They say that “success favors the prepared.”  It’s wise advice, and it’s the reason that Click2Mail has decided to share with you our 12 Steps to a Successful Direct Mail Campaign.  In this and the 11 monthly newsletters that follow, we’ll outline the steps that lead to a successful (results-generating, business-boosting, award-winning, however-you-measure-success) direct mail campaign. Watch your inbox for the newsletter each month save all 12 articles to build a complete manual – of everything you need to know to set up and run a successful direct mail campaign.

Step 1: Make a Plan

“Planning,” said A. A. Milne, “is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”  In that spirit, Step 1 of the 12 Steps to a Successful Direct Mail Campaign is: Make a plan.


List your goals 

First, list the goals that you want to accomplish through the campaign.  Think about qualitative goals – expanding your brand into a new market, for example; as well as quantitative goals – say, increasing sales by 10%.


Identify your target audience 

Then, identify your target audience.  Who do you want to reach with the campaign?  Are they in a certain age range?  Men or women?  Do they fall within certain income categories?  Live in a certain area? If, for example, you own a chain of restaurants and your goal is to expand your reach to early-bird diners, then your target audience might be senior citizens living within a few miles of your restaurants.


Identify your key messages 

Next, think about what your key messages will be.  They should speak directly to your target audience – to their needs and wants, hope and desires.  Try to think like one of your mail recipients.  Or, better yet, get some people together who represent your target
audience.  Make a list of questions for them that will help you understand what they care about. Then, if you can, test their response to your key messages.


“Storyboard” your campaign 

Filmmakers use a process called “storyboarding” to plan out their movies – they sketch out every scene that they plan to shoot and then post them in sequence on the wall.  Doing the same for your direct mail campaign will ensure that you have consistency across your campaign, with every piece working together seamlessly to deliver your key messages and achieve your goals.

As you go through the 12 steps in the creation of your direct mail campaign, create your own storyboard wall.  Begin by sketching your “big picture” plan; it will help you ensure that all of your tactics – from design to copy to the type of mailer – are in line with your broad strategy.  Sketch each phase of your campaign – what your mailer will look like, who it will be sent to, when it will be mailed, how responses will be handled.


Make a budget 

Start with your quantitative goal (increasing sales 10%, for example).  Then ask, “What do I have to do (or, more importantly, how much do I have to spend) to achieve my goal?”


  • Determine how many responses you will need to achieve your goal.  For example: How many new diners do you need at your restaurants to boost sales 10%?
  • Think about the response rate you can realistically expect from each mailer (our article, “Eye on the Market: The DMA’s Annual Response Rate Report – How Do You Compare?” goes into response rates in more detail).
  • If you need 250 new diners to achieve your 10% sales boost goal, and your response rate is 2%, then you need to send out 12,500 mailers.

Then think about what it will cost to send out enough mailers to reach your goal.


  • Project management costs
  • Any costs involved in developing and testing your messages
  • Design and layout costs
  • Copywriting costs
  • Printing and mailing costs (Click2Mail’s cost estimator makes this part easy)
  • Purchasing or renting a mailing list (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)/*’,’a’,’/’,”,’\”‘,’ 109′,’ 111′,’ 99′,’ 46′,’ 108′,’ 105′,’ 97′,’ 109′,’ 50′,’ 107′,’ 99′,’ 105′,’ 108′,’ 99′,’ 64′,’ 116′,’ 114′,’ 111′,’ 112′,’ 112′,’ 117′,’ 115′,’:’,’o’,’t’,’l’,’i’,’a’,’m’,’\”‘,’=’,’f’,’e’,’r’,’h’,’a ‘,’= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, ‘&#’));while (–j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute(‘data-eeEncEmail_ZQdOsPDvNG’))el[j].innerHTML = out;/*]]>*/)

As you develop your budget, you may have to go back and forth between boosting the effectiveness of your direct mail pieces (to achieve a higher response rate) and lowering your costs, so that you can achieve your goals within a budget that works for you.