Whilst digital marketing topics are by far the most sought after when it comes to marketing training, we still have a lot of interest in how to deploy direct mail effectively. It does after all still represent an estimated $500m of marketing spend per year by Australian businesses. 

In spite of the ever-improving and expanding world of digital, mail has appeal for many marketers because of the scope for personalisation, creativity, range of formats, customer involvement and targetability. However it’s not cheap and it takes time to develop and produce. Many marketers new to direct mail take a stab at it, make a few basic errors through lack of experience and then wonder why the results are underwhelming.

It’s important therefore to make sure the basic conditions for success are met before diving in. Ask yourself whether the situation passes the ROAD test?


The stronger your relationship with your customer, the more likely you are to get a response. This sounds like a no brainer but many inexperienced marketers still attempt to solve their acquisition challenges simply by buying a list of prospects and sending them a letter. Yes it can and does work with good lists and a well-crafted pack, but existing customers will always respond better than prospects, and enquirers will always respond better than people on a cold list. So for the best ROI, use it on warm prospects or regular customers and test cold lists to learn.


What’s the value of the opportunity? Another reality check here. If my mailing gets a 2% response and only half of those people actually go on to buy something will I make a profit? Yes if I’m selling cars; no if I am selling Kit Kats – but if customers ended up buying 50 Kit Kats a year for 10 years and bought a range of other products from me – then yes. As for those big 3D packs that grab attention and win awards – send them to important decision-makers with big budgets – and have a great contact strategy built around it.


How niche is your target audience? If you’re trying to find men aged between 40 and 65 who like cooking and all you can find is a list of men in the right age bracket, then you’re taking a big risk sending all of them that tempting offer for a new set of saucepans. On the other hand if it’s a product with broad appeal the risk is lower. Also is the target audience receptive to mail? There’s actually a fair amount of conflicting research on this and it’s probably better to test than assume, after all we get far less unsolicited mail these days so there’s a good chance your pack will get opened.


Is it accurate and up-to-date, and how much depth do we have? Do we have anything in our database to help us understand these people better? And with this information offer them a more relevant product, with a more relevant incentive at a more relevant time and find a better way to talk to them.

If this sounds like direct marketing 101 well it probably is, but based on the number of times marketers ignore the basics it’s worth re-iterating.