Direct Mail Marketing

It’s never been more in vogue to hate all things “paper”. 

Paperless is the new norm, and creating a digital-first approach to nearly everything has become table-stakes. 

It can be tempting to assume that email has eclipsed traditional mail for lead generation and rendered direct mail marketing obsolete.

However, that can’t be farther from the truth. 

Thoughtfully crafted, expertly curated, and deeply personalized direct mail can deliver sensory-driven experiences memorable in ways digital advertising simply can’t replicate. 

Direct mail has the power to make lasting impressions that cut through the noise, allowing it to stand out as a much more effective marketing channel. 

In fact, According to the Data & Marketing Association, the average response rate for direct mail is around 4.9% for prospect lists and 9% for house lists. This is significantly higher than the average email response rate of less than 1%.

Let’s break it all down. 

What is direct mail marketing?

At its most basic level, direct mail in lead generation is physical marketing or promotional materials sent through traditional postal mail. It serves as a tangible and targeted approach to reach potential customers. 

Direct mail marketing involves the process of identifying prospects, understanding your targeted audience, and distributing your marketing materials to them. While the specific type of mail and messaging employed can vary greatly, most successful direct mail campaigns share common features.

If you’ve made it this far and already know the basics and are ready for a more tactical how-to guide, head on over to our guide where we cover how to use direct mail marketing like the pros to boost your ROI.

Why should you use direct mail marketing?

Direct mail marketing isn't just alive and well; it's thriving. However, it's important to note that success in direct mail hinges on knowing how to implement it effectively. 

Simply engaging in direct mail marketing isn't enough; you must be driven to execute it properly, just like any other marketing strategy.

When done properly, direct mail marketing is the most effective channel in hyperlocal lead generation dollar for dollar.

Keeping that in mind, there are several reasons you should consider leveraging direct mail marketing in your lead generation strategy. 

Direct mail marketing is tangible

One of the distinct advantages of direct mail marketing over digital communication is its tangibility.

Being able to simultaneously hold, touch, smell, and sometimes even hear, a piece of marketing material is something that, as of writing this piece in 2023, digital marketing can’t deliver.

The quality of the material (paper, mostly), the vibrancy of the colors, and the feel of the material in the hands can all enhance the perceived value of the message. Tangibility is almost always a way to make your recipient more likely to read and engage with your content.

While only 20 to 30 percent of emails usually get opened, a whopping 80 to 90 percent of direct mail gets opened by recipients.

Direct mail marketing has less competition

With the rise of digital marketing channels, there is less clutter in the physical mailbox compared to the digital inbox. This means that your direct mail piece has a higher chance of standing out and capturing the recipient's attention.

Direct mail marketing allows for deep personalization

You can address the recipient by name, tailor the content to their specific criteria or preferences (more on this in a bit), and even include personalized offers or discounts. This level of personalization can create a stronger connection with the recipient and increase the likelihood of a response or conversion.

Direct mail marketing builds trust and credibility

Direct mail is often perceived as more trustworthy and credible than digital advertising. With the increasing concerns about online privacy and security, receiving a physical mail piece from a reputable company can instill a sense of trust in the recipient. 

Direct mail marketing integrates with digital channels

Direct mail marketing can complement your digital marketing efforts by driving recipients to your online platforms.

Including QR codes, personalized URLs (PURLs), or social media handles in your direct mail pieces can encourage recipients to visit your website, engage with your social media content, or make online purchases. Being able to integrate campaigns direct mail and digital channels creates a more cohesive and effective marketing strategy.

Direct mail marketing is measurable

Direct mail marketing campaigns can be tracked and measured using various methods. By using unique tracking codes, personalized URLs, or dedicated phone numbers, you can attribute responses or conversions directly to your direct mail campaign. 

With several options to measure efficacy and performance, you’ll be able to effectively assess the performance of your direct mail efforts and make data-driven decisions for future campaigns.

Two types of direct mail marketing: Targeted Direct Mail vs Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)

Now that we’ve covered all the reasons to love direct mail marketing as a lead generation strategy, let’s take a deeper look into direct mail marketing as a category. 

In Direct mail marketing, two approaches have dominated the landscape: Targeted Direct Mail and Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) and, just like any multi-faceted marketing category, each of these two approaches to have their advantages as well as their drawbacks. 

Let’s break it down. 

Targeted Direct Mail

Targeted direct mail, as mentioned earlier, involves the selection of specific addresses based on highly specific criteria. This targeting process ensures that the direct mail piece reaches individuals who are most likely to be interested in the product, service, or message being promoted. 

While you can buy pre-built marketing lists, they won’t get you anywhere. At least, anywhere that allows you to stand out against the competition. 

Shameless plug - We highly recommend leveraging public records data to run highly effective targeted direct mail campaigns. Typically, with pre-built lists for purchase, only a handful of high-level, standard targeting criteria are applied - things like age, income, etc. 

In contrast, if you take the time to build your perfect list with public records, you’re able to apply over 250 targeting criteria (with PropertyRadar, of course!) and go beyond the traditional, high-level filtering criteria everyone else is using. 

Furthermore, by building your perfect list, you’ll have complete control over your direct mail pieces' creative elements and customization. 

You can design visually appealing materials, craft persuasive copy, and include personalized offers or discounts tailored to each recipient. 

This personalization level helps establish a connection with the recipient and increases the likelihood of a response or conversion. By addressing the recipient by name and incorporating relevant details based on situational data, Direct Mail can create a sense of exclusivity and make the recipient feel valued.

Avoiding the dreaded Dropped Zero

When mailing to a targeted list, nothing causes more issues with direct mail going out correctly than a “dropped zero”.

A “dropped zero” happens when exporting a list as a .csv file. Oftentimes, the leading zero may be dropped, causing data issues.

Postal services require all zip codes to have five digits. Inspect and validate your list, correcting any malformed zip codes, especially since direct mail services may reject addresses with incorrect zip codes. 

This problem has existed since early spreadsheet programs, and we’ve even written extensively about it in the past. It’s definitely worth the read. 

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)

In contrast, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) takes a broader approach to reaching potential customers. Instead of targeting specific addresses, EDDM allows marketers to saturate an entire geographic area or ZIP code with their mail pieces.

EDDM is particularly useful for local businesses or organizations that want to raise awareness within a specific neighborhood or community. 

Additionally, EDDM eliminates the need for a mailing list and simplifies the targeting process. Instead of addressing individual recipients, the mail pieces are addressed to "Postal Customer" or "Resident" and are delivered to every mailbox within the designated area.

Using EDDM, you can blanket a specific geographic region with your marketing message. This can be beneficial for promoting grand openings, local events, or general brand awareness. EDDM is cost-effective since it eliminates the expenses of purchasing or maintaining a mailing list.

It also streamlines the logistics of the mailing process, as marketers can work directly with postal services to distribute the mail pieces.

However, compared to Direct Mail, EDDM offers less personalization and customization. Since the mail pieces are not specifically addressed to individual recipients, the messaging needs to be more generic and applicable to a wider audience. 

EDDM may not provide the same level of targeted precision as Direct Mail. However, it can still be an effective strategy for businesses seeking to reach many potential customers in a specific area.

Types of Direct Mail Marketing Pieces

Think direct mail marketing is one-dimensional? Think again.

One of the best things about direct mail marketing is how many different shapes and sizes you can use to stand out.

From more straightforward pieces like postcards or brochures all the way through to lumpy mail, there's a whole spectrum of different options you can choose from.

With each one having a different use case, it's important to know which one best fits your specific direct mail marketing campaign's goals and objectives.

Let's break it down.


What are they? 

Postcards are a popular format for direct mail due to their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. They feature a concise message or promotion on one side, while the other side is reserved for the recipient's address and a space for a personalized note if desired.

When should you use them? 

Postcards are great for announcing sales, discounts, new products or services, and upcoming events. 

Brochures and Catalogs

What are they? 

Brochures and catalogs allow for more extensive content and can showcase multiple products or services in a visually appealing and organized manner. Brochures often use high-quality images, compelling descriptions, and clear call-to-action statements to encourage recipients to explore further or purchase. 

Alternatively, catalogs provide a comprehensive overview of product offerings and are commonly used in industries such as fashion, home goods, or travel.

When should you use them? 

Brochures and catalogs are ideal for providing detailed information about products, services, or company offerings.


What are they?

Letters offer a more personalized and formal approach to direct mail. They allow for a more in-depth and persuasive communication style. 

They can be highly tailored to address the recipient by name, acknowledge their specific needs or concerns, and provide personalized offers or solutions. Letters often include a compelling opening statement, a detailed explanation of benefits, and a clear call to action that prompts recipients to respond or take the desired action.

When should you use them? 

Letters are typically used for customer acquisition, customer retention, or building relationships with existing clients.

Flyers and Inserts

What are they?

Single-sheet papers, often in smaller sizes, that are designed to quickly capture attention with eye-catching visuals, bold headlines, and concise messaging, providing recipients with a snapshot of key information and incentives to encourage immediate action.

When should you use them? 

Flyers and inserts are highly effective tools for promoting events, special offers, or limited-time promotions. 

Dimensional Mail

What is it?

Dimensional mail adds a three-dimensional element to direct mail pieces, making them stand out and increasing the likelihood of engagement. This format often includes pop-up features, small gifts, or product samples. 

Dimensional mail creates a sense of intrigue and excitement, making recipients more likely to open and interact with the mail piece. 

When should you use it?

It can be particularly effective for product launches, promotions, or highly targeted campaigns where a memorable and interactive experience is desired.


What are they?

Self-mailers are versatile mail pieces that don't require an envelope and can be folded, tabbed, or sealed to create a self-contained mail piece. They are cost-effective, as they eliminate the need for additional envelope costs. Self-mailers can include multiple panels or pages to accommodate more content or creative designs.

When should you use them?

They are often used for newsletters, promotional updates, or informational materials that need to be delivered in an engaging and self-contained format.


What are they?

Magalogs combine elements of a magazine and a catalog to create an engaging and informative direct mail format. They typically feature editorial-style content alongside product or service offerings. 

Magalogs provide an opportunity to tell a story, showcase the benefits of products or services, and educate the recipients. They can include articles, customer testimonials, or expert insights to establish credibility and build interest in the featured offerings. 

When should you use them?

Magalogs are great leave-behinds in other complementary businesses. For instance, a flooring company can leave their magalog in the waiting room of a countertop wholesaling business. 

Lumpy Mail

What is it?

Lumpy mail is designed to have a bulge or unique shape that captures attention and piques curiosity. This format often includes an item related to the marketing message, such as a small promotional item, a product sample, or a personalized gift. 

With its unique shape, size, and feel, Lumpy mail immediately stands out, making recipients more likely to open and engage with the mail piece. When done right, it creates a memorable experience and gives you a better chance of creating a strong first impression.

When should you use it?

Lumpy mail can be used when you’re including small promotional items in your direct mailers.

Response Devices

What are they?

Response devices are included in direct mail to encourage recipients to take action. These can be in the form of tear-off coupons, order forms, reply cards, personalized URLs (PURLs), or dedicated phone numbers.

By providing a clear and convenient way to respond, response devices facilitate a direct and immediate call-to-action, giving your audience a compelling interactive experience.

When should you use them?

Response devices make it easy for recipients to respond directly to the direct mail piece and provide a measurable way to track the campaign's effectiveness.

Getting started with direct mail lists

Why you should use lists for your direct mail

A direct mail list comprises a collection of addresses specifically chosen to receive targeted promotional materials, coupons, and enticing offers, all with the aim of motivating recipients to make a purchase. 

Direct mail was distributed indiscriminately in the early days, with little consideration for an intended audience. Their “list” was a wide net of everyone living in a specific area, and didn’t consider additional demographic layers such as household income or financial data such as length of ownership. 

However, as advancements in data collection emerged, so did the ability to target precise demographics. 

As a result, savvy business owners quickly recognized the potential of leveraging data to identify individuals who closely aligned with their ideal customer profiles. 

By tailoring their mailers exclusively to these prospects, they could save on marketing expenses and optimize their return on investment (ROI).

In today's digital age, the scope of data collection has reached unprecedented levels, making it accessible for marketers and business owners of all experience levels to get mailing lists enriched with extensive data points.

While email marketing undeniably holds its place and should be a pivotal component of any comprehensive marketing strategy, overlooking the power of direct mail would be an oversight. Despite the dominance of digital channels, direct mail remains an effective, valuable tool that shouldn’t be underestimated.

If you’re looking to incorporate direct mail lists into your lead generation strategy, there are several questions (seven, to be exact) to ask before you buy your next list. 

Best lists to get started with

We can’t reiterate this enough: these lists should be your starting point

You can choose where to begin your list building from the lists below, but don’t stop there. 

Make sure to add additional demographic, situational, and financial criteria to create exclusive lead lists that nobody else has.

Vacant Properties

Absentee Owners

Cash Buyers


Free and Clear Owners

Potential Downsizers

New Homeowners

Underwater Owners 

Automating Your Direct Mail

Final question: What’s better than a direct mail marketing campaign with the perfect audience, compelling messaging, and a creative design?

One that’s automated!

When you’ve mastered the fundamentals of direct mail marketing, your next step is going to be to scale it. 

The best way to do this? Through automation.

With automation, you can save yourself tons of time, and even set up your direct mail system so that when a new lead matches your list’s criteria, a piece of personalized direct mail is instantly sent to them.

It’s the next level of your direct mail marketing - not only hitting someone with the right message but hitting them at the right time with that message.

The best part is, most automation tools sync up with your CRM, so you can use all your lead’s data to make your direct mail even more personalized. You can include their name, their purchase history, their preferences, etc.

Start discovering new opportunities using public records data today.

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