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Best Direct Marketing Strategies for 2021

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This is Gemnote’s guide to crafting the best direct mail marketing strategies for 2021. Whether you’re looking for examples of the best direct mail marketing campaigns, tips on how to run a successful direct mail marketing campaign, or just want to get a better understanding of how it will help your brand; this is your ultimate resource.

We’ve provided some background on direct mail marketing, the advantages of direct mail marketing, and why it’s so effective. We’ve also pinpointed elements of direct mail marketing campaigns that made them so successful, both for internal purposes such as employee appreciation and external corporate gifts and brand awareness campaigns. Plus, we’ve added some examples of direct mail marketing campaigns that showcase the best print direct mail marketing material and physical branded items. If you’re not sure how to craft a killer direct mail marketing strategy or want some inspiration for creative items to include in a direct mail marketing campaign, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites for you to check out.

Direct mail marketing has been a staple technique for decades for a variety of reasons. It’s easy, has a far reach, and creates a more personal connection.

What does direct mail marketing mean?

Before we get into it, though, let’s look at what direct mail marketing means. Direct mail marketing is defined as a technique that uses mail service to deliver promotional printed pieces or physical branded items to targeted audiences. 

There are two key things to note here: Firstly, the presence of a physical item. Secondly, sending to a targeted audience. This form of marketing isn’t just a fluke experiment; there’s a direct mail marketing strategy in place that makes it a valuable part of your marketing budget. The more you’re able to target your direct mail marketing, the better your results will be.

Is direct mail marketing effective?

When you look at the statistics around direct mail response rates, you start to understand why it’s so popular. The direct mail response rate is far higher compared to email response rates. Surveys have found direct mail response rate is 4.4% compared to email’s 0.12%. That’s a huge disparity. It highlights the power of a physical item over an ephemeral email...especially when you consider that people receive an average of 121 emails a day, making it that much harder to catch someone’s attention. 

Direct mail marketing for small business and direct mail marketing for enterprise companies are most effective when you’re sending promotional materials to segmented groups, rather than a spray and pray approach. 

If done correctly, it can create a real connection between brands and audiences and drive higher brand awareness. If you want a creative way to market to new customers that will yield results, our marketing recommendation is to use direct mail marketing.


The creativity part of direct mail marketing attracts a lot of businesses and customers to this marketing method. The cost of a direct mail marketing campaign is versatile, and it can be tweaked across a variety of budgets without sacrificing engagement or interest. It’s a great way to go outside the realm of traditional advertising and try something new. 

With USPS direct mail marketing tools such as Every Door Direct Mail, there are many ways to measure and track direct mail marketing campaigns, making it an excellent investment. 


Examples of direct mail

Compared to digital advertising, there’s a lot of opportunity for creativity and fun with direct mail. Types of direct mail marketing include print and physical items, each one with its advantages.

Print items and collateral are great when you’re trying to provide new customers with information and build your brand awareness. You can also send swag kits and corporate gifts to establish your brand and give both new and existing customers a physical reminder of your business and brand loyalty. The direct mail marketing examples below demonstrate the breadth of available options for this kind of marketing, such as Sephora and Glossier’s beauty kits.


Airbnb is also one of the few companies that have used print alongside physical items for direct mail marketing campaigns. The print element is a travel magazine, which is a perfect complement to their service. Rather than using it solely as a promotional tool, they’ve created valuable content for existing and new customers. Their magazine includes articles on different locations to entice people to look at the magazine and travel tips. It’s an effective way to draw customers in, even if they aren’t familiar with the brand or may not be engaged.

Examples of direct mail marketing could include:

  • Postcards
  • Swag kits
  • Catalogs / pamphlets
  • Individual promotional items
  • Personalized letter
  • Brochures
  • Printed mailers
  • Dimensional packages
  • Perishable items
  • Corporate gifts

We have lots of examples of what direct mail marketing could include, so check out our blog for some inspiration and current gift trends. We also encourage you to peruse our lookbook to get an idea of products available and what the possibilities of direct mail marketing could be for your purposes.


There are many options, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you only need to stick to one type of direct mail marketing. If you’re looking to drive inbound direct mail marketing, you’ll need a strategic mix of print and physical items to create an effective campaign that establishes brand awareness and loyalty. 

Companies that do direct mail marketing right

When it comes to direct mail marketing, we’ve seen some great examples over the last few years that really demonstrate the role of creativity in strategy in crafting a direct mail marketing campaign. 

Each of these companies serves as an example of how direct mail marketing can reach new customer segments, celebrate existing brand loyalty, or its power in building internal company culture. The companies on this list have used direct mail marketing both internally and externally, to build brand loyalty and awareness in thoughtful, creative ways - which is great to see. Plus, there’s a wide array of products chosen across these different campaigns, highlighting the versatility of direct mail marketing. 

Here are some of our favorite examples of direct mail marketing campaigns:

Twitter 

Twitter’s multi-channel campaign asked Twitter users to describe what the platform meant to them. The best tweets were immortalized via billboards, subway stations walls and turnstiles, bus stops, and more around popular cities like NYC, SF, CHI, LA, SEA, and AUS. Users featured in the ‘Twitter is…’ were sent influencer packs as a thank you. 

The bespoke items included items with their tweets and other Twitter branded items. Users then tweeted their custom swag items, creating a viral campaign encouraging others to tweet about what ‘Twitter is’ for them.

The influencer pack with customized items was a great way to showcase how powerful the platform is and the different forms a tweet can take with a little bit of creativity. The fact that physical items were chosen rather than print material made it more impactful, especially when everyday-use branded items are added alongside, such as water bottles and caps. It’s a fun way to show off what makes Twitter so unique and create swag items that truly celebrate that uniqueness. 

TikTok

TikTok’s direct mail marketing strategy focused on building brand loyalty and developing relationships through direct mail marketing gifts. Tiktok has global activations for its platform influencers to celebrate holidays throughout the year and seasons, such as ummer under the sun and fall kickoff. Their strategy also includes sending targeted user groups such as TikTok educators, beauty influencers, fashion influencers, and other key user demographics.

Their chosen items are balanced between practical items such as hoodies and water bottles with smaller fun items such as branded candy, stickers, and pins; it’s a little bit of everything. Whether people take branded swag like water bottles on their next hike or add the pin to their bag, it’s a small but subtle way to show their loyalty to the brand. 

Each item is thoughtfully curated and selected to fit with the brand’s style. TikTok has also included more out-of-the-box options such as branded candy for an extra touch and be a bit more distinctive. 

McDonald's

A quintessential brand with distinctive branding, McDonald’s direct mail marketing campaigns hone in on the brand’s uniqueness while still giving people value. Branded gifts are sent to influencers as well as customers visiting their restaurants. They also run marketing campaigns in conjunction to generate further buzz, such as celebrity menus and bringing menu staples from other countries to US restaurants, e.g., Canada's poutine, Stroopwafel McFlurry from the Netherlands, etc. 

From the yellow polka dot umbrella to the t-shirt with the many McDonald’s iterations, each of the items selected is fun and cool and a great way to demonstrate their brand awareness. The items are practical, making them less likely to be dismissed. They are designed in a cool way to keep them from being boring. They've essentially taken an iconic brand that our grandparents can recognize and made it current, new, and fun for the new customer.

This is one of the best examples of direct mail marketing campaigns that balance design and function in the products chosen.

McDonald’s is also one of the best examples of direct mail marketing because it highlights the creativity of direct mail marketing campaigns and the possibilities of what can be done! From large items to small, there’s a little bit of everything to appeal to everyone, and everything is tastefully on-brand.

McDonald's Merch Store


Airbnb

Airbnb is another company that has distinctive branding, and there are a lot of ways to play around with different elements of their branding when designing corporate gifts and direct mail marketing items. Airbnb has a direct mail marketing campaign to celebrate and reward Super Hosts (i.e., power users on the platform that host guests) for their hard work and when they reach milestones on the platform. Their campaign also extends to users hosting experiences across cities to thank them for their hard work. Airbnb’s direct mail campaign sends swag to power users who use Airbnb frequently on the customer side. It also serves as a thank you for users who refer the platform to their friends. If the customer indicated they were celebrating their wedding or honeymoon, Airbnb has also sent a gift in previous years to the Airbnb they stayed at.

The designs they’ve chosen for their items is a great example of direct mail marketing because it balances advertising and beauty. The designs are not heavily branded, but they have that Airbnb touch, such as the ‘A’ logo on the notebook to identify the brand easily. It’s a great example of how to create direct mail marketing gifts that aren’t so branded that they could potentially alienate someone but still have the brand’s element to build loyalty.  The products emulate the brand’s style well, and it’s clear that a lot of thought went into curating and customizing each item.

Images via Airbnb

  

Slack

Slack has become an integral part of many people’s workforces and their direct mail marketing campaigns aims to solidify their position in the marketplace. They’ve delivered goodies and fun branded products to their customers, media, and integration partners. This was especially useful after a rebrand since the swag, and corporate gifts are a great way to show off the rebrand and get a little creative. 

Customers, both big and small companies that use the platform, and eventually refer the platform to others, get bespoke gifts as a thank you. This helps Slack build brand loyalty while also extending its reach to other sectors and industries. As a bonus, celebrities and influencers who have tweeted or mentioned using Slack for themselves get goodies too, as a thank you!

Slack is an excellent example of a direct mail marketing campaign because it didn’t focus on just the items inside the box. They also thought about the packaging itself and the unboxing experience. When people receive swag gifts and promotional items, the packaging itself is a key way to start the experience right. 

It’s a thoughtful touch, and by doing so, it builds excitement and anticipation! Recipients are extra excited when they open the box. Their direct mail marketing strategy was to provide some ‘treat yourself’ items such as chocolates and snacks for a little treat. They also included functional items such as branded clothing and smaller items that people could get a lot of use out. Direct mail marketing campaigns such as Slack’s also work well for employee appreciation and team building.


Features of a great direct mail marketing strategy

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what makes a great direct mail marketing strategy. There are some common elements across successful direct mail marketing campaigns that we’ve seen. Our marketing recommendations include advice on approaching strategy and the importance of tracking your direct mail marketing metrics so you can continually optimize. Here are some of our tips for direct mail marketing to make it as successful as possible:

1. Thoughtfully target your audience

It’s tempting to just send a big print blast off to a bunch of new addresses. Or just send a few favorite customers some gifts. While those definitely have their place as separate initiatives, these kinds of campaigns are a little different. A successful direct mail marketing campaign needs to be a bit more thoughtful in this approach and create a direct mail marketing strategy that helps target audiences. 

You could choose to run a direct mail marketing campaign that focuses on new business, so an audience that’s expressed interest in your brand but hasn’t entirely followed through. Or you can target areas where you have no existing customer base and start building awareness. 

There are a few options on how to do this. 

  • You can use direct mail marketing tools such as the USPS Every Door Direct Mail program.
  • You can buy or rent direct mail marketing lists. InfoUSA and Directmail.com are a starting point for many. 
  • You can create your in-house mailing lists. Look at who has been contacted in the past, who hasn’t, and who has expressed interest, and start segmenting from there.

2. Create a comprehensive plan

Once you have your audience identified, it’s time to take a deeper dive into your direct mail marketing campaign and plan. You need to think about every aspect of your campaign and what it needs. 

So once you have a list of recipients that you feel confident about, it’s time for the next part of your plan. What are you going to offer them with this campaign, and why should they choose you? One of the best practices for direct mail marketing is having a compelling offer for people to act on once they’ve received your mail.

Whether you’re using this as brand awareness or a loyalty tool, you need to show them why your brand is different. This naturally brings us to the next part of the plan: Design. Beautiful design, copy/text of the mailing, striking imagery - these are all integral components that build your brand for customers, so it’s important to be thoughtful about the campaign’s look and feel.

Images via Moo

3. A strong call to action helps

Whether it’s a corporate gift or new customer acquisition, a strong call to action helps. This can serve as a small flyer inside the gift box with the items. Or it can be a few lines at the end of print material, but it gives people something to act on. Clear directives are helpful. Focus on making the text powerful. Even if it’s a thank you for employee appreciation, it can make a difference. It could even be as simple as encouraging recipients to post the items on social media with specific hashtags to build awareness. 

4. Don't forget to retarget

Successful direct mail marketing campaigns aren’t just a one-and-done deal. Repeating campaigns at certain intervals helps keep your brand fresh in people’s heads, and it’s a great way to reinforce the brand loyalty or awareness you’ve built with the initial campaign. This is one of the best practices for direct mail marketing campaigns. 

Change some elements around for the next set to keep it interesting. So you could switch from swag kits to personalized postcards, for example, or go from a pamphlet to a small branded item. The key is to balance the campaigns, so you’re not bombarding recipients, but instead, position it as giving them friendly reminders about your brand. 

5. Measurement is key

When you start a direct mail marketing campaign, you have a specific vision or a goal in place. Maybe you want employees to feel appreciated and boost morale during remote work. Or you might want to see how much engagement your print material got with new customers. No matter what your ambition is with this campaign, it’s essential to have metrics to track success and identify optimization areas. USPS Direct mail marketing programs enable you to track progress so you can see if it’s successful. For internal purposes, such as employee appreciation, you can deploy surveys to employees before and after.  This will help you track changes and see if there’s been any improvement post-campaign.

Ultimately, the reason direct mail marketing is successful is that it feels personal. It doesn’t feel like a random email or spam. If done correctly, it’s a thoughtful way to show customers, employees, and potential new customers that you care. Using targeted direct marketing lists and having a solid direct mail marketing strategy in place, you can run an incredibly effective campaign that will get you engagement. 

With the guidance and expertise of direct marketing companies such as Gemnote, you’re able to curate and customize gifts that are exclusively picked for your audience. Plus, we’re able to take care of fulfillment, so you won’t have to worry about a thing. All you need to do is pick out what you send, and we’ll take care of the rest. Drop us a note, and let’s have a chat on how we can help.

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