The Rise and Fall And Rise Again of Direct Mail

The rise and fall and rise again of


Recently we sent out a direct mailer from our office. The response was 15% to sale.

Let me share what happened.

Email is definitely down. Open and response rates have dropped dramatically over the past 2-3 years. Growing email lists can be tough so you end up with what is basically a dying or dead list of contacts that really don’t want to be contacted.

This can put any business on the precipice and it does actually shut down businesses that over rely on what they call ‘the cheap option’ for marketing after all email is free right?


I grew up in the business world on direct mail. It was the staple of all of my early marketing efforts and I tried and did everything.

Strange packages that demand attention, oversized and undersized envelopes, envelopes that look like tax demands, graffiti cover envelopes, hand written letters and even letters that look nothing like a letter … I’ve done everything and started doing everything from 1990 onwards for my own high street businesses.

The results then were pretty astonishing. So astonishing in fact I had an endless line of local businesses asking if I could replicate something like for their businesses with a direct mailer.

Racing forward to today we have a massive bombardment of information that has created a more decisive delete, unsubscribe or simply block you recipient that is willing to report you for getting in touch with them. And social media – yes it had its rise but as a medium for posting content to conversion it is well and truly dead.

So, after careful thought we tested a direct mailer that converted at 15%. If you know anything about the numbers or details you will know 15% os huge – massive in terms of sales.

But there were a few tricks I will share with you.

This was a 3-piece mailer. The first piece was a story on a single A4. The second piece was the detail, proof and results of the offer. The third piece was a huge offer that was created for this letter and loaded with what we felt was irresistible.

The envelope was plain and simple with handwritten name and address. Finally, this was not a cold list but a lit that had already bought a £10 book from us.

The offer was for a £245 business manual. 15% of the receivers of that letter bought the manual.

Today we are resending the exact same offer and package with an extra discount. Apart from that everything is the same.

Direct mail is what is says – direct – but -  I throw in the bin a pile of mailers every single day that don’t even get an open. Yet there is a key to creating successful mailers and that is your target match, preparation of the mailer, an offer that is absolutely irresistible, and of course compelling copy that drives the reader through from the start to the end.

So, is direct mail far more expensive than email?

If you send 100,000 emails and get no sales that isn’t cost effective or time effective.

If you send 100 letters and get 15 sales of £245 … do the math? (£3,675).

And once you have tested and cracked your code of mailers you simply have to increase the numbers.

And here is one thing you should know. I mailed out every week for 17-years when I owned hair salons. I discovered this. When I missed a few weeks the response rate dropped. When I never missed a week the response rate stayed high or climbed.

Direct mail is a long-term strategy and not a one off hit for many reasons I won’t discuss on this post. If you are getting into direct mail again you need to consider the long-term plan rather than the mentality of ‘let’s give it a try’.

Direct mail never went away it simply got forgotten in the hype and fads of online marketing. Yet the reality is using offline techniques to drive your business will never be bigger when it comes to R.O.I than using smart, well thought out, well planned direct mail.

Now listen to this.

I have had results from direct mail at 11%, 17%, 33%, 47%,63% and even 83%. I even created a direct email for a client that converted at 100%.

Now tell me direct mail doesn’t work.

Direct mail might have risen and fallen but this year for the smart and savvy will see a huge rise in direct mail success like never before.

 Strategist, Mentor and Breakthrough Expert, Alan Forrest Smith