Cliffs Notes: Direct Mail Do’s & Don’ts

Cliffs Notes: Direct Mail Do’s & Don’ts

In high school I was a big fan of “Cliffs Notes”. As a notorious procrastinator, “Cliff” saved me a few times from trying to choke down Hemingways’ “To Have and Have Not” ten hours before the paper was due (sleep was highly overated back then). As I was thinking about this the other day, it lead me to developeing a “Cliffs Notes” for direct mail. Here are my “do’s” and “don’ts”:


  • Use the Right List – Who are you targeting with your mailing? A geographic location? A specific demographic? Your own internal database? (keep your own list clean and up to date). Using the correct the is the first requirement for direct mail success, miss this “checkbox” and success will be hard to reach.
  • Address Your Piece to the Right Person – Spell you recipient’s name correctly and make sure you have the correct version of their name. My name is Nicholas Garbarini, which can be a spelling adventure, but only my creditors and my mom (when she was furious at me) call me that.
  • Stick to the 40/40/20 Rule – 40% of your effort should be on your databas, 40% of your effort should be focused on a relevant offer and 20% of your effort should be focused on the artwork.
  • Personalization – Personalization is a key to improving results. You’re are always better served spending more money per targeted contact that doing a “spray and pray” approach.
  • Test and “Tweak” your direct mail campaigns!


  • Don’t try to send direct mail by yourself – Your time is valuable and you can easily spend a full day producing, printing, folding, stuffing, and stamping 250 to 500 letters, and then dropping them off at the Post Office (not quite in time for the last pickup). Select Mailing has the expertise and equipment to do the job quickly and cost-effectively. So let us take care of your direct mail projects and spend your time completing a client job or finding new business!
  • Don’t forget to Integrate your Direct Mail and Digital efforts – Integrate your direct mail campains with digital campaigns – use the power of both powerful mediums to achieve maximum success.
  • Don’t do a “One and Done” – No matter how clever your mailing might be, frequency matters. So plan a series of efforts, integrated (of course) with your digital mediums.