How to Optimize Your Direct Mail Frequency

Apartment complex mailboxes with visible flyers.

According to top Google search results, you should send a piece of direct mail to the same audience three times, with 21 days in between each drop for the highest response rates. Contrary to this popular rule of thumb, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for a successful direct mail campaign. The optimal direct mail frequency is unique to each direct mail strategy, brand, product, and market. Testing is the best way to discover how many target audience touchpoints produce the best results for your direct mail campaigns.

Best Practices for Testing Direct Mail Frequency

Direct mail frequency refers to the number of times an individual receives a direct mail piece.

When determining how often to send a mail campaign to your target audience, you must first consider your direct mail marketing campaign objective, budget and overall market to build your testing strategy. According to our Direct Mail Industry Benchmark Report, over 80% of consumers say receiving four or more direct mail pieces from a single brand in a year is excessive. Only 17% of respondents stated that two to three pieces are too many, making it a great starting point for brands new to the channel.

Industry best practices support multiple audience touchpoints for brands using direct mail advertising with the objective of building brand awareness to reach potential customers and current customer retention or renewal. An example of this would be a home warranty brand mailing policyholder renewal requests and follow-up for continued coverage.

But, an e-commerce brand using direct mail efforts to find scale via mass customer acquisition should enter the channel with one touch. Then following the matchback period, introduce re-mailing to increase gross sales from that target audience and maximize ROI.

Let’s take a look at another example. The Medicare/insurance market is more crowded and competitive. Therefore, this type of brand may consider launching with a multi-touch approach to stay in front of the prospect and stand out from the competition. Pre-printing all of the touchpoints at once is also more cost-effective and helps to offset initial direct mail costs.

It’s also common for more expensive products with a higher CPA tolerance to mail at a higher frequency because it can afford the channel’s initial investment.

That said, each brand’s goals are different, and it’s important to decide if your focus for the investment is to settle on the optimal ROI, or garner the greatest volume of new sales or new customers.

Establishing Test Groups and Budgets

As with any type of testing, you must establish a control group to confirm your results. The control group will receive the bulk of your mail volume based on prior learnings or industry best practices (for first-time mailers). To keep your test results valid, you must only test one variable at a time. When testing for direct mail frequency, test groups will receive the same creative, offer, list source, and targeted digital ads as the control group with the variable being the mailing cadence.

If a marketer is looking to achieve a statistically significant result when testing, it will require a larger budget so that sample sizes are viable. You might be familiar with the saying, “more data = more confidence.” Though that’s true, what this fails to mention is that “more data = more budget!”

Marketers with limited budgets (or those that leverage automated direct mail platforms) will typically rely on “directional results” over statistical significance. The learnings from an initial test can still be applied to expanded campaigns in the future, but it will take you longer to confirm your winners from a test. Ultimately, no marketing strategy is better than the other; it comes down to how quickly you want actionable test learnings. 

How Frequency Can Influence Future Testing

Once you’ve settled on direct mail frequency, you can test creative strategy per touchpoint. This will help to determine if you should send the same mail piece three times, or if a different mailer for each touch yields a better response. It’s also a great way to determine which value proposition has the most impact on conversion. For example, if frequency testing determines three touches is best for your campaign, then you can hold your frequency, offer, list source, and digital integrations equal and test a new creative element against your control group, such as your call to action (CTA).

Similarly, you can test digital integration pairs with frequency. If you know you’re going to be targeting an audience multiple times with mail, adding a digital marketing component (e.g., display ads, social media impressions, or email marketing) to each mail touchpoint may provide a necessary preheat to response when compared to a mail-only group.

What’s more, you can see how frequency affects different list segments. For example, a lapsed customer segment may not require as many touchpoints as a new prospect, given brand familiarity. If you have a data point to suggest one frequency strategy is king, challenge that theory by testing the frequency for unique audiences and customer segments.

Frequency can also play a role outside of the solo mail or acquisition scope. If you want to drive brand awareness and impression volume, perhaps a multi-touch shared-mail campaign is right for you. If you have a ripe batch of customers up for renewal, consider testing how a multi-touch automated mail campaign can boost retention rates.

The Long and Short of It

Whether you’re a seasoned mailer or just getting started, testing frequency can be integral to the success of a direct mail campaign. You won’t know if your audience enjoys the long game with multiple touches or prefers you keep it short and sweet with one piece of mail unless you commit to a thoughtful testing strategy.

If you’re looking for a mailing services agency partner who can help, here are three questions you should ask.

Featured on Brand United on 1.10.23