Shutterfly Business Solutions

Innovative ways to improve direct mail response rates

Direct mail is effective for building awareness and brand recognition, but its superpower is generating a response.

Few mediums trigger responses more effectively. A Statista study showed direct mail was nine times more effective for response rate than email, paid search, or social media. That makes sense. Xerox reported that the recipient opens 70% of direct mail, and 79% is read for a minute or more.

Today, we’ll share proven ways you can trigger more responses and measure greater impact of your direct mail campaigns. At Shutterfly Business Solutions, we’ve fulfilled billions of mail pieces and own one of the largest digital printing platforms in the world. Our vast volumes of user data set our strategies apart — especially when it comes to boosting response rates. 

Change your direct marketing mindset from response to ROI

Our best advice for improving response rates is to shift your thinking. Don’t dwell on response rates. It can become a dangerous misdirection that has you overspending and missing opportunities. 

The question you should be asking is this, “What’s the ROI of your direct mail program?”

Here’s why. Rarely is a company happy with a million responses that result in zero conversions. Common is the organization that uses direct mail to achieve business goals at or for less than budgeted. These are the ROI numbers for messages across different channels according to the Association of National Advertisers:

112% ROI for direct email. 102% ROI for SMS. 93% ROI for email.

One reason why direct mail’s ROI is so high is its low cost per acquisition. The Data and Marketing Association reports direct mail comes in at $19 per, while paid search is up to $30 per and internet display is up to $50 per. 

Ultimately, your direct mail evaluations should always come down to money. Think of direct mail in terms of your customer acquisition cost. This mindset will help you be more strategic (and cost-efficient) about who you are contacting, what you say, which direct mail format you use, and when you choose to mail them.

Postcard vs envelope: there is a response winner for direct mail campaigns

The first challenge to boosting your response rates is getting the recipient to engage with your direct mail piece. Luckily, Shutterfly Business Solutions has historical data on user behavior that can help overcome this hurdle.

Whatever the reason, people respond to letters in envelopes at a far greater rate than postcards. According to the Data & Marketing Association’s 2020 Response Rate Report, the average open rate for letters in direct mail campaigns was 42%, while the average open rate for postcards was 25%. 

Maybe it’s the mystery or a perception of a sense of importance. This much is certain; if you want a reply, put your message in an envelope. 

While it seems counterintuitive, concealment with an envelope is among the easiest strategies to increase your direct mail response rate.

Let readers pick their direct mail call to action

Stop asking what the sales or merchandising department wants when choosing a direct mail response mechanism. Start thinking about what your recipients prefer.  

Each audience has their preference for phone, text, web, etc. We advise you to determine what it is and give them the preferred option.

 The more native you make a response mechanism, the more likely the audience will use it. But don’t stop there. If feasible, go a step further. Provide multiple response mechanisms. Your target audience won’t have a single preference. Attempt to provide two, and perhaps three, ways they can reply to your direct mail. 

Make direct mail conversion rates click-simple with qr codes

Email is unsurpassed for response simplicity. It only requires a click. No number to dial, URL to enter, or form to complete. It can be just as easy for direct mail. All it takes is the addition of QR codes. 

Recipients can scan a QR code to activate many types of responses. It can take them to a website, download a file, enroll for texting, request a consult, even make a payment — just about anything. 

The use of QR Codes in the United States is booming. A study by MobileIron Research found 84% of people have used a QR code. But what about QR codes in direct mail? A Nellymoser report found the response rate to mail pieces with a QR code was 6.4%. According to the Direct Mail Marketing Association, the expected response rate for direct mail is only 4.4%.

Find the right direct mail cadence

Too much of anything is never a good thing. When sending direct mail, the frequency will make or break success. 

If a direct mail program is too present, it becomes easy to ignore — or become an annoyance. Look at your frequency from the recipient’s perspective.  Why should they read it if they know another one with the same pitch/content/offer will come next week? 

Conversely, you shouldn’t send direct mail too infrequently, either. Wait too long, and the audience could forget all about you. 

What’s the ideal cadence? Ideally, you want to connect with your audience at the right time with the right content. How will you achieve that? You’ll work with a direct mail strategist like Shutterfly Business Solutions. We can align our insights, data, and expertise to your direct mail goals and larger marketing program. Plus, a partner like Shutterfly Business Solutions has print-on-demand capabilities. That enables direct mail to be sent one piece at a time based on defined customer actions or schedules.

Narrow your audience focus for direct mail

Everyone in your audience is in a different place within the customer journey. Therefore, sending the same direct mail piece to everyone on a list is bound to fail. How will you avoid this? By digging into your customer relationship management tool. 

The better you can assign recipients to the top, middle, or bottom of your sales funnel, the more strategic you can be with direct mail content and strategy. Which will, in turn, give a boost to your response rate. 

Let’s put this advice into context. Don’t mail all one million people in your database with a time-sensitive offer. You will be far better served by targeting the 100K who are ready to buy. Doing so lowers your overall direct mail cost while significantly increasing conversion. 

That seems like an obvious concept — but many companies get it wrong. Why? Because it takes work to be efficient. Plus, they can claim they are being present or supporting brand awareness. Both points might be valid. However, from a pure ROI standpoint, the only metric that matters is response/conversion.

The role of direct mail within omnichannel marketing

Today, all marketing is omnichannel. Ideally, you give each avenue a strategic purpose and shape content to support that outcome. 

Some mediums create awareness, while others generate interest or educate buyers. Direct mail’s highest purpose is triggering responses at the moment of opportunity.  In a 2015 study, the Direct Marketing Association found that direct mail outperforms all digital channels combined in regards to response rate by 600%. When you use direct mail to elicit responses and get content and timing right, your marketing ROI ignites.

Direct mail paired with digital  campaigns produce 28% higher conversion rates and boosts response rates by 450%.
Source: Writer’s Block Live

While triggering response is direct mail’s highest purpose, it’s not its only use. Marketing-wise, direct mail serves each phase of the customer journey — awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. 

A clear message delivers more responses

The clearer you make a request in direct mail, the more likely it is to be understood and answered. So stay focused when creating content.

There is certainly a time and place for broad, wide-ranging communications. Often, that’s best served through the website. When creating direct mail content, try subtracting points from the message until you get down to its core purpose. 

Ultimately, adding more messaging to a direct mail piece will hurt your response rate.

Think back to classroom notes. Short, sweet and to the point. Here’s a classic, “Do you like me? Y or N?” It’s perfect. A direct question with an easy reply. Adding to it would only make it worse. “Do you like me? Y of N? If no, would you consider one of these four classmates instead? If not them, what if I told you I’m great at kickball? Y or N again?”

We’re not suggesting direct mail can’t say a lot. We strongly recommend that direct mail should have a tight focus when generating a response is the most critical metric.

Personalized direct mail gets replies

Speaking directly to a person is the most likely method to trigger a response. That’s the goal and result of personalized direct mail. It’s proven more effective than standard direct mail regarding engagement and response rates. 

Research shows personalized direct mail can increase response rates by as much as 50% compared to non-personalized mail.

Of course, personalized direct mail goes beyond a person’s name. It speaks to their interests and needs. It meets them exactly where they are in the customer journey. It also provides the exact content they need to take the next action. 

Additionally, personalized mail can lead to higher conversion rates, increased customer retention, and improved brand loyalty.

Improve your results with a direct mail company like Shutterfly Business Solutions

Direct Mail presents a powerful opportunity for your brand. When optimized, it creates a marketable edge that builds customer loyalty, creates interaction, nurtures journeys, and generates conversions. 

Powerful as it is, direct mail is just one solution. Shutterfly Business Solutions has thousands ready to share. Using our expertise, scalability, nationwide presence, and massive Shutterfly platform will maximize your communications. Let’s discuss how Shutterfly Business Solutions can improve your omnichannel communications in business gifting, direct mail, transactional mail, greeting cards, and books

Capitalize on Shutterfly Business Solution resources and workflows to solve your communication challenges.

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