Direct mail, as a marketing tactic, went out of style for a while.

The reasons why are understandable, but mostly a result of people doing it wrong.

The effectiveness of it hits a point of diminishing returns once you try to do it at too large of a scale.

But done properly, by keeping to these strict guidelines, it can reap immense rewards:

  • Your “list”, that is, your target market, has to be defined sharper than you think is necessary. Segment until you’re blue in the face and feel uncomfortable. Be strict, be clear.
  • Be clear.
  • Your message has to be the right fit – think message-to-market match the same way entrepreneurs and VC’s obsess over product/market fit. It has to have the language dialed in.
  • Your offer has to be great. A 10% discount is not good, it’s a tragedy. Take all the risks (money-back guarantees, etc.), and make it an absolute no-brainer where people feel foolish for not taking your offer.
  • Each piece of your direct mail has one 1 job to do. This is even more important than with email marketing. Your letter or package? Only to get someone to open. Your first sentence or two? Get someone to continue reading.
  • Be clear (yes, I’m saying that again).
  • It cannot just be a simple, boring letter. If it is, it better be different than other simple, boring letters.

That’s the starting point for even thinking about putting together a direct mail campaign.

Today, I have 3 examples of recent consumer direct mail that I received.

Before I get into them, you need to understand one thing: direct mail for B2C and B2B are completely different animals. The principles above apply to both, and you can translate what works in B2C, for use with B2B, but not vice versa.

The Potential of Direct Mail, When
Done Right, Is Exponential

B2B direct mail campaigns are the true “dark horse” in that hardly anyone are using them, and when they do, they do it wrong.

It’s an incredibly effective tool for lead and sales generation (getting those MQLs and SQLs).

Most of the direct mail campaigns I’ve run for clients average a 43% response rate within 4 steps. Out of those, actual deals and sales come out to about 21%.

You need to invest in the packages, what you put inside, copywriting, and so on, but it’s well worth it.

But anyway, on to the swipes.

Here Are A Few B2C Direct Mail Swipes That Are “Good Enough” (Made Me Open And Read)

I received these in the mail over the past month. These stood out to me enough to open, and then there were a few that were done well enough to read.

If you’re doing B2B direct mail (or thinking about doing it), you can learn from these examples, anyway. You can often translate B2C tactics into B2B, but it won’t work the other way.

Verizon was the winner, for a few reasons. Here’s why it worked:

  • I use Comcast and have had to suffer through their abysmal phone support (I’ve been lied to, up-charged, and given the run-around) – Verizon hits on this (remember what I said about target marketing and messaging? Nailed it).
  • The envelope itself was done to first capture my attention (see-through to a comic strip? What?) and wanting to read more (it made me laugh and I could immediately relate).
  • The rest of the letter reads well and is clear, concise, and hits all the right buttons. The comparison table was great, and the insert (another direct mail “trick”) was cute.

Here are photos:

You can see the comic through the plastic cover and it's pretty funny

You can see the comic through the plastic cover and it’s pretty funny

It certainly got me to open, and I see this:

I've highlighted the most important parts in green.

I’ve highlighted the most important parts in green.

The comic leads into the first sentence and paragraph, which agitates the pain of being a Comcast customer, and then the offer comes right away. This is good.

The P.S section makes reference to a comparison table. Good idea. Makes it easy to compare; does all the “heavy lifting” for you.

Excellent example of a comparison table. Well done.

Excellent example of a comparison table. Well done.

All in all, great effort by Verizon. Got me to open, and got me to read – and got me to consider their offer (truly, Comcast is a pain to deal with).

Did I ultimately switch? Nope, because the “cost of switching” and taking action felt like too much work. But if I have to deal with Comcast again on the phone, I just might.

But if Verizon had put me in a 4-step follow-up sequence, and kept on poking the pain? I probably would’ve switched.

Other Random Direct Mail Swipes That Are Decent

Here are some more examples, with commentary:

The seal is "touchable", which was enough to catch my attention

The seal is “touchable”, which was enough to catch my attention

The embossed seal did a great job catching my attention and making me curious enough to open.

But the letter itself was a fail. Boring, off-the-mark language, and terrible offer. Nice try, though, so try again CaptialOne.

Last example, from a local guy – really taking the “Personal Letter” approach to the max, and it’s the strength of it. The letter itself acted as the envelope and only had “To Current Residence” on it.

It’s a weak “open”, but it worked because that was all there was. No return address, or anything else. Just those three words. Talk about triggering curiosity.

Here it is:

Great example of a "Personal Letter"

Great example of a “Personal Letter”

It’s a great way to get rapport, build trust, and likeability. The language is personal, clear, sincere, and direct.

It didn’t work because the target market was wrong (I’m not the “property owner”), so I have no reason to hire this person.

Last example is, again, a decent example of getting me to open. The letter inside wasn’t that great, but the strength lies with triggering curiosity by leveraging something weird and quirky (a camel, saying my name).

Take a look:

The quirkiness got me to open - and that's all you need.

The quirkiness got me to open – and that’s all you need.

I Almost Didn’t Want To Tell You This…

Direct mail, when done right, is incredibly effective. It’s been making a quiet comeback over the past couple of years. There’s still time to use it before everyone else is and it loses its effectiveness again.

However, if you get the right message, for the right market, with the right offer, at the right time, with the right mail ingredients to get someone to open and read? Then you can use this year after year and always see positive ROI from this channel.

Most people do it wrong, and that’s the reason it can work for you.

As a Growth Marketing Consultant, I often advise my clients to use this (our models and strategies for this is pretty extensive and more in-depth than what I’ve described), and when we do, the returns surpasses expectations.

As a CMO, VP, owner, or Director, you should seriously consider using direct mail for lead and/or sales generation.

About Samuel J. Woods

I'm a Conversion Copywriter and Growth Consultant. My clients work with me to build and optimize their growth systems for customer acquisition and monetization.