Who's Reading Your Direct Mail?

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 21 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

You want to make sure your direct mail gets to the right audience at the right time. Do you know who’s reading your direct mail campaigns? We’re not talking about making sure your mailing lists include personal acquaintances. We’re talking about targeting, demographics, and collecting that follow-up data. Here are some tips for getting the readers you want.

Define an audience by habits.

Defining your audiences should start with your target’s purchasing and communication habits, not demographics. As you sketch out the ideal audience for your campaign, consider what the perfect match for your ask, product, or service probably does for a living, where he or she is regarding finances, when or how often he or she is likely to read mail, how connected he or she is to the digital sphere, what his or her interests and hobbies might be, etc. Once you’ve got a profile of habits, you can begin to match these to demographics. Sending out general blasts to demographics is not going be as effective — and you may fall into stereotyping rather than targeting — without first looking at what buying, life, and communication habits are an ideal match for your campaign.

Think twice about purchasing mailing lists.

We’re not saying don’t do it. But weigh your options. Purchasing ready-made lists of names and addresses by demographic can save you oodles of time and resources. But what you gain in convenience, you might lose in control. You’re not able, for instance, to define your audience by habits (see above), because you’re getting them pre-packaged. With purchased lists, your knowledge of the precision or actual appropriateness is less, and your risk is potentially greater. Purchased mailing lists are also a bounce-back risk because they have not been hand-selected and updated by you, and may contain inaccuracies such as wrong addresses that you have no way of catching. Purchased lists can be a great time saver in certain instances, but especially if your direct mail budget is tight, it’s smart to be careful.

Consider whether EDDM is right for you.

EDDM, or Every Door Direct Mail, is a paid service that will send your campaign out to every household in a certain neighborhood, region, or zip code. Instead of fishing with bait, this throws a net in a particular direction, hauling in everything it can. Again, this can pose a risk that you’re throwing your net on the wrong side of the boat, so to speak. However, it comes with a lower cost per lead, because you’re not getting the precision you would otherwise have. If you do decide to cast a wide net, consider a few helpful tips to make your mail stand out. People read mail that looks unusual, for example, and are more likely to open an envelope that is straightforward about who you are and what you’re wanting to say, rather than suspiciously obscuring or stretching the truth to get attention. Customers are savvy! EDDM might also be a great arena in which to do some A/B testing to see what customers like and get some very basic response data before investing in a more narrowly targeted outreach.

Look at others’ success, but don’t depend on it.

You can get clues about who is most likely to read your mail by checking out statistics beforehand. But stay aware that they won’t necessarily apply to your campaign. For instance, it’s now common knowledge that Millennials are crazy about direct mail. Along with older demographics, they are the most likely to show interest in and open up mail. But this does not mean you want to send your campaign to Millennials — or to those 60 and up — just to get readers. Do their habits match the habits and lifestyles of the people who would best respond to you, who would most benefit from what you’re communicating? Glean from the garden of others’ wisdom. Just expect your needs to differ to some degree.

Customize follow-through methods.

Most of us put microchips on our pets. If Bingo gets lost in the park, we know exactly where she’s gone by tracing her specific tracking device. If multiple dogs had the same number on their microchips, then it would become harder to figure out where Bingo is. A good trick in gathering data after a direct mail campaign is to customize a slightly different follow-through for each chosen demographic beforehand.

For example, what if you gave each of your target demographics a different online promotional code to redeem? Each response would trace back to a particular audience, and you can collect clear data. You can also provide different audiences different methods of responding customized to their known habits to make it more likely or convenient for them to respond. This is an area where you can get creative, get to know your audiences more, and collect really helpful follow-up data.

When you’ve got your direct mail strategy down, it can produce a great ROI. But the daily mailbox clean-out is quick and dirty. Readers need to know who you are right away, why you’re writing, and if they don’t recognize you, you’ve got to frontload your identity and branding work into your envelope. That’s right — the humble envelope still does a lot of the heavy lifting in direct mail.


So don’t leave it to chance. Now that we’ve helped you increase your read rate with a bit of handy advice, we’ll tell you how you can increase it with some snappy envelopes, too. Just give Letter Jacket a call, or start a chat, and we’ll help connect you with the size, shape, and customized look your envelopes need to get your message to the right folks who will read it.


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