How to Design The Best Direct Mail Campaigns

Direct Mail Marketing Campaigns

Direct mail marketing is a great way for businesses to reach their target audience. When done correctly, it can produce a very high return on investment. There are a variety of aspects that businesses need to consider to ensure that they get the best possible results when it comes to planning a direct mail marketing campaign.

Why direct mail marketing is effective

You might be surprised to hear it, but when done well, direct mail marketing offers a higher return on investment than both paid search and display ads. In fact, direct mail marketing was hot on the heels of current leader social media marketing.

Direct mail marketing works for a variety of reasons, one of the key ones being that it is interactive. Customers have to physically handle your marketing material before determining whether they want to keep hold of it, which helps you to get more eyes on your content. If you include a promotional offer or coupon that your customers need to do something with, such as take it with them to a restaurant or enter a code online, they are much more likely to keep hold of it.

When it comes to creativity, the possibilities with direct mail marketing are endless. Businesses can use catalogues, calendars, cardboard cutouts, 3D content that requires assembly, pens, and so much more.

The digital age means that there aren’t as many competitors for direct mail marketing as there once were. Rolling out a digital marketing campaign is often seen as easier to implement and easier to track, but that doesn’t mean businesses should ignore other marketing methods.

Set your goals

Once you have decided that you want to run a direct mail campaign, the first step is to determine what you want to achieve. All marketing efforts are part of a strategy towards an end goal, and it is crucial that you keep this end goal in mind when designing a direct mail campaign. It could be to generate leads, increase sales, or simply to improve customer retention and loyalty.

All types of marketing campaigns will help a business to address a challenge that they face. It could be that no one knows who you are, or that potential customers think your business is too expensive. It could even be that you are launching a new product or service, or that you want to smooth out seasonal drops in revenue.

Before starting a new campaign, take the time to consider any marketing efforts your business carried out in the previous year. Think about what worked well, as well as anything that didn’t perform as well as you hoped. Consider offers that attracted a lot of attention, and graphics that drew in the greatest response.

After reviewing previous performance, you should create a SMART action. SMART stands for:


Many businesses fall into the trap of setting a goal that is too vague. Stating that you simply want to get “more customers” isn’t a specific enough goal, and therefore is not measurable.
If you are aiming to get more leads for a large contract, you could state that you want to get 10 new prospects from your campaign. If you are running a restaurant, your goal could be to increase footfall by 20%.
You should also be specific about what you want your customers to do and why they should do it. If this isn’t spelt out specifically, you will find that your direct mail campaign will not achieve the results that it could.


Metrics absolutely must be measurable. A SMART goal should focus on metrics such as response volume, number of leads, revenue, or return on investment. By setting a measurable goal, you will also make it easier to allocate a budget to your project.
All marketing campaigns must be cost-effective to be successful, and if your metric is not measurable, you could easily end up overspending.


Every business wants to increase its revenue dramatically and would love to have a turnover of £1 million each day, however, that just isn’t a viable goal for most businesses.
Consider where your business is now, and what a reasonable expectation from a marketing campaign is. If you set an over the top goal, you are just guaranteeing failure.


Campaigns need to be relevant, and the best way to achieve this is to keep in mind who you are targeting. By keeping in mind your ideal customer, you will be able to finesse your campaign and finely tune your audience. All of which are crucial to success.
If you send your marketing material to individuals that are incredibly unlikely to actually be interested, you just waste time and resources.


A goal that does not have a specific time frame is very difficult to measure. If it takes all year to gain three new leads, the campaign likely was not worthwhile.
If your campaign is focused on the festive season, your time frame for rolling out the campaign and measuring success should be the weeks or months surrounding Christmas.
Having a time frame in mind is also crucial when it comes to production. If you need to have materials printed by a third party, this will need to be factored into your campaign’s time frame.

Audience targeting

Once you have decided what you are hoping to achieve with your campaign, you can consider how you are going to target your ideal audience. There are a variety of ways that this can be achieved, and the best choice will depend on the individual business.

If you run a local restaurant, for example, targeting addresses by postcode might suffice. If you offer a business-to-business service that could help warehouses, you could target businesses operating out of industrial estates.


When planning the specifics of your direct mail campaign, you need to consider your overall budget for the project. By setting a budget early on, you can make key decisions about the type of marketing collateral you use, how many people you reach, and how the campaign will be fulfilled.

Size and specifications

No one can make a start on designing marketing collateral without a good idea of the specifications and size that the finished product will be. The final size and specifications of the finished product will likely also be determined by the goal that you have set out to achieve.

If you are planning to send a postcard, flyer, or catalogue, the standard “A” sizes are popular choices.


For printed products, businesses will also need to decide what finish they are going for; gloss is a popular choice, but satin, soft touch, and uncoated are all also available.

Gloss paper products have a shiny finish that gives images a high-definition appearance and adds an extra layer of protection too. This type is popular for mail types like brochures and postcards. The finish of satin stock is similar to gloss but is not as reflective. Soft-touch stock gives printed materials a polished, elegant finish enhanced by a velvety soft texture.

There are a wide variety of uncoated stocks that businesses can choose from depending on the final appearance that they are going for. These stocks could be textured or recycled, for example.

Fulfilment and postage

A large percentage of the final cost of a direct mail marketing campaign can be attributed to fulfilment and postage, and this should influence every step of the process. Individual flyers or postcards are the cheapest to post, and the cost will rise as the item gets larger and heavier.

Clear messaging

Once you have settled on the material, size, and budget for your campaign, you can start to think about the messaging. This should be heavily influenced by the SMART goal that you have set.

Avoid jargon

Many businesses fall into the pitfall of thinking that including technical terms and jargon makes them sound like they know what they are talking about. However, it can actually push prospective customers away.
Rather than using jargon that only people in the industry can understand, use terminology that is easy to understand. It doesn’t necessarily mean making your text shorter, just easier to understand.

Make it personalised

Consider using variable data printing to make your direct mail material as relevant to each individual recipient as possible. Variable data printing enables businesses and marketers to customise messages and designs for specific users to make the finished product more relevant. This can then help improve response rates and the overall return on investment.

Make it clear

Your offer needs to be clear and compelling. There is no point in offering customers a product or service if it is not going to be crystal clear in your marketing material. Clarity is absolutely essential.
The same goes for your call to action. Whatever you want your customers to do needs to be obvious and easy. If you want them to call your business, make sure the phone number is printed in bold and large characters. If you want an email, use one that is simple and easy to spell and remember. Consider including a map if you want a customer to visit your physical location and make sure the address is printed clearly.



The visual design of any marketing campaign should tie directly into your brand, and a brand is so much more than just a logo. If you have a website or a physical location, your printed materials should fit right in to give your customers a continuous experience.


Whilst your logo isn’t the be-all to end all, it is certainly a crucial part of your customer’s visual experience. Your logo should be consistent across each component of your marketing. If you want your customers to bring a coupon into a shop or restaurant, the logo on the coupon should be the same as the one on the signage when they arrive.


The colours that you use on your printed marketing materials should match the colours that you use elsewhere. If your restaurant has a strong blue theme, use blue on your printed materials. If your website has orange accents, use orange accents.
Your colour scheme should also make sense to your audience. Businesses that are expected to be professional at all times, such as lawyers, should avoid bright, garish colours.


Ever since design became digital, there have been hundreds if not thousands of fonts available that could be used. However, just because there is such a wealth of choice, it doesn’t mean that you should use loads of different font families in your marketing.
Stick to just a couple of font families that fit with the rest of your brand. Your chosen fonts should be easy to read above all else. Try to pick a strong sans serif font, such as Helvetica for your headings, and a more gentle serif font such as Palatino for the body.


Images and photographs need to be approached differently for print than they do for digital work. Images must be of a good enough quality to print from at your chosen size. As a rule, try to find images that are 300 DPI. If you aren’t sure what resolution is necessary or what you have, make sure it is double-checked before the image goes to print.

White space

A common misconception is that empty (or white) space is wasted space, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. White space is a crucial part of the design. Without white space, designs can quickly become cluttered, look busy, and be impossible to read or understand.
There are multiple types of white space that can be utilised depending on the requirements. Active white space is used between elements for emphasis. Passive white space, on the other hand, occurs naturally and is found around logos, graphics, or text.


As with all marketing collateral, direct mail marketing should be proofread multiple times by different people before it goes to print. Letting a design go to print without it being proofread first can lead to a costly and problematic mistake.

The content writer and designer responsible for the project should proofread it first, and then the design should be proofread by at least one third party who was not directly involved in the design and is seeing it for the first time.

In addition to proofreading the text, the design itself should be checked for print quality before going to a full print run. Once printed, colours and images can appear differently from how they do on screen.

You should also take the time to review tracking information or barcodes that are included to make sure that they are accurate and work. Printing a QR code that a customer would need to scan that doesn’t work not only wastes money, but can damage the customer’s impression of your business too.

Check and double-check absolutely everything before the design is sent for a full print run. It’s definitely preferable to spend more time checking the content before sending it to print than trying to retrospectively fix a problem that could have been avoided.

Test the design

Every new design should undergo A/B (or split) testing before it can be declared a success. To achieve the best results with an A/B test, you need to test as few variables as possible.

A basic split test will use just two variations on a design, with them being very slightly different. The difference could be as simple as a colour, or a paragraph of text could be worded slightly differently.

Before you get started, you need to have a reliable system in place to track the difference in performance between the two versions. A quick fix, if you were running a promotion with a discount code, would be to use two different codes. If you are giving users a QR code to scan, use different QR codes for each version.

Whichever method you choose, it needs to be relevant to the metric that you are measuring. If you are targeting conversions but your A/B test will be tracking visits, you are not going to get helpful results.

Find out more about how Printroom Group can help you with your direct mail marketing materials by browsing our full print catalogue or getting in touch.

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