How Does the Direct Mail Process Work? A Step-by-Step Guide | Taradel

In today's business world, a company needs to stand out if it wants to achieve marketing success. However, that's not always possible when you consider the fact that most people use the same types of marketing, such as social media marketing or email marketing. In general, digital marketing has become the core of any marketing campaign. If you want to stand out, direct mail marketing can help

Some would disagree, saying that it is an outdated type of physical marketing effort. However, nothing could be further from the truth. As much as people don't want to believe that, this type of marketing is far from being dead - quite the opposite, we would say that it is actually thriving. 

You can use the fact that many people have this point of view to your advantage, though. How exactly? You will learn that in the article below, as well as what direct mail is, what are its advantages and disadvantages and how the direct mail process looks. So, let's get started. 

What Is Direct Mail?

To put it simply, direct mail marketing is a type of marketing that involves sending physical promotional materials to someone's mailbox. It can be done via USPS (United States Postal Service) or other courier services. Some of the most common examples of direct mail include catalogs, postcards, flyers, or free samples.

Why Is Direct Mail a Good Marketing Strategy

There are plenty of different marketing strategies available to businesses these days, so one might wonder why they should bother with direct mail marketing? Well, there are a few reasons for that.

First of all, direct mail marketing is more interactive than some of the other marketing types. This is especially true if you, for example, send your customers a magazine with a number of coupons inside that need to be brought into the store. The need to do something with it in order to receive a reward might make your customer more likely to keep the mail you send and do something with it instead of just tossing it out.

Another thing is that direct mail marketing tends to have a higher response rate - in fact, the response rate of direct mail is often 10 to 30 percent higher than that of, for example, email.

The third reason for the effectiveness of direct mail marketing is the fact that it's memorable, as it brings back the nostalgic feeling of your friends and family sending letters or postcards from vacations.

Direct mail can help you reach a larger number of people, especially if your target audience includes seniors. Older people tend not to be on social media or even have an email address, which means that your chances of reaching them through those channels are quite low. Direct mail marketing can help you get in touch with them.

Finally, many companies tend to believe that direct mail marketing is either dead or slowly dying. However, that isn't the case at all - in fact, as we can see from the response rate we have already mentioned, direct mail marketing is doing more than fine. 

You can use this belief to your advantage, though - since they don't believe direct mail can help their marketing efforts, they don't indulge in it. If you do, you can get an edge over your competition.

Those are just a few examples of why direct mail marketing is an effective strategy, so you can definitely see why using it could be a good move. Now, let's move to a step-by-step guide on how it works and how to create your own direct mail marketing campaign.

Direct Mail Pros and Cons 

Just like everything, direct mail also has its pros and cons. We talked about it a little already, but here is everything compiled in one place. 


  • has a higher response rate than some other forms of marketing
  • can be personalized 
  • very flexible and can allow you to reach a larger audience 
  • not many businesses use it to their advantage 


  • has to be eye-catching, or otherwise it will be a waste of money if people don't open it
  • some people might not like it (and can consider it junk mail) 

The Costs of a Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

It's hard to calculate exactly how much you will pay for a direct mail marketing campaign, as a lot depends on what you're planning on sending, as well as how many people you choose to send the promotional materials to.

However, generally speaking, direct mail costs include:

  • the costs of printing the materials,
  • the costs of designing the materials,
  • the costs of packaging,
  • the costs of shipping,
  • the costs of human capital.

Of course, if some of those processes are performed internally, the costs will be lower. For example, if you already have an in-house graphic designer, you won't have to pay for designing the materials.

With Taradel, you can learn how much you will pay for your direct mail marketing campaign by creating it using our online tool - you will see the final price at checkout. If your campaign is targeted toward more than 50,000 households, you can get in touch with us so that we can provide you with the best rates.

Direct Mail Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know what direct mail is, we can move on to the next thing - that is how the direct mail process looks. It's actually quite straightforward, and we're sure that once you do it a few times, you'll know exactly what to do, and you won't need any guide. 

But, for now, here's a short breakdown of how a direct mail process works. 

Step 1: Establish What the Goal of Your Campaign Is

The first and one of the most important steps in the direct mail process is understanding what the goal of the campaign is - after all, what's the point of doing something if you don't know what you're doing it for?

Think about what you want to achieve with a successful direct mail campaign - Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to increase sales? Do you want to use a direct mail campaign to complement other types of marketing you're also indulging in?

Once you know what you want to get done through your marketing efforts, you'll be able to create a better direct mail marketing piece that you will then send to your customers.

Step 2: Identify Your Target Audience

Knowing what you want to achieve is one thing - you also need to know who you are directing your efforts toward, as this will affect your campaign. The easiest way to do it is by getting to know your audience by, for example: 

  • conducting a survey among your existing customers;
  • looking at the reviews people left on your competitor's sites or products (for example, on Amazon);
  • looking at social media.

There are two things that you want to get from doing those things - that is, target audience data and buyer's persona. 

Target Audience Data

Your customer data can be divided into three categories - demographic data, behavioral data, and psychographic data.

The demographic data includes information such as your intended audience's age, gender, income, ethnicity, employment status, home ownership, internet access, and more.

The behavioral data includes information about how your audience behaved previously - so, for example, your customers' purchase history.

Finally, the psychographic data includes information about your target audience's day-to-day life - this can mean things like your customers' hobbies, opinions, or what they think about your services or products.

Buyer's Persona

Once data collection is complete, you can move on to the next step, which is creating a buyer's persona. In other words, your ideal customer. 

The easiest way to come up with the buyer's person is by looking at the customer data you've gathered. What unites your customers? Do they have some common traits, and if they do, what are they? Maybe they experience some common problems? 

Looking at those questions and finding out the answers can help you greatly in understanding your audience and therefore adjusting your marketing efforts to suit it best. 

Step 3: Come Up with a Mailing List for Your Direct Mail Campaign

Once you know why and for who you're doing the direct mail campaign, it's time to create a mailing list - to put it simply, this is the list of people you will be sending direct mail to. There are two types of lists - house lists and purchased lists. 

The first type - house lists - are lists that include names and addresses of your existing customers. If you collect this type of data (and almost every business does), you should have it stored somewhere. 

The second type - purchased lists - as you can guess from the name, involves buying addresses and names. 

Out of the two, the house lists are always a better choice. Since you already have the data in your system, it means that the customers or potential customers are already familiar with your brand. Chances are they have even purchased from you already, You also don't have to question the reliability of such a list which is not always the case for lists that you purchase from somewhere. 

Another thing important to mention is that those people are basically strangers to your brand, which means that you will need to create such direct mail materials that focus on building brand awareness. With existing customers, you don't have to do that since, as we mentioned, they already know your brand.

You can minimize the risks of a purchased list if you buy it from a reliable source - however, you have to keep in mind that even then, you don't have the guarantee that your company and your offer will speak to the prospects. 

Step 4: Think Hard About the Offer and Call to Action

While direct mail marketing materials are composed of more than just the offer and the call to action (CTA), those two are the most important parts. They can make or break your direct mail marketing campaign

If you have a copywriter or just someone who is good with words within your team, then that's great. However, if you don't, then a wise idea would be to hire a freelancer that will do the work for you. 

People are simple creatures - they want to know what you're selling, why they should consider your product or service, and, if they're convinced by your copy, how to get the said product or service. This is why you simply need to include those details in your direct mail marketing materials - there's no way around it. 

However, just having it is not enough - you need to make it interesting and make your customers or prospects WANT to use your product or service. Here are some tips that might help you with it if you're going to be writing the copy yourself. 

Focus on the Benefits 

You need to remember that while you know why your product is great, your audience might not. That's why you need to communicate why they should choose your product and not the one from your competition. 

If you're opting for a smaller material, such as a postcard, choose only a few most important benefits - ideally, between one and three. If you're opting for one bigger in size, such as a letter, you have more space to talk about them - however, don't overdo it. 

If you write too much about how amazing your product is, some customers might become skeptical and not want to try it. It's important to find a balance. 

Emotions Over Logic 

People are more likely to take action if they believe that what they're getting is something they want instead of what they need. Sure, the second one will work, too - however, if you compare the two, you will see that emotion almost always wins. 

Don't believe us? Think about when you're doing online shopping - do you usually purchase things because you need them or because you simply want them? There, you have your answer. 

Let's say you're selling a direct mail marketing course, and you want to convince your audience to purchase it. You can say, for example, "This is the direct mail marketing course that will help you crush your competitors." 


One of the easiest ways to make someone purchase your offer is by making them think that if they don't do it now, they won't be able to get it later. Just think about how many times you've seen a business do something like:

  • "Buy this by 2/13 to save money with the discount code!"
  • "Limited Edition! Offer valid only until 4/4!" 

Probably plenty - that's because it works. People are often procrastinators - they need to feel as if they only have so much time to do something to actually do it. 

Step 5: Choose the Format 

The next step in the direct mail process is choosing the right format for your campaign. With most direct mail marketing campaigns, a standard postcard is the format of choice. However, it is not the only one. Depending on your needs, you can choose:

  • Standard postcards (4x6 inches) - as we said, this format is usually chosen for direct mail marketing for a few reasons - first of all, it's affordable, which means that the business can send it to more people than if they were using some other format. Secondly, it forces you to compile all the information you want to convey into a small piece of text, which makes absorbing it easier for the reader. 
  • Large or oversized postcards (6x9 or 6x11 inches) - this format is slightly bigger than the regular postcards. It combines the fact that the receiver doesn't have to open an envelope to get to the content with the opportunity for the business to include more copy. 
  • Letters - receiving letters makes you feel very professional, and that's usually the goal of businesses that use this format. It's also a lot more private than the other two as if one wants to access the contents of it, they need to open the envelope first. Last but not least, letters give you the space to fully convey everything you want. 

Step 6: Create the Design 

The sixth step in the direct mail process is designing the marketing piece. As we already mentioned above, you can do it yourself. However, it might be a good idea to hire a designer that already has experience in this type of thing. If you have one in your in-house team, amazing. However, not everyone is lucky enough for that to be the case. 

If you don't have an in-house designer, you can look for a freelancer on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. How much they will charge depends on several factors, including how complex you want the design to be, whether you need one design or more, etc. Their experience will also play a role - more experienced graphic designers tend to charge more than beginners. 

You might be tempted to take this step earlier than we placed it - however, that's not a very good idea for two reasons. First of all, by doing it at this stage, you already have your offer and CTA written, which means that you will most likely make fewer changes to the design than if you were just in the process of writing them. 

Secondly, since, at this point, you have enough data about your target market to understand them better, the design process will be easier as you'll know more or less what will compel them. 

Step 7: Combine Direct Mail Marketing with Digital Marketing

While direct mail marketing definitely plays a big part in the successful acquisition of new customers, it can bring even better results if you combine it with digital marketing. 

How can you do it? 

Well, the easiest way would be to add something to your direct mail copy that will give the receivers the opportunity to immediately access your website or your social media accounts (for example, a QR code) instead of having to look for them themselves. 

This will allow you to kill two birds with one stone, as doing it will increase your website traffic. 

Step 8: Printing and Postage 

The final step of the direct mail process is printing and mailing. There are plenty of automated tools that can help you with that, which is especially helpful if you're doing more direct mail marketing campaigns or if your campaign involves a large number of recipients. 

The good news is that you might be eligible for a discount, which can significantly decrease your postage costs. 

We have already talked about the two types of lists that you can use when distributing direct mail marketing materials. However, what we haven't mentioned is that there's another way to reach people if you, for example, don't have their addresses - and that is Every Door Direct Mail, also known as EDDM. 

How exactly does it work? Well, EDDM is a service offered by United States Postal Service (USPS) that allows you to send direct mail to people within a specific area without knowing their addresses - you can opt for a specific neighborhood, city or ZIP code. Also, depending on what your clientele is, you can decide to only include residential addresses or both business and residential ones.

Direct Mail Process - Frequently Asked Questions

How long do direct mail campaigns take? 

This will depend on the project, as some more complex ones that target international audiences can take more time than a campaign that focuses on marketing efforts within a country. However, generally speaking, direct mail campaigns take between 5 to 10 weeks to plan and implement. 

How long will it take for my direct mail to reach customers after I send it?

This depends on where your customer lives, as well as what service you chose when you were placing the shipping order. However, you can expect it to be delivered within 2 weeks (unless the courier's website specifies differently). 

Can direct mail campaigns target international customers?

Yes, there's no reason why your campaign shouldn't go beyond the borders and reach your international customers as well. Just keep in mind that it will probably be more expensive to ship the direct mail pieces to them. 

Can I add something to the letter or postcard I send?

Of course. It's not uncommon for brands, especially if we're talking about the beauty or coffee industries, to send free samples with their direct mail so that people not only hear about the product but can also test it.

Does direct mail marketing work? 

Yes, of course! As we already mentioned, direct mail's response rate is often much higher than with other types of marketing. So, we can safely say that, yes, direct mail does work. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Direct mail is a type of marketing that involves sending physical mail to your customers' addresses - usually, those are postcards or letters. 
  • Direct mail has many advantages, including higher response rates, the opportunity to reach new customers (especially if your customer base primarily includes those who don't use the internet that much and therefore digital marketing campaigns might not work for them), and it is cost-effective. 
  • When calculating the costs of a direct mail marketing campaign, you need to take into consideration the costs of shipping, printing, packaging, designing the material, as well as the human capital. 
  • The direct mail process consists of eight steps - establishing your business goals, getting to know your audience, creating a mailing list, creating the offer and call of action, choosing the format, creating the design, combining your direct mail campaigns with your digital marketing campaign (although this one could be considered optional) and finally, printing and mailing. 

The Bottom Line

Direct mail marketing is one of those types of marketing that some people will try to tell you it's dead and that there's no use in even trying out. However, as you can see, nothing could be further from the truth

Not only is direct mail marketing one of the most responsive marketing efforts, but it is also one of the most affordable ones, especially if you have an in-house graphic designer and/or copywriter. 

When it comes to how the direct mail process looks, it is pretty straightforward. Sure, it might look intimidating at first, but the truth is that some of those things are either obvious or you're already doing them as a company (for example, creating a mailing list). 

However, if you have any questions, remember that you can always reach out to us. 

And if you want to start your successful direct mail campaigns, don't hesitate to click on the "Get Started" button. 

However, if digital marketing is more your thing, we have something for you too. Besides direct mail, we also specialize in social media ads, including Facebook Ads,, as well as Google Display Ads, and email offers. 

We can guarantee you will enjoy working with us - and our customer service team will be there to help at any stage of the process. 

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