Best Practices: Planning A Direct Mail Campaign

Posted by Ryan Neufeld on April 26, 2018 at 8:27 AM

I want to take you to the first step, ground floor, phase 1, level zero. This is before you launch into the creation of your direct mail piece or start selecting a list. Let’s rewind to the beginning. You’re leaning back in your chair, tapping your pencil, and staring at the blank piece of paper. How do you plan a direct mail campaign?

And what does the most efficient process look like?

Before you dive into the deliverables, you need to take care of the ground work first. This can be summed up to four main aspects.

  1. Decide what the goal of the campaign is
  2. Define your expectations for the mailing
  3. Develop a timeline
  4. Detail an outline

Now remember, taking care of these tasks should be the first thing you do. Before even thinking about writing your sales letter or firing up Adobe Illustrator. So let’s explore these critical first steps of your campaign.

Foundation architecture

What’s the goal?

First thing first, what’s the goal of your mailing? Is your goal to sell? Inform? Entertain? Before deciding, this will probably be answered by who you’re trying to reach. Are you mailing your customer list to let them know you’re throwing a customer appreciation BBQ? Or, you’re having a two day tent sale and are giving them a 20% off coupon. Or, you’re wanting to let your customers know about the latest and greatest product you released last month. Understanding your target recipient is going to help you zero in on the goal of your mailing. Know that the type of mail piece you decide on will be affected by this. If your goal is only to inform your customers, the piece would look way different than if you’re trying to make a sale. Realize the type of mail piece you send out will also affect the cost. Which is why you need a thorough grasp of what your aim is, in order to deliver a clear and effective message. This is a great place to start.

What are your expectations?

Time to move onto second aspect: determining your expectations for your direct mail campaign. Take the time to write down what you’re wanting to achieve from this campaign. This could be a financial expectation, such as a certain sales point. Or, this could be a benchmark number for participation or attendance. Make the result you’re wanting clear and specific. For example, if you’re hosting a two day seminar, write down how many people you’d like in attendance. Then, using this number, determine how many mail pieces you’d need to send out to accomplish this. And after the event is over, you can use that information for the next seminar to determine if any adjustments need to be made.

If you skip this step, how are you going to know how much you should spend or how many pieces to send out? Plus, after it’s over, how are you going to conclude whether it was successful or not? Doing this ahead of time can be a valuable tool in analyzing the outcome of your campaign. It can also be helpful and motivating when you’re starting to launch future campaigns.

Develop A Timeline

Third, develop a timeline for each part of your campaign. This sets the foundation for how and when you’re going to tackle the many tasks. Without deadlines and checkpoints, it can feel almost impossible to consistently make progress. Especially on a multi-step process like a direct mail campaign. You know as well as I do, it’s easy to get side tracked and distracted when you don’t have a plan to stick to. Do your best to stay disciplined and cross off your task list one at a time. If you can do this on a daily basis, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to get your mailing out on time. One of the most common mistakes I see in direct mail is someone who doesn’t take the time to flush out all the details of their mailing beforehand. And often, this comes back to cause some unnecessary complications right at the deadline that could’ve easily been prevented.

Detail An Outline

Fourth, detail an outline. This is the skeleton of your direct mail campaign and essential for keeping you aligned to the mission of your mailing. By creating this ahead of time, it gives you a compass to work toward the right direction. Detail out every task and what needs to be done. Often, planning a direct mail campaign will require the help of others. Creating this outline at the beginning can be an invaluable resource for keeping track of responsibilities. Assigning tasks and roles eliminates confusion and ambiguity that can derail a campaign from the start.

Once you’ve worked out these four aspects, you’re ready to launch into your direct mail campaign. Since you rolled up your sleeves in the early stages, you’ll reap the benefits as your campaign stays on the track to success throughout the process.

If you find yourself in the beginning phases of a direct mail campaign at the moment, be sure to download our free report, The Five Secrets of Every Success Direct Mail Campaign. You can apply these strategies to boost your next mailing!


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Topics: Direct Mail Marketing