot approach, but now we use variable content within each of our pieces, depending on certain audience demographics or psychographic attributes,” says Angela Dunbar, manager, individual business marketing at BCBS of MI.

Take the time to test. Because of the cost of mailing, some brands might want to skimp here. But testing offers and creative elements is extremely important, especially if your brand is new to the world of direct mail. “We encourage people to test,” says Sisson. “You want to know right out of the gate that you’re headed in the right direction.”

Make sure you can track the ROI. As with all marketing techniques, attribution in direct mail is essential. No one tactic exists in a vacuum these days, and most direct mail campaigns are part of multichannel strategies. Before you mail, says Sisson, consider how you will gauge the ROI, such as visits to a unique URL, dedicated 800 number or other call to action.


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Decide where direct mail fits into your branding strategy. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how direct mail should tie into other branding efforts. Harhut advises looking at other campaigns from other parts of the organization, including digital and TV, to makes sure any direct mail pieces are part of consistent cross-channel branding initiatives.

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