25 Years Researching Direct Mail: 4 Lessons Learned

publication date: Feb 5, 2024
author/source: Joy Gendusa

what learned

After 25 years in business, 114,746 clients, and over 2 billion postcards mailed, we've learned a thing or two about marketing.

But don't worry this isn't a long read...

In fact:

I've boiled down over 2 decades of mailing history into the 4 biggest and simplest true-isms that can make an impact on your direct mail campaign right now.

I remember the days when we had to scramble and scrape for every single dollar. (Know the feeling?) Back in the late 90s, before the internet and before anyone knew who we were, I stuck to one unchanging truth…

And yes, I learned it the hard way:

The amount of leads and new business we generate is directly and indisputably linked to how much marketing we send out every week.

I know this through experience. Everything I tell small business owners to do in their own marketing has been thoroughly tested and vetted by my own team first. We walk the walk, so to speak.

My staff and I have spent countless hours over the past 25 years studying how to improve marketing results, for us as well as that of our clients.

We boiled down our marketing research into a few simplicities - to be exact.

So without further ado...

Here are our 4 do-or-die takeaways from 2 decades of research (and 114,746 clients serviced)...

I hope you use them!!

1. Who you mail TO is just as important as what you say.

Yup, I'm talking about mailing lists. Mailing lists are the golden nuggets of direct mail marketing.

Regardless of your business's industry, you can buy a mailing list that targets your exact ideal prospect.

Not sure who your ideal prospect is?

I rarely recommend blanketing an entire geographical area with postcards when you can instead pinpoint and laser-target the prospects you most want to become customers.

But don't get me wrong...

For some industries (restaurants, some dentists, etc.) blasting your message to a radius around your business can work!

But if you're an insurance agent, a real estate investor, a CPA, etc. - you need to get more specific.

Here's a short list of just some of the demographics you can target with mailing lists:

  • Income
  • Zip codes
  • How long someone has been living in the home
  • Whether they're a homeowner or renter
  • Whether it's a single-family home or multiple-family unit
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Children in the home
  • Ages of children
  • Pets in the home
  • Credit score
  • And many, many more - seriously, if you ask, there is probably a list for it.

You can even get business-targeted lists if you're B2B. (Business to Business.)

If you've tried direct mail in the past and didn't see the results you hoped for, there's a chance you had a bad mailing list or one that wasn't targeted correctly for your business.

Any direct mail company worth their salt will guarantee their list to a certain percentage of deliverability.

At PostcardMania, we guarantee 90% deliverability on any mailing list we mail to on your behalf - but in reality, about 95% or more of the addresses are good.

2. There is a formula for designing postcards that works best.

Some people believe that all design is subjective and boils down to personal taste.

But that isn't quite true!

Here's why I say that:

Design is not color choice or font selection. That is the style of a design and, yes, sure, that is subjective.

But it isn't the design itself.

Here is the definition of design, according to Merriam-Webster:

"The arrangement of elements or details in a product or work of art."

What I care about most, when it comes to design, is that THE RIGHT ELEMENTS are all there and that they work well with each other to achieve effective communication and RESPONSE.

And what I've discovered after more than these 25 years designing postcards (because I actually started my entrepreneurial journey as a graphic design artist before PostcardMania) is that there are specific elements that need to be present in your design to maximize its chance at successfully communicating with recipients and generating a response.

As a former designer, I could write about this topic in length on its own.

In fact, I have!

So pop over to this Be-All, End-All Direct Mail Design Checklist to read up on what can make or break a postcard design.

3. Coordinated digital ads enhance a direct mail campaign and can lead to a 14,000% return on investment.

I have a lot of people tell me they want to promote digitally, and I tell them:

You should, but don't ditch direct mail.

Here just a few statistics that prove direct mail remains relevant and that saying adios would be a big mistake:

  • 81% of Americans pay attention to their mail
  • 55% say they "look forward" to what they'll receive in the mail
  • Consumers are 70% more likely to remember your business from direct mail

I want you to think about it - how YOU behave.

You get a piece of mail - IF you're the target market for that product or service you will see it, notice it and read it more than if you're not. And you may move it to another pile - the "I'm not ready to throw this away" pile. Or you may stick it up on the fridge.

Point is:

You will see it more than an ad you simply scroll past on your screen.

But that isn't to say that there isn't a place for on-screen ads. And they are effective when combined with other marketing.

In today's ad-saturated, multi-device household, you need to market yourself everywhere your prospects spend time.

And today, that means:

  • At home (with direct mail)
  • On the internet's largest ad network of websites (that's Google)
  • On everyone's favorite social media sites (Facebook and Instagram)

4. Consistency will make or break your return on investment.

My #1 piece of direct mail advice for small business owners?

It's more important than the mailing list, the design, and whether or not you run matching ads all over the internet.

It's what created results like these:

  • One real estate investor generated a 3,421% ROI
  • A family dentist got 337 new patients, $402,095 - an ROI of 2,079%.
  • A landscaping company brought in $50,000, an ROI of 1,400%.

I'm talking about consistency!

Yes, beyond bots and influencers and anything else trendy at the moment, consistency is my #1 successful action for small business owners who want to grow.

And here's why:

Your prospects must, must, MUST see your message over and over again in order to make an impression and break through their ad-fog to go from neutral to aware.

People are busy, and in order for your prospects to remember YOU over your competitors, it requires serious repetition.

And repetition doesn't necessarily mean you have to break your marketing budget.

Simply put:

Whatever marketing you can do, do it consistently.

My team and I work hard to make sure that business owners large and small alike have easy access to marketing resources and programs to help grow your business.

In 2018 we launched Everywhere Small Business, and it was a huge milestone and I wanted to dance around and scream from the rooftops, "YES, FINALLY!!!"

Because I know how busy you are as a business owner. I am there with you. And Everywhere Small Business is a serious time-saver and game-changer.

So, why?

Everywhere Small Business integrates Google, Facebook, and Instagram ads (PLUS ads on Gmail and YouTube with Everywhere Small Business Platinum) into targeted direct mail campaigns.

You can watch a 1-minute video about it here.

If you need any help at all with your marketing, don't hesitate to call one of my expert marketing consultants at 1-877-438-1507. They're trained to help you navigate the world of mailing lists, design, and creating marketing campaigns that actually GROW your business with consistent, qualified leads.

Joy GendusaJoy Gendusa is the Founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a fully-integrated marketing firm specializing in direct mail. She literally wrote the book on direct mail (The Ultimate Direct Mail Success Manual!) and offers free samples to all restaurant owners interested in postcard marketing. To claim these freebies, just visit: www.postcardmania.com.