Direct mail campaigns are versatile and inexpensive compared to traditional methods of advertisement, and they can be very effective as they allow businesses to target recipients very specifically and test new products, new markets and variations of special offers relatively quickly and at a reasonable cost.

For small companies, they also present the advantage of offering some control over the volume of response, to a level that they can manage comfortably, by allowing them to scale the size of the campaign.

If your company sells consumer goods, you will often be able to sell them directly through that mailing campaign. In a B2B environment, you may need 2 steps, the first one to generate an interest in your goods or services and a request for further information, called lead-generation phase, and a second phase to convert these leads into sales. In either case, the success of your direct mail campaign will heavily depend on careful planning.

But how to create a direct mail campaign? The first step is to outline your target market and develop the relevant mailing list. You may be fortunate enough to have your own database of prospects who have expressed interest in being contacted, which will almost always yield higher results, but if not, you can easily purchase lists of contacts from specialised companies who will do a selection based on your criteria.

Creating the material which will be in your mailing is obviously crucial. The offer needs to be crystal clear and prominent, the call-to-action unmissable, as well as ways to contact you or place an order. Your piece must be visually appealing to your target market and suitable for the product, but only use graphics that add value to your offer, or they will just clutter the design.

Before you launch your full campaign, it is advisable to do a test on a sample of your mailing list. Even a small-sized campaign of a few thousand recipients will run up your costs so testing it first will give you an opportunity to adjust it, if necessary, based on the response you get. For meaningful results, aim for a selection of 10% of your list but no less than 250 recipients.

Results from direct mail campaigns vary widely and nobody can predict how it will do, even if you get everything right. However, marketing gurus suggest that if the response rate is less than 2%, something is wrong, while a return of 7% is a very, very positive outcome.