Priority Mail: Yes! Direct Mail Marketing is Still Relevant

Are you looking for more evidence that direct mail works? How about this: the July 2011 issue of Journal of Marketing reported the results of a research project on multi-channel marketing (telephone calls, email, direct mail) for the service department of a large auto dealership. It found that customers accepted about twice as much direct mail, compared to phone calls and email, before their spending levels started to decrease. The researchers hypothesized that “customers view physical mail as less intrusive than telephone calls or email—they can view such messages at their own convenience.”

Quick printers whose customers have switched from direct mail to email for prospecting will be interested in these statistics:

  • • According to the United States Postal Service 2007 Household Diary Study, 80% of households read or scan advertising mail.
  • • In a 2008 survey sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association and Pitney Bowes, 39% of respondents said they tried a business for the first time because of direct mail advertising, and 70% said they renewed a business relationship because of a direct mail promotion.
  • • An iProspect study conducted in 2007 found that 67% of online searches were driven by offline messages, resulting in purchases 39% of the time. In addition, shoppers who receive a direct mail piece directing them to an online site spend, on average, 13% more than those who do not receive a printed piece.

A Direct Mail Piece for Today’s Market

The effectiveness of a direct mail piece is measured by the response it generates. Today, tracking responses is fast and reliable when the mail piece includes a PURL or a QR code. A QR code effectively makes the mail piece interactive, since scanning the code with a smartphone will take the viewer to a location on the Internet—a website, PURL landing page, video, social media page, or other location.

Not long ago, QR codes were a novelty, attracting attention mainly because of their unusual appearance. First introduced by national companies as part of their marketing campaigns, QR codes are now much more prevalent; appearing in magazine and newspaper display ads and on business cards, printed sales collateral, and direct mail pieces sent by local companies.

A QR code is effective because it stores data of all types—text, numbers and graphics—in a compact manner and provides a means of measuring response rate. A QR code is a mobile hyperlink to additional information that frees the viewer from his desktop computer, and allows the marketer to reach potential buyers anywhere, any time.

One caution about QR codes: the display on a mobile phone is very different from a desktop computer. Rather than linking to a desktop website, it is best to have the QR code point to a mobile website that has been optimized for viewing on a mobile phone.


Mail Piece Design

Including a PURL or QR code on a mail piece doesn’t change the basics of design, nor eliminate the need for a good mailing list. All direct mail pieces should include an offer and create a sense of urgency. The offer is the incentive the prospect needs to take the next step—to register interest.

Creating a sense of urgency motivates the prospect to act now rather than later. Here is where a QR code, especially one leading to instant gratification such as a redeemable coupon, has great advantage. It is quick and easy, taking just a few minutes of the prospect’s time. If it is properly constructed, the prospect may find it easier to respond immediately and move on rather than setting the offer aside for action later.


Using a Postcard as the Mail Piece

A postcard is an ideal mail piece for a PURL or QR code. It is large enough for a good sales message, yet doesn’t need to be opened for the message to be viewed. If including a QR code that leads the viewer to additional information, then a small 4x6” postcard may provide sufficient room for the message.

This size has a particular advantage—it can be mailed at the card rate. This is a subclass of First Class mail and has two advantages over Standard Mail: delivery priority and address services. Delivery priority means it will be processed ahead of standard and package mail. Address services means that if the mail piece is not deliverable as addressed, the mailer will be notified of the reason for non-delivery or will be provided with an updated address (as long as there is a return address on the mail piece).

The card has one other advantage—the postage rate is lower than for Standard Mail, except saturation mailings such as Every Door Direct Mail.

When designing the postcard, consider what the viewer will see first. This is usually the side of the postcard that has the mail panel, so design this carefully. The goal is to immediately attract attention and stimulate interest—the first two steps of AIDA (attention, interest, desire, and action). Include the QR code on this side, and make the design on this side as appealing as the reverse.

For any postcard, the address panel does not have to take up the entire right half of the card. For USPS specifications for the address panel, visit Postal Explorer at

The Importance of Repetition

The most effective direct mail marketing campaigns are repetitious. That is, they consist of more than one mailing and are spread over regular intervals such as monthly or quarterly. A mail piece generates a higher cumulative response rate when mailed three times to the same list rather than once to a larger list. This is because each subsequent mailing increases the likelihood that someone on the mailing list will be interested in your product or service or will notice the mail piece.

An interesting fact of human nature is that someone can receive the same mail piece up to seven times before they recall having seen it before. Make this fact work for your customers by using the same design for the entire campaign.


Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (, a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at