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Direct mail marketing should always be part of your overall marketing plan, even if you are also running digital marketing. Direct mail campaigns can have more personalization and better audience targeting/tracking, leading to higher conversions and more sales.

Direct mail stands out more than other forms of advertisement and is a lot more memorable, especially in a world where we are getting dozens of emails in a day.

But how can you properly utilize direct mail for a better ROI? There are dozens of ways you can adjust your current direct mail pieces, but it is important to remember Ed Mayer’s 40-40-20 rule of mailing.

40-40-20 Mailing RuleThe 40-40-20 Rule of Mailing:

  • 40% of the responses a mail piece generates are attributable to the quality of your audience list.


  • 40% of the responses are attributable to the content and offers of the piece.


  • 20% of the response rates are attributable to the presentation of your mailing piece.


Let’s break this down and talk more specifically about how you can make changes to your current direct mail marketing to better follow the 40-40-20 rule and start getting more out of your campaigns.

Your Audience List

Are you mailing your pieces to the right people? There are a lot of variables to go into choosing your audience for a direct mail campaign. You will want to ensure you are mailing it to people who are most likely to turn into a customer. First off, think of how often you want to be mailing your customers. It could be monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or different variations depending on certain holidays or celebrations.

Think about where you want to send your pieces to. You could target by different zip codes, cities, multiple states, or a radius around your business. The important thing is to think about your ideal customer and how you could build your direct mail campaign around them. You can target gender, age, income, homeownership status, and much more.

Get creative about who you are sending it to. You could mail coupons to existing customers based on how long ago they made a purchase to try cross-selling products and get them to buy something again. Maybe they will be interested in your other products or services. If they just bought a new couch from you, they may be looking for a coffee table to go along with it. Or you could just target people who have never bought from you before and offer a special discount for their very first purchase.

If you haven’t been keeping customer lists or need help coming up with one then purchasing a list is always an option. There are many legitimate companies where you can buy a list of names and addresses that will fit your target audience, whether it be demographically (age, marital status, number of children, etc.), geographically (people within a 50-mile radius of your company), or by interests and shopping behaviors. Most companies will allow you to pay extra to get people’s email addresses. From there, you can combine your digital marketing with your direct mail marketing and send someone a follow-up email shortly before or after they receive your mail. There is not always a guarantee the email address that comes with a contact’s information is accurate (they may have lost access to the account, just don’t check that certain email address, etc.), but it may be worth it to try.

Just like you don’t want to send someone an email to an address they don’t have access to, you also don’t want to mail something to a customer who isn’t at the correct address anymore. Not only is that a wasted lead, but you could have saved some money or sent the piece to a customer who has the correct address entered.

At Walker 360, our SOC 2 and HIPAA-certified staff run all direct mail audience lists through the NCOA (National Change of Address) at no extra cost to make certain your data is accurate, updated, safe, and you aren’t sending offers to the wrong address. With the perfect audience list being sent to the right people, your direct mail campaigns are 40% of the way to being top-notch.


Your Content and Offers

The next part of the 40-40-20 Rule of Mailing focuses on the content and offers within your mailing piece.

Is the offer relevant to the recipient? Be sure to switch up the wording based on who you are targeting. A postcard going to an existing customer should not be the same as a postcard going to a lead. The content needs to be personalized and the type of customer will determine what messaging you need to put in your mail piece. If they have done business with you, they won’t need to know who you are or what you are about, they will want to know what products are new and what offers you have available. Or if someone hasn’t bought from you before, they will probably benefit from learning a bit about your business on top of what you have to offer. You will need to get across to them why they should be choosing your company instead of one of your competitors.

Now think about if your offer is going to make people want to respond to your mail piece. You must have a strong, compelling, and relevant offer. The larger the offer number, the better, even if you have to use different wording. For example, $100 dollars off is going to sound better than 40% off. Make the offer number larger and more captivating than anything else on the page. This is what will grab the reader’s attention and make a lasting impression.  The better the offer, the better your response rate, the higher your ROI.

Don’t forget to make your offers unique. People will eventually catch on if you keep giving away the same coupons over and over and doing so will give the impression that your deals aren’t real. Switch up your deals and always offer something exciting for those receiving your direct mail ads. Try having your offers coincide with different holidays like Christmas, 4th of July, Black Friday, or other special days

If you are giving out coupons or other offers, set up mail tracking. That way you can keep track of how many people are redeeming the coupon from your mailer rather than through another marketing funnel, like your company’s Facebook page. From there you can determine what advertising methods are working best and how to improve upon them. Or you may discover certain coupons don’t perform as well as others.

If there is no offer, focus on the content. The more customized your mail is, the better. Advance customization on mail pieces can be done with variable data printing (VPD). Variable data printing allows you to customize all of your pieces and switch out different information or graphics without slowing down the printing process. This can help your mail stand out by switching out different offers, names, addresses, and so much more. With variable data printing, the options are endless.


The Presentation of Your Mailing Piece

The final piece to the 40-40-20 Rule of Mailing is the presentation of your mail piece. There are several different forms of mail you can utilize in direct mail marketing: postcards, self-mailers, magazines, letters, catalogs, and so much more.

Determine what form of print media is best for you. Self-mailers can provide a lasting impression with their engaging and unique design, but maybe you are looking to be more aggressive with the selling of your products and prefer a lengthy catalog so your customers can get the full scope of the multiple products you offer. If you want a more professional-looking mail piece, consider utilizing letter and envelope mailing.

Also consider how much room you have on your piece for information and pictures to be displayed. A small 4”x6” postcard can’t have nearly as much information as an 8”x11.5” letter. It is important to consider the print area – it may be smaller than what you are expecting. Just because you have an 8” x 11.5” space doesn’t mean the printer can put words or pictures on every inch of it. Generally speaking, the print area is roughly 0.5 inches in on all four sides of the mailing piece. This is commonly referred to as the “bleed” area. Familiarize yourself with the different bleed areas and determine if you will have room for your message.

Evaluate each of your options and choose one that aligns with the goals of your direct mail marketing campaign. Make sure to consider your message and how the reader will perceive the piece based on the timing and what form the piece arrives as.

Once you have a piece picked, it is time to think about the design. You should always use color as opposed to black and white. As mentioned above, be sure to personalize your mail with variable data printing. Try to change out different graphics, call to actions, including the product they last bought, feature a product they already own or add other forms of personalization. The mail should be both easy to read and easy to open.

All the main points of your message should be featured first. Then add other relevant information as deemed necessary based on what can fit on the mailer. All the contact information should be listed somewhere on the piece. This includes a phone number to call, a website URL to research, your business name and logo, and social media channels. Your brand imaging is important and providing contact information to your customers is essential. Consider using a QR code to direct people to specific areas on your website or social media channels. You can track how often this QR code is being used and use the data to further optimize your direct mail marketing.

Your direct mail piece also must meet the United States Postal Service (USPS) requirements as well. The mailing requirements vary depending on the type of piece, weight, and size. For your convenience, we have a FREE mailing kit and paper sample book that explains everything USPS requires to send out your direct mail campaign without any issues. Get your free copy today by submitting your information in this form!


Getting Set Up with Direct Mail Marketing

Whether you are currently running direct mail campaigns or are brand new, there is always room for improvement. Be different with your direct mail and catch the eyes of your readers every time you mail something out. Located in Montgomery, Alabama, Walker360 is here to help you reach your mailing goals with outstanding design, printing, and mailing services. Reach out to Walker360 today and let us help you get started with your next mailing project.