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Creating a Direct Mail Campaign: Start to Finish

Updated on July 11, 2013

Creating a direct mail campaign can seem overwhelming at first but it doesn't have to be if you use simple guidelines to make sure you produce a quality print piece and provide a clean mailing list to your print vendor.  Direct mail campaigns are a great way to advertise your business, not only to the local community, but to the world as well.  Although many refer to such campaigns as “junk mail”, if you produce an informative and well printed piece, many will actually look at your advertisement instead if instantly throwing it away.  Follow these simple steps during your next direct mail campaign and reap the benefits.

Brainstorm:  Whether you are a home-based-business owner, a small business owner or even in the marketing department of a large corporation, a great idea is the key to your campaign’s success.  Your campaign should involve 3 key elements: creativity, originality, and informative.  Make sure you do some market research before just mailing out a mailer to your mail list. 

Look at what advertising campaigns have worked for you before and what products people were most interested in.  For example, if a coupon worked for you before, perhaps on your direct mail piece, you want to include a gift card or coupon so drive customers to your business.  Make sure once you commit to idea that you will follow all the way through to distribution.

Design: If you don’t have an in house design team or are currently working with a design firm, you will want to look at getting someone with a design background involved in the creation of your direct marketing piece but before you begin the design process, you will have to decide what type of piece you want to create.  If it is your first direct mail campaign, I would keep it simple and just develop a postcard.  This way, it will keep your postage costs down as well as your print costs. 

With the type of mailer chosen, you can begin the design process.  You should have your designer create 3 – 5 design concepts for your mailer so that you aren’t pigeon-holded into a design that you aren’t happy with.  If you aren’t happy with something within the designs, make sure that you give direct feedback and ask for a redesign.  Once the design is complete, make sure the designer saves the file as a print-ready PDF (CMYK color) with trim marks and the fonts embedded.

Create Your Mail List:  Many people gather addresses and don’t take the time to double check that the addresses are legitimate or put it in a usable document for the print company.  Most print companies prefer to have mail lists provided to them as Microsoft Excel documents.  Your headers should be as follows:

  • Company
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Address 1
  • Address 2
  • City
  • State
  • Zip
  • Country

After formatting your mail list, double check one more time to make sure that all of the addresses are legitimate.  You will want to look for some common mistakes that might be in your mailing list including: email addresses as mailing addresses, missing address fields, and duplicate names or addresses.

On Press: Once the design and the mail list have been completed, you should be ready to send the files to your print vendor, make sure that you have received an official quote and approved it, that you have requested either a PDF proof or a hardcopy proof of the piece to approve.  If you are using a new print vendor, I highly suggest that you request at least 2 hardcopy proofs if the piece is in color and the reason for this is that color off the press can vary significantly so you want to make sure to compare proofs to look for any noticeable quality errors.

Distribute to the world: After you approve the proof, it is out of your hands but never your fret! If you have followed all the steps, your campaign should only be profitable to you!  Also, if you unfamiliar with the print process or print in general, make sure to ask your print vendor to send you their specifications and then you will have a simple guideline to follow in creating amazing print ready documents for distribution.


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