In marketing, keeping your audience engaged is the name of the game. Although digital marketing is a big part of the battle, another important component is print pieces, which can help you retain current customers and acquire new ones.

One of the integral print formats for customer retention and targeted print marketing is direct mail. Direct mail allows companies to target previous customers and potential new customers through print formats such as fliers and brochures. So, how effective is direct mail? Why does the design of your direct mail prints matter? How should you appropriately design direct mail prints to get the best results? 

The Effectiveness of Direct Mail Campaigns

Marketing teams often question how effective a direct mail campaign can be. Of course, it depends on whether or not the direct mail campaign is done properly. A quality direct mail campaign focuses on variable data printing and design to get its point across. 

Let's examine some examples of high-quality direct mail print pieces and their results. According to the ANA/DMA Response Rate Report 2018, the direct mail response rate for house lists was 9 percent, nearly double the previous year’s 4.9 percent. This means that people are responding almost twice as much to direct mail campaigns this year.

The study also found that a letter-sized envelope, for a lead generation campaign, sent to a house file, produced the best median response rate at 15.1 percent. This is where design comes into play, as the right design is what dictates how frequently the envelope will be opened. 

Finally, according to Marketing Sherpa, 76 percent of consumers trust direct mail when they want to make a purchase decision. In fact, consumers trust traditional advertising channels more than digital channels when making a purchase. 

So, where does design come into play? Why is it so important to the success of a direct mail campaign?

Why Does Design Matter in Print?

Charles Eames once said, “Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.” When creating a direct mail campaign, the need for design is clear. You want to attract customers with visually appealing design elements. Furthermore, you want to slash direct mail costs through design to save money and have more positive results. 

This is where design matters to the printing process and the direct mail projects you create. With a high-quality direct mail design, you can attract potential customers and previous customers before they even notice the personalized copy, and increase your ROI through high-quality prints that resonate with consumers. 

related post: how much does direct mail cost?

The Many Direct Mail Print Formats—and How to Design Them

With personalized direct mail campaigns being so successful and essential to a well-rounded marketing strategy, it all comes down to the multiple formats available and the design concepts needed to make them successful. 

Let’s look at the most popular direct mail print formats out there, including flyers, brochures, postcards, letters, and booklets. Because each of these options is unique, the way you design them matters and significantly affects their costs and results. 


Determining the right format for your direct mail campaign all comes down to your target audience, your message, and your design elements. For example, if you want to highlight an event or business update, the flyer route is likely the best. 

When it comes to designing a flyer appropriately, less is more. Focus on key design elements that matter, work on strong copy, and then use embellishments to help your direct mail product stand out. 


Although we’ve discussed brochure design in the past, the main thing to focus on with a quality brochure is the pagination. This will help you to envision the final product and create the best outline for your topic of choice. Brochures are ideal for basic company information or new company projects that may be interesting to your audience. 

As such, the layout is really where this print format stands out. Using bright colors and text will help to bring the concept home for your consumers. 


If your campaign’s call-to-action is based on a particular deal, upcoming sale, special coupon, or simple update, a postcard is your best bet. Although postcards are often simple, they don’t have to be boring. Check out this excellent list of 26 business postcard examples for reference before beginning the design process. 


Direct mail letters, although focused more on the copy than the actual design, still require design elements to keep your target audience engaged. This is where finding a balance between design and copy is key. 

The most important thing to remember when creating business letters is to be succinct, keep the reader engaged, and focus on both the hook and the final call-to-action. 

According to The Balance Careers, the most important things to remember are not to be pushy, focus on using the word “you” since people love personalized content, build a great CTA, and assume the sale of whatever campaign you are targeting from beginning to end. 


The final direct mail print format we’ll discuss is booklets. Although booklets may be more expensive than the other options, they may also have the highest ROI based on quality and the feeling of importance they convey. 

This is a great option for marketing teams looking to send out print pieces to customers regarding their recent purchases. It gives off the impression that you are devoted to your clients, you respect their interest in your products, and you care about quality in every facet of your business. 

As such, pagination, embellishments, and use of higher-quality paper options are the best way to create a booklet design that is compelling and resonates with consumers.

Now that you know how to design direct mail print pieces, and how effective these pieces can be for your business, it’s time to put your own team to the test and create campaigns that count.

If you'd like to learn more about designing print pieces, or you're interested in setting up a direct mail campaign, contact Ironmark today! We'll be happy to help you launch your campaign!


Written by Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley oversees the digital marketing client services team as well as the marketing strategy division for the company. Since joining the company in 2016, she has increased Ironmark’s digital presence by over 700%, establishing a new lead generation mechanism for the sales team. A certified inbound marketing professional and HubSpot agency partner, Kingsley has been helping companies transform their marketing function into fully diverse and streamlined growth engines since 2003. With agency and client-side work under her belt, Kingsley’s strategic experience spans both the B2B and B2C sectors. Prior to joining the Ironmark team, she served as in-house marketing director for several non-profit organizations. Kingsley is an honors graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.
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