Am I Getting Good Direct Mail Response Rates?

“Am I getting good direct mail response rates?” It is not a simple yes or no question. averages vary across industries, campaign types, and more.

but that doesn’t mean the question isn’t worth answering. To gauge the health of your direct mail campaigns, you need to critically assess your responses, including their frequency, quality, typical response rates for your industry, etc. this evaluation process will reveal ways to improve your direct mail and help you develop best practices to generate positive results in future campaigns.

how to measure your direct mail responses

You might think a direct mail campaign with lots of responses is healthy. sometimes that is the case, but the number of responses is not the only relevant factor. take a more holistic approach by looking at your direct mail responses from multiple angles.

track your response rates

tracking direct mail responses was next to impossible; there wasn’t always a way to determine if a mail was delivered, let alone if it was effective. but with digital advances like qr codes and platforms like lob, tracking can be a simple and automated process.

The easiest methods to track response rates are:

  • qr codes: send recipients to a specific webpage or app. ideal for young users.
  • unique urls: send recipients to a specific web page. ideal for a wide range of users as they don’t need a smartphone to access a url.
  • phone numbers: send callers to a department or office with a unique phone number created through a platform like callrail. ideal for older recipients.
  • discount codes: ideal if the goal of your direct mail campaign is to generate purchases.

Include any of these four elements in your direct mail design to track responses. With a platform like lob, you can even take this a step further with piece-by-piece delivery tracking to track the actions of individual recipients.

Once you’ve monitored responses using these methods, you can compare the data to industry benchmarks to assess the health of your campaign.

indicator response rate benchmarks

According to the National Advertisers Association (ANA), the average response rate for direct mail is 9%, which is quite impressive compared to the 1% average response rate for email.


Direct mail response rates may vary by industry and type of direct mail. To benchmark your campaigns, find out what the average is in your industry.

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Here’s a high-level stat to get you started: More than 64% of businesses (in financial services, e-commerce, travel, media, auto, telecommunications, insurance, and healthcare) agree that direct mail brings the best response rate. of all your channels. If you are in one of these industries, is direct mail one of your main channels? if not, your response rate could probably be higher.

To set a specific benchmark, talk to others in your industry. Direct competitors may not be willing to reveal their response rate to you, but you can ask companies in adjacent industries what their average response rate is. If you work at a major shoe store like DSW, you might be able to talk to someone in the clothing retail industry. Or, if you work at a regional credit union, talk to someone at a credit union in another region.

When talking to industry experts about their direct mail campaigns, be sure to ask about their ROI to see if they’re on par with the average direct mail ROI of 29%.

Finally, consider how response rate averages differ between direct mail types:

  • House Listings vs. Prospects: ana reported that the average for home listings is 9%, while the average for prospect listings is 5%
  • direct mail type: ana reported that oversized envelopes have the highest response rate from households, followed by postcards, then letters.
  • campaign type: Retention campaigns are more likely to have a response rate greater than 10%, while acquisition campaigns are typically in the 5-10% range.

Compare these results to your own response rates to gauge the health of your direct marketing.

document response quality

response rate is only half of the equation. Also pay attention to how qualified the potential customers who responded are.

A variety of factors determine response quality and differ depending on whether you are running marketing campaigns or transactional campaigns.

For marketing initiatives, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the prospect align with your audience? If you’re selling home improvement products, there’s little value in a response from someone who lives in a rental apartment.
  • did the prospect do anything other than respond? were they converted? conversions can include signing up for your newsletter, making a purchase, joining your rewards program, etc.
  • if the prospect hasn’t made a purchase yet, they showed high purchase intent adding an item to your cart, visiting your site for more information, or emailing with questions?
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Assess the quality of your response rate based on the answers to these questions. Did you answer “yes” to most of them? If so, your direct marketing is on the right track.

For transactional initiatives, like sending an invoice, ask these questions:

  • Was the recipient’s response timely? Check to see if you met the deadline you set in the direct mail for the transactional request, either by paying an invoice or filling out a form.
  • did you complete all the necessary tasks? If the direct mail was about setting up an account, check to see if the recipient has done so and agreed to all terms and conditions.

Data analytics and business intelligence company saylent has added lob to its proprietary platform to run direct mail campaigns and track the quality of responses. find a platform like lob that you can integrate with or build on your current technology (pre-existing or proprietary platforms) to do the same.

how to improve future direct mail response rates

Even if you already have decent direct mail response rates, there’s always room for improvement. use the data you collected in the last section to optimize future campaigns.

identify your tendencies

has tracked your response rate and quality in the last section. now is the time to investigate the similarities between campaigns with many high-quality responses.

One way to identify these trends is to use multivariate tests. find a platform like lob that makes it easy to test different variations with features like modular html templates.

Once you’ve gathered information on your response rate and quality, form some hypotheses about what elements made your campaign effective or ineffective. then use these templates to test different elements, such as layouts, copy, etc., to determine what generates a higher response rate. For example, if you’re a bank advertising a new credit card through letters, try different layouts and images or highlight different card benefits.

double down for what works

Once you’ve identified trends in successful campaigns, use those insights to optimize your next campaign.

Let’s continue with the example of the bank. perhaps messages about your credit card travel rewards generated higher response rates than highlighting the low April. great! Double down on the importance of highlighting travel rewards in your direct mail.

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It is also possible that some images work better than others. If multivariate tests showed that your campaigns thrive with human images, double down and use these photos in more (if not all) of your campaigns.

Use a platform like lob to automate the process of duplicating and updating dynamic content in real time for continuous optimization. With this automation, you can spend less time and money analyzing your results and redesigning your direct mail.

Once you’ve doubled your bet, keep track of your results. you may find that what works changes over time. In the age of covid, you may find it’s better to highlight that low April instead of travel rewards…at least for now.

develop best practices

Based on what trends you find and what you duplicate, you can extrapolate best practices and build a style guide to direct all your campaigns in the future. this will help ensure they are effective and consistent, no matter which team member takes the lead.

These are some of the best hypothetical practices you can discover:

  • personalization: it is best to address recipients by name only for a more human interaction
  • messages: the tone of your campaigns should be upbeat and friendly
  • direct mail length: letters and forms should be less than five pages
  • tracking method: qr codes are the best way to track response rates

document these best practices in a single document or wiki with a tool like tettra or zendesk that is easily accessible to all team members.

combine your direct mail and omnichannel marketing

As you implement your new best practices and continue to track your campaigns, you’ll be able to continually improve your response rate and scale your direct mail initiatives.

But remember, your direct mail marketing strategy is only as strong as your omnichannel marketing strategy. When your direct mail is triggered by digital behaviors, it becomes more timely and relevant to your customers’ needs and, as a result, is more likely to generate a higher response rate. To further improve your direct mail response rates by integrating your direct mail and digital marketing, check out this article.

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