6 tips for effective direct mail marketing for small business


When opening the post this morning, I came across a hand written envelope with an adhesive stamp in the top right corner. Intrigued, I grabbed the letter opener to see who was trying to communicate with us in such a semi-archaic manner. It turned out to be a local restaurant advertising their Christmas menu and encouraging us to book now.

The Prince of Wales Restaurant Christmas promotion letter

After my initial surprise that Christmas was upon us already (where do the months go?), I came to really appreciate how effective this restaurant was at using direct mail to generate leads. They caught my attention and successfully delivered their message by following these simple best practices.

Make it personal

Direct mail should feel as personal to the reader as possible, the last thing you want is for them to feel like they’re receiving junk mail. Address your envelope to a real person, and if you know their job title then add that, too. Although not always possible, hand writing the address and using an adhesive stamp, like the one we received, makes it stand out amongst the other mail with printed labels, as it looks more like a personal correspondence than a bill or sales letter.

Write a letter

Don’t just throw a flyer or brochure in the envelope, craft a letter that is friendly and informative, that explains why you’re contacting them. The reader will get a sense of your organisation through your use of language and tone of voice. The restaurant’s letter was friendly but formal, which makes it seem quite a sophisticated place to eat.

Be highly targeted

Put some thought into who you send your direct mail. If you have acquired a database, analyse it and choose those that are likely to buy your product or service. And don’t forget your existing and former customers – use your knowledge of them to select who would likely benefit from your promotion. It’s also a good idea to focus on a location, like a particular postcode or town. The restaurant clearly contacted us because we fall within a certain mile radius, and we are a small business (They couldn’t host a Christmas party for a large corporation with 50+ employees)

Choose your timing

If you are promoting a product launch or seasonal offer, make sure you don’t send your mail too close to the deadline. Give your readers a chance to plan for the purchase. Similarly, don’t alert them too early because they will forget. It takes time to arrange a date for a Christmas meal that suits the majority of employees within an organisation, so the restaurant wisely chose to contact us a healthy two months before the Christmas season.

Only adopt direct mail if it makes financial sense. Remember, you’ll need your copy to be written and signed off, designs to be iterated, print runs arranged and paid, recipients chosen, envelopes prepared, and delivery – all costing you directly, or in man hours. Knowing printing costs from direct marketing campaigns that we’ve run for clients, and looking at the prices on their menu, we can safely assume that a couple of Christmas party bookings will pay for the restaurant’s whole campaign, making it a worth while endeavour for them.

Include a call-to-action

Don’t forget to ask your readers to carry out a task – book, subscribe, visit, call, email, pay etc. The restaurant’s letter encourages us to book early to get the best available dates, and provides all the contact details necessary to do so. They also have a secondary call-to-action, inviting us to attend an informal evening to discuss any queries over a complimentary glass of wine.


Despite the ever increasing focus on digital marketing, you shouldn’t assume that direct mail is no longer worth while. With the right promotion, appropriate set of recipients, and good timing, direct mail marketing can be very powerful at delivering your message. Besides, there’s something refreshing about holding a tangible object in your hands, be it a letter or brochure or sample, and knowing that the sender has spent time crafting and delivering it.