Direct Mail in the Modern Era

Direct Mail in the Modern Era

Traditional direct mail is a very effective marketing channel. It’s extremely targeted and allows companies to speak to very specific audiences. It’s also one of the most intrusive channels there is. Recipients must look at the piece for at least a little bit — it’s a guaranteed touch. We discussed maximizing direct mail ROI in great detail previously. Check it out if you haven’t already!

There are two basic goals with direct mail in the modern era of marketing. The first is getting conversions from the initial mailing. This is when targets receive your mailer, see the value in one of your company’s products or services and contact you to purchase or learn more. Before the Digital Age, direct mail strategy was simple. Mailers were sent out, some targets would respond, sales would close on those respondents and the process was repeated.

However, that approach had one big problem: it didn’t do anything to address non-respondents. They were just chalked up as misses on that particular deployment, and companies would hope to get them the next time around. Some companies still take that approach, and it’s not the most effective way to deal with prospects and existing customers.

Digital integration is the way to handle direct mail in the modern era, and it can take your efforts to the next level. Most companies now realize that non-respondents, which typically are in the majority by a wide margin — still have great value. Putting a direct mail piece in their hands is an impression on a highly targeted audience, even if they didn’t act on it. You’ve made some of your best potential customers aware of your company. That’s better than utilizing a billboard or newspaper ad and hoping a qualified audience notices your message or the worst-case scenario of an unanswered cold call attempt.

Promote Engagement

The second goal of direct mail marketing is to get non-respondents at the very least to start engaging with your company. They may not be ready to purchase, but it’s good to compile small victories like getting them to visit your website, landing page or blog and be willing to expose themselves to more of your messaging. According to a recent article by the Huffington Post, 90% of customers go to a company’s website first, before calling or emailing. So, why not use your direct mail to invite them to check you out on the web? Let’s discuss the ways you can get targets to your website and, more importantly, start interacting with them.

Hooks & Calls to Action

What will get direct mail recipients to act and not just throw the piece away? The key is to provide value for them. You need to either give them something they actually want or solve a problem for them. These are called hooks. When developing hooks, it’s important to consider your personas and ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” What can you provide them that will entice them to come to your website and potentially provide you with more information about themselves?

It could be valuable content — information they can use to improve their businesses. Topics that will likely grab attention are ways to save money or ways to be more efficient with their processes. Content can be presented in a variety of ways. Top 10 lists are popular, and white papers are also common. A cost-benefit analysis can be enticing for businesses with long sales cycles and highly integrated products or services. You can also take a more modern approach and offer an informative webinar. Another option is an in-depth industry study provided with permission from a trade association.

Don’t discount the good, old-fashioned freebie, either. Promotional products can be attractive hooks. Who wouldn’t want a stainless steel coffee cup or a handy pizza cutter/ice cream scoop combo? People like free stuff, and you can use that as a door-opener.

Once you’ve established your hooks, you need to make it clear how recipients can get them. Calls to action are obvious directions on your direct mail pieces that provide instruction on what to do next. It could be as simple as, “Visit our website and submit a short form to get your white paper.”

It’s critical to make the process easy for the user. It should not be time-consuming, and it should be obvious that you’re not asking for a big commitment. You don’t want it to feel like a sales pitch. You also need to find the right balance of cost-benefit. Is the benefit you’re offering worth the time and effort? If you’re offering a keychain in exchange for a survey submission that takes 30 minutes to complete, you probably won’t get much response. However, if you’re offering a valuable white paper with lots of relevant information, you may get more people to bite.

Once targets get to your website, you must capitalize on the opportunity. In addition to exposing them to the information on your website, you can set the stage for additional engagement and nurturing by capturing their information. This not only opens more doors to be able to reach targets on additional channels but also provides you with knowledge about prospects that will enable you to create more relevant content. Here are some ways you can integrate technology into your direct mail efforts to push people to your website and gather data:


Utilizing a PURL (Personal Uniform Resource Locator) is effective because it provides a personal experience for the recipient while providing detailed data to the marketing team. An example of a PURL is During the mailing process, the recipient list gets interfaced with web-hosting software to generate unique URLs for each recipient. If there are 5,000 pieces of mail produced, there will be 5,000 PURLs generated by the system.

Typically, when recipients go to their PURL because of a hook or interest in your company, they are redirected to a landing page that is automatically pre-populated with information that is already known about them (name, address, etc.). It’s even possible to incorporate variable images of products/services in which you assume they may be interested.

There are two major advantages to using PURLs:

  1. It creates response because of the personalized experience. People will log on just to see their personalized website. They are more willing to engage because the content is all about them, not generic. This, in turn, pulls them deeper down the sales funnel.
  2. It provides detailed data you can use to track results. By utilizing either a marketing automation platform or website analytics, you will know when people go to the landing page and be able to track their behavior as they interact with content by clicking links or submitting information. An added bonus is that it helps you keep your database up to date by enabling visitors to verify or correct their information.


A GURL (General Uniform Resource Locator), also known as a vanity URL, is like a PURL except that the campaign uses a single URL as opposed to URLs specific to each recipient. An example of a GURL would be GURLs are usually utilized as transparent redirects (forwarding URLs) to a website.

Why is it helpful to utilize a GURL instead of just having recipients use your company’s web address? It’s a good way to track direct mail response vs. response from other channels. By utilizing website analytics, you can track which marketing channels are pushing visitors to your website. At Adventure Marketing Solutions, we recently used a series of different GURLs for a client to help them track web traffic coming from several marketing channels (email, blog, social media, direct mail, print ad and digital ad) so that we could easily see which channels were working best.

Marketing ROI Toolbox

Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) Triggers

Direct mail pieces with IMB triggers work similar to package tracking numbers in that they enable you to know the location of your mailers at all times. Each time the pieces reach a sorting facility and eventually the final post office destination, they are scanned in or out. As the barcode is scanned, it goes through the USPS system so that you can track it. Technologies can even be plugged into the USPS system to notify your marketing automation platform in order to trigger additional tactics.

IMB triggers are appealing for a couple of reasons:

  1. It enables you to track where the mail is so that you can anticipate traffic. You’ll be able to prepare your receptionist for an influx of calls, for instance. You can also have salespeople contact recipients in those areas ahead of time to begin the conversation with them and notify them that some helpful information is coming their way.
  2. It enables triggers for deeper engagement like emails (if addresses are available) and social boost ads that are deployed to the custom audience. Social sites use your list information to find the recipients that are on those platforms and display ads with the same message and offer as the direct mail. It’s a way to get two impressions instead of one.

Call Tracking

With call tracking, you can use your direct mail piece to have recipients call a vanity 800 number or vanity local number. The calls that come in to that number are routed to your desired business line and are recorded. You can access the recorded calls by logging into a dashboard. The recordings can be used to:

  1. Track the number of phone calls so that you can determine response.
  2. Review how your team handled the calls. It’s a helpful way to fine-tune your sales approach or train salespeople and customer service staff.

Follow-up Ads

Have you ever been on a website shopping for something, gone to a different website and seen an advertisement for what you were shopping for originally? That’s a follow-up ad, and it’s a good way of remaining in front of your targets.

When a direct mail recipient uses a PURL or GURL to visit your website, a snippet of code will put a “cookie” on their computer. Their computer then tells the display network (Google, Bing, Facebook, etc.) that they visited your site. Google alone rents millions of spots all over the internet (on 86% of all websites). The cookie will tell those sites to trigger follow-up ads to display as the recipient surfs the web. If an ad is clicked, it takes them back to your website or a landing page. By constantly being in front of them, you are helping them move further down the sales funnel and closer to becoming buy-ready.

Have additional questions about direct mail or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us.


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