Direct mail is one of the oldest forms of marketing, but it's still very effective today for driving sales. With proper strategy and execution, direct mail can be a powerful way to reach new buyers and grow your business.

In this guide, we'll cover what direct mail is, provide some campaign ideas, and discuss best practices to help you maximize your direct mail marketing efforts.

What is direct mail?

Direct mail is a physical mailing method for sending customers promotional materials, like flyers and postcards. It's a great way to connect with potential customers who may not be aware of your brand or its offerings.

Direct mail can also help you drive repeat business by reminding existing customers about your products and services. For example, you could send out special offers to entice past buyers to purchase or use your services again.

Direct mail marketing still works

Direct mail is still a proven way to engage customers. Not only is it a proven way to reach potential buyers, but studies have shown that direct mail can be more effective than other forms of marketing.

According to Lob's 2023 State of Direct Mail research, 74% of marketers say that direct mail achieves better results - conversion and response rates - than any other channel used. So despite how long the tactic has existed, sending direct mails via the postal service or delivery partners is an attractive option for businesses looking to reach a bigger audience and drive sales offline.

9 direct mail campaign ideas for ecommerce and retail brands

There are a variety of direct mail marketing campaigns that ecommerce and retail brands can use to increase sales. Whether you're looking for a cost-effective option or something more creative, here are five direct mail campaign ideas to get your business started.

1. Reward program postcards

Create personalized postcards that reward customers for their loyalty. Offer discounts, free delivery, or other benefits to encourage customers to shop with you again.

Say you own a clothing store. You could send out postcards offering a 10% discount on customers' next purchase, free shipping if they buy two or more items or an exclusive coupon code for VIP customers who have purchased from your store multiple times.

2. Seasonal mailers

Take advantage of seasonal events and holidays by creating special offers around them. You can send postcards, flyers, or even gifts to build product and brand awareness.

For example, if your brand is running a summer sale, you can send out postcards featuring bright colors and beach-themed designs to customers. Or, if it's Valentine's Day, you could create mailers with hearts and special offers for couples to take advantage of via your website, phone line, or in-store.

3. Local advertising mailers

Reach out to your local community by creating postcards tailored to the area. You can highlight special deals, discounts, or unique products that will entice people in the area to shop with you.

Imagine this scenario. You own a store in downtown Los Angeles and need to get more customers in the door. You could create postcards with a map of the area that features your store's location and other local/small businesses, attractions, and events. This initiative will incentivize people living in the area to explore downtown LA while also driving them to your store.

4. Birthday and congratulation cards

Send personalized cards to customers on their birthdays and include a coupon code for a special discount. This greeting card is an excellent way to show that you value your customers and encourage them to shop with you.

If you know any of your customers are celebrating a special event like retirement or an anniversary, create cards for those occasions too. This gesture may be enough to turn those customers into loyal, lifelong supporters of your brand.

5. Product samples

Send samples of your products to potential customers. Sampling is a great way to get people interested in your brand and show them what it's all about.

This marketing strategy will also give customers a firsthand experience with your products and services, giving them more incentive to shop from you. Even more - if you add coupons to the sample boxes, customers can try the product for free or receive a discount on their first purchase.

6. Upsell and cross-sell mailers

Target existing customers with upselling and cross-selling campaigns that feature products relevant to what they've already purchased. This technique will encourage customers to return to your store and purchase more items, contributing to recurring revenue.

For instance, if a customer purchased a pair of shoes from you, you could send them a postcard showcasing matching accessories like bags, scarves, or jewelry.

7. Product launch mailers

Keep your customers in the loop about new products and services by sending out product launch mailers. You can use these mailers to offer people exclusive discounts and offers on items that have yet to be released.

You could also include product reviews or testimonials from customers who have already sampled and are satisfied with the item. This social proof will help potential customers make informed decisions and build trust in your brand.

8. Personalized newsletters

Create monthly newsletters that are personalized with customers' information and interests. These letters will make them feel special and encourage them to stay connected with your brand.

You could include product updates, customer stories, discounts, or any other content relevant to the customer. The goal is to make customers feel part of an exclusive community and keep them engaged with your brand in the long run.

9. Referral mailers

Encourage customers to refer their family and friends to your brand by offering rewards. Referral marketing helps you grow your customer base while creating more opportunities for return customers.

Simply create a postcard or flyer with a referral code and an incentive - like a next-order discount - for customers to share with others. When someone uses the referral code, they'll also receive a discount on their purchase while you gain another loyal customer.

7 best practices for successful direct mail campaigns

Once you've decided on a campaign, there are some best practices to remember for successful direct mail marketing.

1. Personalize your mailers: Personalizing your mailers is critical to engaging customers and driving sales. If you have that information, you can personalize them with customer names, locations, or even interests. This personalization will make customers feel like the message is coming directly from you and increase the likelihood that they'll take action.

2. Include a clear call to action (CTA): Ensure your mailers include a clear call to action so customers know what exactly you want them to do. You can include instructions such as "Call us today" or "Visit our website" - whatever best fits your campaign's goal.

3. Make sure your timing is right: You don't want to send out mailers too early or too late, as this can cause them to go unread. To ensure maximum effectiveness, plan your campaign on an appropriate timeline for when customers will most likely receive the mailer and take action.

4. Track your results: Keeping track of the success of your campaigns is essential for understanding what works and what doesn't. The reports from this exercise will help you improve your direct mail efforts over time and maximize the return on investment (ROI).

5. Leverage other marketing channels: Direct mail shouldn't be used in isolation - it should be integrated with other offline and social shopping strategies. You can explore email marketing, QR codes, social media promotions, and other digital strategies to drive customers to your direct mail campaigns.

6. Incorporate cool pictures and graphic designs: Direct mail can be boring if it's just text, so include vibrant graphics and photos in your mailers. These visuals will help your message stand out and make it more memorable.

7. Focus on personalization: Personalizing your mailers can make all the difference in engagement and conversions from your target audience. If you can collect customer data, use it to create targeted campaigns tailored to each customer's interests, tastes, and demographics. And, of course, remember to include their names where possible!

Combine direct mail with SMS marketing for maximum results

Direct mail advertising can be a great way to engage customers and drive sales, but you shouldn't limit your marketing plan to just one channel. Take a multichannel approach instead.

Need help determining where to start? SMS is a good starting point. Combining direct mail with SMS marketing will help you reach potential customers and keep them engaged with your brand.

For example, an SMS campaign can drive customers to a holiday offering. You could also send text reminders about upcoming promotions or discounts featured in your direct mail campaigns. These notifications will help customers remember your offerings and encourage them to act.

Ready to start your text marketing journey? Book an Emotive demo.