What's the difference between mail and direct mail? Nothing. It's just a way the advertising world describes a promotional message that circumvents traditional media and appeals directly to an individual consumer. Usually through the United States mail, but other carriers also participate. Direct mail may be used more than you think.
Studies indicate that it is the third largest media expenditure behind television and newspaper. The United States Post Office upped the ante in the last decade by reinventing a revenue stream – one the internet was robbing from them – in rebranding Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). In 2017 as in 1917 as in 1817, USPS carriers still deliver to every single prospect you have.
Define your audience. Figure out who you want to reach before developing your direct mail program. This allows you to specifically target your message to fit common needs. It is the best advertising medium for "tailoring" your appeal.
Locate the right mailing list. You can either build a "house list" by doing the research yourself and compiling the information on a computer - or you can purchase an "outside list" from a list house or mailing organization already pre-prepared and ready to go. There are many ways to purchase lists. You can buy them demographically (by age, profession, habits or business), or geographically (by location, or zip code). Or you can buy a list with both qualities. More than likely, there is a mailing list company in your area that would be happy to consult with you on your needs. If not, there are a number of national mailing lists available. If you participate in the USPS EDDM, you select carrier routes from within a ZIP code.
For assembly, addressing and mailing your project, you also have the choice of doing it yourself or locating a mailing service company to do it for you. Not surprisingly, I know of a printer who does this service. As the numbers of your direct mail pieces increase, the more practical it is for you to enlist assistance. They also are very good at getting you the lowest postal rates. Consider using a self-addressed reply card or envelope to strengthen return. Use a Business Reply Postage Number on the envelope and you'll only pay for the cards which are sent back to you.
The blessing of direct mail is that there are no set rules for form or content. That's also the curse, by the way. The task of deciding what your mailing should have as content, its design and its message(s) is up to you. However, remember to attract the reader's attention with color and creativity. You're trying to stand out among anything else in the mailbox. Use clear, comfortable writing and make your appeal easy to respond. And of course, coordinate the mailing with other advertising media if you are also using them in the same campaign. It can significantly increase the potential return.
Photo by Andrey Bayda, used with permission.