Is Direct Mail Marketing Still an Effective Strategy in an Increasingly Digital World?

large envelopes being placed in a mailbox

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This company using a direct mail marketing strategy to generate 35% more orders and a 60% increase in net revenue might surprise you…

NatureBox is an ecommerce business that offers natural snacks delivered to the doors of its subscribers.

This offer is a great idea, but the company struggled to gain initial traction. It wasn’t until they decided to leverage a direct mail marketing campaign that they really moved the needle.

As a result of that direct mail campaign, the company saw an increase of 35% in orders per customer. It also experienced a 60% increase in net revenue.

So, how did they do it?

The company sent out postcards to 50,000 past purchasers. It then compared the results to a different segment of inactive purchasers who didn’t receive any notification.

The process was very simple: an automated direct mailing service sent out a personalized postcard with a promo code. 

How did NatureBox get the addresses? 

From past payment information, stored digitally.

Why did the company take this approach?

Their digital campaigns were delivering disappointing click-through rate numbers… So NatureBox leveraged this “old” form of marketing to their advantage. 

Can direct mail marketing still work in a predominantly digital world?

NatureBox proves that it can… But let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers.

Check out a few other companies using direct mail strategy to their advantage in this related piece, “3 Big Brands Still Succeeding With Direct Mail.”

Why Does Direct Mail Still Work?

Incorporating direct mail into your marketing as a strategy might seem counterintuitive for many business owners, but figures show an untapped opportunity.

Small Business Trends statistics show the following numbers:

  • The average US advertiser spends around $167 per person on direct mail 
  • A direct mail marketing campaign can return an average of $2,095 on that investment
  • Open rates can approach 90%, much higher than click-through rates 
  • 70% of customers like the personal approach that direct mail provides
  • 54% of consumers prefer direct mail from the brands they like the most  
  • 62% of these consumers are likely to buy something as a direct result of being part of the direct mail campaign

Aside from the usual channels, take time to check out a few other alternative digital marketing networks that could boost your advertising campaigns (while costing you a lot less.)

As you can see, direct mail marketing is far from a relic of the past. The stats speak for themselves. Direct mail offers a targeted and personal approach that is effective for bringing back old customers and new ones, too.

Your business may benefit from this type of campaign too. Personalized postcards work… as long as you tailor them to your customer base and around your unique brand, services, and products.

In fact, the Small Business Trends survey shows that putting a name on that postcard can increase open rates by up to 135%.

Direct mail is not only alive – it’s currently one of the most profitable opportunities that exist for today’s marketers.

Check out this related article: “Is Direct Mail Dead? Don’t Believe The Hype.”

Direct Mail Marketing Cost

Mention direct mail to most entrepreneurs or executives, and concerns about cost immediately arise.

After all, direct mail marketing is often seen as a risky numbers game. Mail a bunch of letters or postcards, and a small percentage of prospects might respond.

So, how much does direct marketing cost?

Your direct mail piece would likely cost anywhere from 50 cents to more than $15 per person, depending on a few considerations:

  • Design costs – are you designing your direct mails yourself, or are you hiring a professional designer?
  • Marketing copy costs – chances are, you’ll be writing your own marketing copy. For better results, consider hiring a good copywriter.
  • Mailing list costs – it’s great if you’ve been gathering contact data yourself and building your own mailing list. Some companies, however, might opt to purchase these lists from third-party providers.
  • Printing costs – this is where paper quality, the type of print job, quantity, and size comes into play.
  • Distribution costs – this will depend on current postage rates, the weight of all that mail, and the amount you’re sending out.

Find out how you can maximize your direct mail marketing efforts by checking out this related article: “How To Get BIG Response From (Really) Small Direct Mail Campaigns.”

Direct Mail Marketing Tips

Along with your regular digital marketing campaigns, direct mail campaigns offer temporary boosts. You can even combine direct mail creatively with your other marketing channels to maximize results. 

Here are four direct mail marketing tips with the power to change the way you acquire new business.

1. Think Like Your Customer

What you want and what your customer wants could be very different. At the end of the day, you want your customer’s attention… and you want them to make a purchase.

So, how do you make that happen?

First, find out what your customers want and what they find pleasing. 

Then ask yourself: 

  • Does it represent my brand well enough? 
  • Is it offering the customer a solution to their problem? 
  • Does it offer a clear and compelling call to action?

Remove the guesswork by split-testing at least two different postcard versions and let the data do the talking. We’ve been using direct mail for over ten years, and even now, the winning piece often comes as a surprise to us. 

2. Use Graphics to Grab Attention Quickly

Worried about customers losing interest in your offer? It takes them less than eight seconds to do so. Creative graphics are a great way to capture their interest early on. This means no stock images!

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What do they like? Think of images and artwork that emphasize your promotion and best represent your brand.

Don’t overwork the customer’s brain with too many images either – two or three are usually enough. You don’t want to drive attention away from the headline of your postcard… Or the message.

Side note: always end your copy with a call to action. Nothing too forceful, but it’s best to stress a sense of urgency, such as a limited-time offer.

3. Focus on Benefits (Rather Than Features)

You often hear that copywriting is key during direct-mail campaigns. That’s true. 

What you don’t often hear is why…

It’s because the copy has the power to shape the message.

Use the copy to your advantage. Don’t focus on describing the features of your products or services. Focus on explaining the benefits with a few words. You want your readers to quickly understand exactly what you offer.

Some customers are interested in discounts, others in quality services. Still, others may want to hear about the convenience of your service or product.

Are you tired of launching bad digital marketing campaigns that fall flat? Read more about creating an effective marketing campaign (and fixing any mistakes you might have).

4. Understand Your Vertical

Thinking like your customer is not enough. You need an understanding of your entire customer base and what you’re campaigning for. What type of campaign are you running? 

Not all markets respond in the same way. Some customers stay away from envelopes that don’t look official. Anything marked as promotional may remain unopened. Handwritten envelopes are also proven to increase open rates.

What kind of business are you running? An e-commerce customer base tends to wait for a promotional campaign before they take action. If you’re in financial marketing, it’s a different story.

You’ll want your direct mail marketing campaign to look official and trustworthy. It should also deliver important information. In the end, you need a good understanding of your target audience to run a successful direct mail marketing campaign.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be difficult to create a winning piece that gets attention. For even more tips on improving your direct mail strategy, check out our related article, “How to “Win” with Direct Mail Marketing.”


Are direct mailers effective? Without a doubt! It’s still great in today’s digital world. However, customizing your campaign is more important than ever. This means always picking a narrow market segment for your campaign.

Create unique, personalized copy and use graphics to your advantage. Most importantly, identify your dream audience and show them why you offer more value than your competitors.

A direct mail marketing campaign shouldn’t replace digital marketing, and it shouldn’t tap into the same budget. Remember that direct mail is often best used for occasional boosts in revenue and customer acquisition.

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