How To Use Direct Mail To Build Demand

A lot is made these days about retaining customers and engendering customer loyalty.

Building customer loyalty and providing exceptional customer experiences is vital – but it’s not 100% foolproof. You will lose customers, either through changes in their preferences in behavior or through something you do.

In addition, it’s hard to grow your business without attracting new customers.

Given that, attracting and nurturing new customers is vital – but it’s so expensive.

The ideal would be to lower the cost of customer acquisition and funnel some of those savings into customer experience and retention, so you can provide a steady stream of new customers while keeping your current customers happy.

Customer-acquisition and customer-experience strategies are not mutually exclusive. You can pursue both, and be good at both – and direct mail can be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to build demand for your product or service among new customers.

Let’s look at some of the ways that you can use direct mail to acquire new customers and build demand.

Direct mail requires you to think hard about customer segmentation.

You could conduct a direct-mail campaign where you send a piece of mail to everyone, but even the most broad-based appeals work better with some basic customer segmentation to improve response rates and keep down costs.

Unlike social-media marketing, where you can throw a Facebook post into the air indiscriminately, direct mail is targeted by design. It’s meant to go to a subset of the population. And thanks to advancements in data segmenting, direct mail lets you target potential customers with near-surgical precision.

In order to do that, however, you have to put some thought into the demographic composition of your target customer – something that you may not have done if you were relying entirely on social-media marketing.

Understanding your ideal customer isn’t a chore that’s only associated with direct-mail marketing; it’s something you should be doing regularly, so you’re always delivering the appropriate message to the right people.

If you haven’t given much thought to the segmentation of your customer and prospect bases and how you want to approach marketing to each segment, direct mail will force you into that discipline.

It worked for Workfront. This management-software company actually used a marketing research firm to clearly identify 500 top prospects, and then sent the prospects flowers and a valentine encouraging them to “break up” with their current software provider.

Did it work? The company wrote more than $370,000 in new business, so you might say so.

Don’t resent prospect qualification; it’s good for you.

Direct mail provides multiple points of interaction.

Your ideal first contact with a potential customer would be something more than just a glance on a feed; it would have the prospect take several minutes interacting with your brand in many different ways.

In short, it would be the sort of interactive contact that’s the specialty of direct mail.

Initial brand interactions on the web often last fewer than 30 seconds; initial interactions on social media are even quicker.

Just the average direct-mail piece has a lifespan of 17 days. The average lifespan of an email is 17 seconds. During those 17 days you can interact with a customer via sight and touch – and even hearing, smell, and taste. In fact the more senses you involve in a direct mail piece, the greater the amount of brand interaction and retention.

A great example of this is Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2018 “Scan, Scratch, Sniff and Win!”  promotion, which featured a coconut-scented scratch-‘n’-sniff patch and QR codes linking to videos of families having fun in the Bahamas.

By using direct mail to deliver a multisensory, interactive experience right into prospects’ hands, you’ve taken an important first step in building brand awareness and demand for your product.


Direct mail can be set up in a stepwise fashion that mimics the way people make product decisions.

One of the hardest aspects of web marketing is determining attribution – that is, figuring out which message or ad out of scores of messages and ads pushed the customer over the edge and convinced them to buy.

By setting up a direct-mail campaign as a series of discrete steps that build demand and guide the customer down the path to a purchase, attribution is a non-factor. The campaign is built up so that the last piece is the convincer that leads to the purchase.

Every piece is important; nothing is random or left to chance.

In web and social-media marketing, messages can arrive in a jumble, with the last piece first and the first piece last. With direct mail, you control the build. You construct the demand.


Direct mail builds anticipation – even if it’s only for the next piece of direct mail.

The web is all about immediacy – seeing everything right now. Not a lot of anticipation-building goes on on the web.

Direct mail, on the other hand, is perfect for building anticipation for a product release. Its controlled nature lets you build anticipation and demand according to your own schedule. Nothing gets released early; nothing is haphazard.

A really good direct-mail campaign takes that one step further by building demand for the next piece of direct mail, the next chapter in the story, the next piece of the puzzle.

When was the last time you heard of someone waiting in breathless anticipation for that next Facebook post – or even that next email?

Tetra Pak was able to generate that sort of anticipation in the simplest way possible: By sending samples of its aseptic packaging to its prospective customers. The campaign generated a 53% response rate with very little incremental cost. That’s tough to beat.

Direct mail can be really special, and can whet people’s appetites like few other marketing methods.

Direct mail helps you clearly track conversions.

Regardless of whether a direct-mail campaign’s call to action is filling out and mailing in an order form or going to the web for a purchase or an information request, those requests can be clearly and cleanly tracked.

Demographic information, whether geo-based or tied to identifiers like age and gender, is easy to append, making it easy to assess campaign results by demographic category.

Marketing is all about delivering personalized experiences – and that requires data. Recent changes look to restrict access to online data, changing the face of personalized online marketing.

Direct mail lives in a difference ecosystem. Granular personalization is still easy to do. It’s easy to follow a given prospect through your funnel, and apply the lessons learned from that prospect to other prospects.

The end result: more efficient acquisition of better customers.

Building demand and acquiring new customers go hand-in-hand. And fortunately, direct mail is great at both.


4/26/21 by Jim Felhofer

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.

Copyright by JHL Digital Direct. All rights reserved.