With advanced tools at marketers’ disposal, planning the audience journey is key to making sure all the elements add up to an enhanced cross-channel experience.

One of the reasons for the recent increased interest in direct mail is the ability to use digital channels and assets to support the physical marketing piece and vice versa. 

With social media channels, content can be shared with prospects before the direct mailing arrives (to create brand/campaign awareness), email communication can be used to follow up and support, and marketing automation systems can be used to track and nurture leads.

Direct mail plays an important role throughout the different phases of the customers’ lifecycle, such as acquisition, cross-selling and up-selling, loyalty and retention and, ultimately, winning back lost customers. Data management is essential in order to enable marketers to identify the different stages of the customers’ lifecycle, as well as specific behavioural characteristics to optimise the customer lifetime value by adapting the customer communications and launching direct marketing campaigns.

Any direct mail campaign has at least three different audience categories depending on the time they take to examine a mailing:

  • 7 seconds: paying attention to pictures, company name and slogan
  • 10-20 seconds: reading the headlines and offer
  • 20+ seconds: where more text is read and desired action is taken.

With advanced tools at marketers’ disposal, planning the audience journey is key to making sure all the elements add up to an enhanced cross-channel experience. A carefully designed audience journey will not only outline all actions you want your prospects/customers to take at each stage of the campaign, but will also ensure you have all the processes up and running.

Moreover, depending on the type and the media composition of the campaign, you can increase its success by getting the sales department involved in the planning and execution processes. In the next pages we will focus on the key steps needed to bring successful direct mail campaigns to life.




Cost-effective and simple postcards are best for brief, clear messages. They work well for reminders, thank-you messages and special offers. Postcards are also an excellent way to contact current customers, who already know about a company’s products and services. Some postal operators offer customisable online postcard creators which significantly reduce the time you need to send out a postcard mailing.


Self mailers

These are brochures that fold into themselves and stay shut with an adhesive tab. Self-mailers make excellent introductions for prospective customers, because they can be full-colour and include thorough details about the company. These are more expensive than postcards but carry much more information and do not require an outer envelope.



In situations where confidentiality, order forms or the element of surprise are required, the traditional letter is often the best option. The letter can be a single-item personalised direct mail item or part of a comprehensive mailing package which includes business cards, a small brochure or a leaflet for a professional, polished presentation. Letters require separate postage and envelopes, they are best for current customers or highly qualified prospects.


Dimensional mailers

A dimensional mailer, such as a pop-up, tube or box, looks fresh and upscale. They are a compelling option for high-level contacts. Dimensional mailers can be used to give an overview of a company or simply to deliver a unique valuable item which the recipient would like to keep.


Non-standard folded mailers

Accordion, basic, exotic, gate, map, parallel, poster and roll folds. By using one of these solutions, you will make sure your direct mail stands out from the crowd and gets more attention and hands-on time. A large collection of print folding ideas is available on the foldfactory website.



To showcase a wide range of products, catalogues are the clear choice. The higher cost of producing high-quality catalogues means that it is best to send them to current customers or highly qualified prospects. Catalogues offer a great cross-selling opportunity, since customers don’t only see products they originally purchased, but also related or new ones.


Post-campaign measurement

Response rate

Many case studies for direct mail include this metric and it is an important first gauge of success since it reflects how favourably recipients viewed the initial marketing message by taking some kind of action, such as making a phone call, scanning a QR code, or logging into a personalised URL. However, if marketers have only this metric at their disposal, they might not be able to identify possible issues should the conversion rate for a campaign be lower than average.

Cost per lead

Marketers often think about print marketing in terms of cost per piece, but a more impactful measure — especially for variable digital print — is cost per lead, or how much it costs to get each person to respond. For example, if you print 50,000 generic postcards and get a 1% response rate (or 500 leads), at US$0.36 per mailer, each lead costs you US$36. If, on the other hand, you print 10,000 variable postcards and get a 5% response rate, at US$1.26 per personalised postcard, each lead costs you $25 which is considerably lower than with the campaign using generic postcards.

Conversion rate

This is the percentage of people who not only respond to the initial call to action but who follow through. Depending on the objectives of the campaign, this might be filling out a survey, making a purchase, or downloading a white paper from a website. Conversion rate is a more critical metric than response rate because you can have a 52% response rate to a campaign, but if only 6% of those responses convert, that’s only 3.1% of the original list. On the other hand, if you get a 12% response rate to personalised campaigns but the relevance results in a 60% conversion rate, that’s 7.2% of the original list.


Source: Foldfactory, DMA