Direct Mail Journal

Direct Mail and Marketing Tips

Conjure Some Postcard Magic!

Conjure Some Postcard Magic!

Are your direct mail campaigns meeting your sales objectives? Give yourself a powerful treat this season and boost your ROI. These three simple techniques can help improve the effectiveness of your campaigns. Put them in your sack and take home the potential for supernatural returns.

In that spirit, Zairmail once again shares the 70/20/10 rule. The success of any direct mail campaign is based on the list (70%), the offer (20%), and anything left, the creative (10%). This can be a little counter-intuitive. There are many direct mail advertisers, and agencies, who focus on creative first – of course, that’s the fun part. Still, we all know from experience, if we put the right offer in the hands of the right prospect, good things tend to happen.

1. How is your list?

The list is often the most overlooked piece of a mailing campaign. Yet, it is the single most important ingredient for success, and often the easiest to adjust. With the rising cost of postage, the last thing we want to do is send a letter or postcard to anyone who will not be motivated to action, now or sometime in the future. Remember, it is a-okay to use direct mail to establish a brand and solidify a rapport, even if prospects will not purchase today.

Is The List Defined?

Just ask yourself, who is your ideal client? How do you define them? We often define consumers in terms of demographic characteristics such as geography, gender, income, family characteristics, … If our customers are businesses, then we can look at factors such as geographic region, size (e.g., sales, employees, offices, …), industry, growth rate, … The more specific that we can be when it comes to defining our ideal customer, the better opportunity we have to find the right list and create winning offers.

Do you have a house (customer) list? This can often be a good place to start. The people who have purchased your product(s) or service(s) in the past, can provide a snapshot of what our best future prospects look like. We need to nurture those relationships and then continue to grow our base of potential clients. If we don’t have a house list, or the list we have is a little starved in terms of reach, then we can always purchase additional contacts. One of the key advantages to direct mail is that demographics for lists are extremely well developed. We can pull lists based on any/all of the criteria outlined above – and a lot more!

List Health?

How healthy is your list? Harvard University tells us that over the past five years, each year more than 13% of the US population has moved. Over a three-year period of time that means 40% or more of your addresses could be bad. If you are using Zairmail for your mailing, then we automatically run each list (over 500 records) through the National Change of Address (NCOA) database and Coded Accuracy Support System (CASS) to assure that we are using the most current address and it’s deliverable.

Still, since postage represents ~70% of the cost of any direct mail campaign, we don’t want to burn postage on any mail that can’t be delivered. We need to keep all our lists updated and accurate. It can often be less expensive to replace an old list, rather than spending money on postage, just to see piles of undeliverable mail return.

Spend a little time reviewing the Zairmail Mailing List Boot Camp for more tips on how to find the perfect mailing list.

If you need more help, Zairmail provides electronic access and real-time counts for consumer lists from Acxiom, and business lists from Dunn & Bradstreet, as well as thousands of other specialty lists.

We can definitely help you rattle some chains and scare up the right list.

2. How compelling is your offer?

If we are sending mail to an existing or prospective customer, then we want them to do something, right? What do you want your customer to do? Do you want the recipient to send you a check? Do you want them to pick up the phone and call? Do you want them to visit your website? Do you want them to keep you in the mind for some future need? Do you want them to tell their family and friends about you? These are all legitimate goals for a direct mail campaign…of course, there are many more outcomes we could consider.

What will motivate the recipient to take that action?

Do we want to offer a one-time discount to get them used to purchasing from us and experiencing the benefits first-hand? Do we offer a free no-cost “analysis” so we can show the customer what to purchase and how they will benefit from our offerings? Do we offer a referral program, so that those who know us best, will send us qualified prospects that they know well?

There are also different styles of offers. One technique in sales is to start with a small “ask” to win the customer’s trust with minimum perceived risk. Another technique is to start with a big “ask”, and then rachet back, to let the customer discover their own comfort zone. Of course, we can mix and match these types of techniques to align with our products, services, and audience.


Once we have a potential formula in mind, then we need to put that message into bold and action oriented words. We need to state (a) what action we want them to take, and (b) what benefits they will receive in return. To the extent the benefits (far) outweigh the actions/cost, the results should be significant.

It is not unusual to have a few different ideas. One of the other benefits of direct mail is that you can test. Break your list into pieces, try different offers with each list, and then continue to refine the one that pulls best. Once we get a piece that performs well, then we can really step on the gas. However, this really should be a process of continuous improvement – we can always get better.

We need to make sure that any offer is time limited. Offers that don’t expire usually just gather cobwebs on the counter. We know, as a general rule in sales, that the further we get from the initial point of engagement with the client, the less likely they are to take action. We need to make sure that we provide a deadline to serve as a motivating force and remain top of mind.

3. Let’s get creative.

Creative might represent only 10% in our formula for success, but it can still be critical for success.

Consider a direct mail postcard. The first thing that must happen before your client can take action is they must get your message. Postcards have the benefit of being a small billboard in the mail. We still need to claw through the clutter and come out on top. This quite often entails a show stopping image and a compelling teaser (text).

There are many creative appeals that can be used: shock, emotional, humor, artistic, … We have covered many different ideas/approaches over time in this blog. The list is quite literally endless. We just need to make sure the appeal, image, and the copy text, all play well together and communicate a singular message and call to action. We also need to avoid clutter. Often, in this environment, less is more. People are busy, they have limited time to spend; be simple, be direct, make your offer pop.

We have offered many other tips on this blog here are some other interesting posts:

  1. Top tips on how to conduct an effective direct mail marketing campaign
  2. Stay ‘Top of Mind’ During the Holidays
  3. Howl For Your USPS Postage Treats Now!
  4. Going My Way?

By all means, be creative, super creative even; but don’t let your message get lost in the art or elegance. We have seen simple black and white postcards with a clear and powerful message that summon up astonishing results.

Now, how is that for a sweet treat?

Happy Halloween!



About the Author

Wilson Zehr is a Direct Mail Industry Expert, Direct Marketing Specialist, and CEO of Cendix (, the leading provider of Web-to-print solutions that increase sales both online and offline. He is also the founder of Zairmail (, the company responsible for many "industry firsts" in direct mail.


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