Maximizing Response Rates for Direct Mail: 7 Effective Strategies

As you probably already know, direct mail actually has a higher response rate than digital advertising. However, it’s critical to take full advantage of your direct mailers if you want to meet and exceed your goals. 

There are several ways to improve response rates, including partnering with an experienced, knowledgeable direct mail company. But first, let’s talk about factors that influence response rates for direct mail campaigns.

Understanding Direct Mail Response Rates

The most seasoned direct mail experts consistently wrestle with fine tuning their direct mail campaigns to get the best response rates. The factors that influence campaign performance are many, including:

  • The target audience and audience segmentation
  • How competitive the industry they are advertising for is
  • Geo-targeting and advertising locations
  • Hyper-personalized messaging and creative
  • Incentives and compelling reasons for responding
  • Timing and when pieces land in mailboxes
  • Follow up campaigns — through digital ads, emails and additional direct mail pieces
  • and more!

So how do you gauge a baseline response rate? And how do you determine what to refine in your strategy to cut through the advertising noise and achieve higher response rates for direct mail? 

What are Good Response Rates for Direct Mail?

Most direct mail campaigns will receive a response from approximately 2.7% to 4.4% of receivers.[1] To put this into perspective, a digital ad online only has a 0.3% average, and emails generate 0.6%.[2]  Ultimately, a goal for your direct mail response rate will be determined by lots of factors, but establishing a baseline and refining your direct mail campaign strategy is your best bet to improving your ROI.

How to Improve Your Response Rates for Direct Mail Campaigns

Every day, people are inundated with advertisements — at least 4,000 total ads per day, which includes direct mail, online ads, TV ads, etc. To get the best direct mail response rate possible, you’ll need to take several steps to ensure your direct mail message stands out in the mailbox. 

The good news? Over 30% of Gen Z relies on direct mail advertising, and Boomers are over 50%. In other words, each generation pays more attention to their mail than you might think. By putting the following ideas into place, you can help drive even higher mail engagement, no matter who your audience is. 

1. Know the Demographics of Your Audience

Sometimes, direct mail can be sent to the wrong people, wasting your valuable advertising dollars. Understanding key demographics can help you avoid sending ads for lawn care or home renovations, for instance, to people who live in an apartment community. 

TIP: Know your direct mail mailing list and invest in quality data to help you target the right people for the right reasons. Plus, you’ll be able to tailor your messages and creative to specific audience segments, which can greatly enhance your direct mail ROI. 

Great direct mail companies already have access to updated demographics information. At Century Direct, we compile consumer information through affiliates such as the National Change of Address (NCOA), USPS Informed Delivery, and expert data collection and assessment.

2. Customize Messaging & Creative for Audience Segments

It’s no secret that we all have personal preferences. Maybe you like a red car, but your co-worker prefers blue. With personalized messaging, you can increase your response rates for direct mail by tailoring the words and pictures in your design to align with your audiences preferences. You might send a high-class neighborhood an upscale direct mail piece while saving the cost of fancy finishes on oil change advertisements that go to the general public who own mid-sized, mid-priced cars. Bottom line: Groups of people value different things, and you want your direct mail to play well with varying audiences. 

TIP: Be aware that the National Change of Address program doesn’t typically forward direct mail. Therefore, it’s critical to keep your mailing lists up to date in order to align messaging and creative. 

3. Optimize the Design of Your Direct Mail Piece 

The USPS is on a trend of raising their rates approximately twice per year, which keeps driving up the cost of sending direct mail.[3] In order to get the best response rate possible, you’ll want to take advantage of design protocol to qualify for postal discounts. At Century Direct, our USPS experts can help you assess your direct mail design and optimize it for USPS delivery with our Postal Optimization and Logistics services. We’ll consult with you regarding mail piece size, dimensions, packaging, delivery logistics and more.

TIP: Your audience wants to know they’re special. Using their name can raise responsiveness by 135%,[4] so don’t forget about personalization! Personalized content always gets a better response rate than a general mailing. 

4. Create an Enticing, Compelling Incentive

Who doesn’t like an offer they can’t refuse? Including a unique offer or discount is a great way to boost your direct mail response rate. Whether your goal is to acquire new customers, retain current ones, or increase brand awareness, identify something meaningful to your audience and deliver a delightful surprise they just can’t pass up!

TIP: Adding a bit of urgency never hurts either! Including “for a limited time only” or “while supplies last” can increase response rates, too.

5. Integrate Your Direct Mail Campaign with Digital Advertising

Through the help of a knowledgeable IP data provider and USPS informed delivery, you can target recipients before and after your direct mail lands in homes by integrating digital ads. Without the help of third party cookies, your targeting will be much more accurate and timely. Plus, you can target devices by matching physical addresses to IP addresses.

When it comes to integrating digital ads with your direct mail campaign, devising the right strategy from the start, tracking and follow up campaigns are paramount to improving your direct mail marketing response rates.

Speaking of tracking…

6. Track Your Direct Mail Campaign in Real Time

The best way to monitor, measure, and adjust your direct mail strategy is to track your campaigns from start through follow up. From determining ROI and cost-effectiveness to enhancing your planning abilities for future direct mail campaigns, working with a direct mail company that provides data in real-time equips you to:

  • Craft optimal messaging and creative for digital ads.
  • Plan for an influx of calls based on in-home mail dates.
  • Refine digital ads targeting based on responses to physical direct mail.
  • Avoid unnecessary costs in your direct mail marketing budget.  

TIP: Finding a direct mail company that provides a dashboard where you can see all the data in one place is a big win!

7. Partner with an Experienced Direct Mail Marketing Company

Ultimately, as seasoned as any marketing director or company stakeholder may be in their direct mail marketing efforts, the best way to increase your response rates for direct mail is to partner with an expert direct mail marketing company. They work in the industry every day, and can help you stay up-to-date on the latest direct mail solutions, tactics, and strategies to meet and exceed your goals. 

Get an Accessible, Responsive Direct Mail Guide

At Century Direct, we believe you deserve expert, responsive guidance to tackle every direct mail project with transparency and timeliness. We understand the complex, evolving landscape of direct mail marketing. That’s why since 1932, we’ve helped businesses and nonprofits efficiently strategize, produce, deliver, and track direct mail campaigns to meet and exceed their response rate goals. Contact us to get started today!






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This post was written by Eric Seid