Shared or Solo Direct Mail: Which is Best for My Brand?

Shared versus solo direct mail

You’re already sold on the undeniable power of the direct mail channel to connect with your consumers, so now it’s time to choose a shared direct mail or solo direct mail strategy. To understand which approach is best for your brand, budget, and growth goals, you must first understand the differences and similarities between the two.

Below you will find an overview of shared and solo mail, plus insights from our strategists and clients to help you best utilize and optimize the channel.

Shared direct mail

Shared direct mail may also be called group mailers, coupon mailers, or marriage mail. With this strategy, several advertisements are combined in one mail package with each advertiser sharing the postage cost to lower the overall investment. Consumers can be targeted by geographics (zip code or carrier routes),individual neighborhood demographics (income levels or property values) or even unified to a demographic group (e.g. parents, new homeowners) or target profile (e.g. affluent households in Chicago). Advertisers can choose from insert or wrap creative templates, with limited A/B testing options.

Although affordable and uncomplicated, shared mail does have its limitations. Because the package is shared with a variety of advertisers, your message may end up beside your competitor’s or even worse, lost as consumers shuffle through the various inserts looking for those that are most relevant to them. The defined mailing schedule and custom targeting limitations of shared mail can lessen response rates, limit scaling opportunities, and impact CPA efficiency.

Who does shared mail work best for:

The nominal cost of shared mail is desirable for young, local brands looking to utilize the direct mail channel to reach a broad audience or grow awareness. Shared mail can also provide value for brands that employ a robust couponing program to generate sales. In some isolated situations, it can serve as an entrée into solo mail… but often this is superficial, as the two approaches are fundamentally different.

Solo direct mail

Brands that use solo direct mail send a stand-alone mail piece. The mailing list is unique to the brand and can range from a broad geographic reach down to a specific individual.  Brands have creative flexibility for package sizing, shape, and interactive elements (folds, stickers, stratch offs, etc.). Through the use of variable printing data (VPD), messaging elements (text, images, colors) can be personalized on each mail piece for a memorable and engaging customer experience. In addition to a general acquisition strategy, mailings can be triggered by CRM and digital activity. When budgeting for a solo mail campaign, marketers must consider data, paper, ink, and postage expenses.

Solo mail ensures brands will reach their best audience with a relevant message. The personal and individualized data used to build solo mailing lists are based on an extensive mix of first-party and third-party variables to identify the valuable similarities, preferences, and behaviors of your ideal customers. This sophisticated data is what supports solo mail’s ability to provide meaningful scale by reaching more consumers who are most likely to purchase your product or service. Comprehensive testing capabilities allow you identify the best combination of list, offer, and creative to quickly optimize your campaign performance and lower your cost per acquisition.

Who does solo mail work best for:

Solo mail works best for DTC subscription services, warranties, insurance, and ecommerce brands looking to acquire many new customers. If your brand is looking to grow, and perhaps seeing the ceiling of your other acquisition channels, now is the best time to test direct mail.

Shared mail and solo mail strategy

Shared direct mail and solo direct mail does not have to be an either/or situation. It is common for seasoned brands to combine shared and solo mail to leverage the strengths of each approach. The broad reach and affordability of shared mail is used as a top of the funnel, brand awareness tool. Solo mail’s versatility and targeting capabilities better enable a direct response strategy, with a focus on conversion rates and optimizing CPAs while scaling the program.


To choose which direct mail approach is right for your brand, consider the targeting and personalization you require for your mailing, and weigh that against the investment and growth potential of each strategy. Most importantly, do not dismiss the channel after a failed test. A different approach to direct mail testing, list modeling, and digital integration can have a dramatic impact on program performance.

Contact us today to see how the direct channel can work for you.