13 Tips for Better Direct Mail Campaigns

Even in the Internet age, direct mail is a more popular marketing technique than video and social networking sites, according to data from NAR’s 2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Almost 20 percent of sales associates use direct mail in their marketing. Here are ideas for making this technique work best for you.

March 1, 2012

1. Provide a strong call for action. Don’t use direct mail to say what a great salesperson you are. Instead, ask people to do something, such as visit your Web site for area home prices or order a free home buyer guide.

2. Edit and proofread. Don’t send mail with typos, factual errors, or sloppy grammar. Whatever good message you have will be negated.

3. Match design to your audience. Know enough about the people you’re targeting to have an idea of which designs work with them and which don’t. A design that attracts teenagers might not work for older households you’re targeting for second-home purchases.

4. Have a brand identity and hit that identity hard in your mailing. Your audience won’t remember you if you don’t have a strong brand identity to go with your message.

5. Make your mailing part of a broader strategy. Sending out one piece won’t accomplish much. Set up a regular frequency of mailings (if not other media, such as local radio or newspaper ads) to reinforce your message and brand.

6. Match mailer size with postage class. If you want to save by using standard mail (third-class) postage, make sure your design falls into the letter category. A half-inch too long will classify your mailing as a flat.

7. Use the right indicia. The indicia is the marking that shows you’ve paid the postage. Determine the appropriate class of mail—for example, first class or standard mail; then, be sure to print the proper indicia on the piece. 

8. Fold self-mailers at the bottom. If your piece doesn’t use an envelope, be sure the opening is at the top so that only one tab (the tape that keeps the mailer closed) is required. That keeps costs down and ensures the piece doesn’t get snagged in the U.S. Postal Service’s mail-sorting machines.

9. Leave room for the address label. It’s easy to forget this from a design perspective. So, check with your mail house to see what size labels they routinely use and leave that space open in your design.

10. Keep copy out of the bar code area. This is another easy-to-forget design matter. The Postal Service stamps the bar code on the bottom, so keep that area clear; otherwise, their tape could cover your message.

11. Keep your return address out of the scanning area. The Postal Service uses an optical character recognition scanner that scans the center of a piece of mail, so make sure only the recipient’s address is in that area. Otherwise your mail might be returned to you. 

12. Stay away from a square design. You could incur a surcharge if your mailer is out of the ratio for postal equipment.

13. Use the right paper stock. A glossy stock won’t hold meter ink. So, if you use glossy stock, use an indicia rather than having the Postal Service run your pieces through a meter.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail program aims to make direct mail inexpensive and easy to use. Learn about it at www.uspseverydoor.com or listen to REALTOR® Magazine’s webinar, “A Smart Way to Market,” downloadable at magazine.realtor/webinars.

Sources: Understanding Marketing and Oak Tree Marketing.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.