Small businesses have more choices than ever when trying to reach customers. However, the tried-and-true method of direct mail marketing still comes with the personal touch that can lead to success.

For small businesses, the questions when it comes to direct mail marketing often revolve around which approach to take that will provide the most return on investment.

It’s not always easy because the list of options is long.

For those new to direct mail marketing, consider the following tips. They can help you better manage a direct mail marketing campaign. They also can improve your chances of converting potential customers into paying customers.

Direct Mail Marketing: Check Out the Competition

The best way to learn what direct mail marketing works is to get on a list yourself. Sign up to get mail from companies that work in your industry or something similar and see what they are doing to reach customers.  Make notes on what you felt a positive response to and what put you off. This research can provide a large amount of help to you immediately – in fact, it may be the most important research you do.

What Do Customers Want?

Another obvious step – that many companies don’t make – is to simply ask you customers what they want to see in a direct mail piece. Do they only want to be notified about discounts, coupons or special offers? Or are they more interested in being notified when certain types of items become available? You can even ask them to take a short survey on this issue, perhaps in exchange for a small discount.

Both of the above provide key information during your research. As much as doing this can show you the best way to reach customers and give them what they want, it also provides just as important information on what not to do.

Develop a List

You can build your own lists through your website, asking people to provide their email and address information. You can also ask for this information from customers if you have a traditional retail establishment. This can be a long and hard process, but at least you know you are reaching the target audience. Some reputable companies do offer lists of people in various target demographics, but beware of scam companies that offer lists that contain false or bad leads.

Be Different

Steve Jobs famously made “Think Different” his motto for Apple, and you would do well to make it your own personal motto. While you learned by research what the competition is doing, do not blindly follow them or attempt to duplicate their direct mail pieces. This is not a case where “fitting in” is a good idea. You want to stand out from the pack. Experiment with color, headlines, wording, envelope size and every other variable to create something unique to your industry.


You want people to open the mail. That means you might want to think about adding an incentive that is clearly visible on the envelope itself. However you do it, it’s important to give people an extra reason to open the envelope and read your content.

Write Great Copy

Once people look at your direct mail, you will want to have great copy that presents you in the best light possible and also makes a compelling case for buying your product or service. Hire the best people you can find to write your copy – trying to do it yourself puts many people in the uncomfortable position of taking on a job they are not equipped to handle. The same can be said for design of the mailer. You want to send the most attractive direct mail you can, and that typically involves hiring professionals.

Those are some of the issues to keep in mind as you consider getting into direct mail. While one of the oldest marketing techniques, it still can offer a solid return on investment if you approach it with sound decisions and a workable plan.