The Direct Mailer: If you’re going to go postal, do it right

I’m not a fan of direct mail.

My social media-digital mindset and upbringing revolt against it naturally. Like the snake and the honey-badger (I’m the honey-badger cuz honey-badger don’t care).

But still, much to my surprise, we see a spike in attendance when we send a mass/direct mailer and many cite on their info card that they visited because they received a mailer. So, there is still a place for doing a large or small run of a direct mailer and it depends on a lot of factors.

However, if you want to create a successful direct mailer campaign, you need to consider several things before going postal.

Choose a target audience and define a purpose

Don’t skip this step. It’s the most important one. When you have a good idea of who this mailer is for and what you want them to do with it once they get it (besides read it and throw it away), it not only defines how you are going to design it but how you’ll distribute it as well.

Weigh the cost vs. Digital

To create a tri-fold, direct mailer that goes out to about 300k people, you’re going to spend anywhere from $40k-$60k (and about $20k of that is just for postage). Obviously, that price has a lot to do with what you’ve created to send, what company you use to send it, and how many you send.

Now compare that price with a Facebook Ad. I can reach the same number of people in a geographic area close to my church for about $1k-$2k. You have to weigh the cost of what you want to do and what you think will give you the best ROI (Return on Investment) because this just became a stewardship issue.

If you think you can do it better with a printed direct mailer, then go for it, because sometimes, it may actually work best. If not, then don’t throw your pearls to pigs. Use Facebook or Instagram instead.

Find a good distributor

We use a company called Blanks. This company takes our design, prints the mailer in bulk (the post office doesn’t print, btw), and drops it at the post office with appropriate stampage. From there, the Post office actually gets to decide if they are going to deliver it or not (if your mailer is classified as bulk mail).

The most important factors of a good distributer are 1) quality of print, 2) pricing, and 3) Timliness/Responsibility. So make sure you know what you need in these areas and if they can provide it before signing a contract.

Design something good

Oh yeah, crappy mailers will be thrown out immediately. This one church sends me mailers all the time and they often have images whose aspect ratios are stretched and the copy has a few errors. File 13. Sorry not sorry.

Create a way to track its success

The biggest problem with a direct mailer is how difficult it is to track whether or not it really has any impact or not. You could track attendance and see if there is a spike when the mailer goes out. You could also add a checkbox to your visitor card that asks how they heard about you and “mailer” could be an option.

Whatever you do, set up your mailer with some sort of tracking device like these to make sure it’s worth your time and money. Other ideas include

  • A tear off coupon to redeem at the church somehow
  • Return the mailer for a free gift

After that, I’m not sure. You’ll be more creative about it than I am because you’re invested.

Do something digitally in conjunction with the mailer

Another tracking option is to add a digital call to action somehow. Putting your website is one thing, but what about putting a special url that leads to a special landing page containing something helpful they might? This page should either captures information at best and tracks hits to gauge impressions on Google Analytics at least.

Put a hashtag to use and ask them to take photo of themselves with the mailer (if the mailer can be converted into origami or something clever like that). Whatever you do, think about how you can encourage the likelihood that they will complete a digital call to action that will help you connect online.


I don’t like mailers. I don’t think they are worth the money for the measurable ROI in most cases. However, if you find yourself in a place where you are pressured to do one or can’t really get around it (or maybe it just works for you), then hopefully, these are tips that will help you create a direct mailer that works.

What’s worked for you? What have your experiences been with direct mailers? Let me know in the comments. That Church Summit starts today, so get your free access here. I’m one of the speakers on Thursday, so it would mean a lot to me if you tuned in! I’ll be talking about the science behind why people share content online and 5 questions you can ask to create highly shareable content yourself. Thanks for reading!

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