By Cynthia Reynolds

Most marketers know that direct mail is a powerful driver of customer action. But how do you get the most out of it? How do you ensure that you are maximizing its value so that it is working hard to lift your in-store traffic, drive online sales and boost ROI?

In short, what’s the key to unlocking the power of direct mail?

Well, there’s three keys actually. You need to adhere to best practices, seamlessly integrate it into your overall marketing mix and embrace the power of data.

By following these basic rules, businesses across Canada are seeing the benefits of the physical channel. While some of them are testing out direct mail for the first time, others are returning to it and incorporating new ROI-boosting features: like Structube.

Based in Montreal, Quebec, Structube is a family business that offers innovative contemporary home furniture online and through its 55 stores across the country. For three years it had marketed exclusively through digital channels.

Last year, to drive more in-store traffic, Structube decided to incorporate the physical channel back into its digital marketing mix. It returned to flyers, which were once its primary means of building awareness with customers—but in a much bigger way—literally.


Using Canada Post’s Neighbourhood Mail service, Structube took advantage of a new format that could make a bigger impact: an 8” x 10” oversized catalogue. The format helped its catalogue stand out in a consumer’s mailbox. The result? Up to 70% lift in store traffic and improved ROI of its digital marketing.


Quick tip: Larger mailers like a jumbo postcard stand out in the mailbox and typically get higher response rates.

To achieve these desired results, Structube adhered to direct mail best practices, which can help ensure any business’s campaign are best positioned for top results.

7 key direct mail best practices

  1. Incorporate a strong call to action (CTA). Focus on one that encourages a lead or prospect to perform a specific task: just make sure you know your audience so the action you include is appropriate and relevant.

  2. Simplify your key messages, which will help you clearly convey your value proposition to the customers.

  3. Include an offer and make sure it is easy for customers to redeem.

  4. Use clear and concise language as well as simple imagery. Remember, less is more.

  5. Show images of people interacting with your product or service.

  6. Focus on action-oriented words in your copy.

  7. Embed tracking mechanisms into your piece, such as a unique toll-free number or a marketing URL.

  8. The magic of physical and digital

  9. Beyond applying the best practices of direct mail, Structube also fully embraced the integration of its physical and digital channels to find its best customers. The catalogue, printed on high quality offset, was created with the same look and feel as its website, which is key to successfully integrating your marketing mix.

Integrating physical marketing improved the ROI of its digital marketing spend thanks to the awareness created by the catalogue. Store managers reported that the catalogues not only drove customers to their Structube locations, but also contained information that they could discuss with them.

Managers said that when the customer came into the store with the flyer, they already knew about specific products: they were more qualified customers. The catalogue also served as a good reminder for online shoppers to return to the retailer’s website.

The data difference

Also key to Structube’s success was embracing the power of data. The company used income targeting and Canada Post geographical data within a radius around its locations, which drove more traffic in-store.

Implementing a data-driven strategy for a campaign is critical for today’s marketers: even beyond targeting. It gives you a direct view into how your programs affect customer life cycle development and revenue generation. It also allows you to gather valuable learnings for future programs, empowering you to improve your campaign effectiveness over time and deliver maximum ROI against your marketing efforts.

How do you achieve this? This is where it can get complicated: but given the benefits, it’s worth spending the time to break it down. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Set up for success

(a) Have your data provider split your data 80/20 to enable champion versus challenger tests. 80% is your proven results group (based on prior successes) and 20% is your test group. Setting up data this way provides minimal risk with the greatest learnings;

(b) Ensure sample size is large enough to be statistically significant. We recommend ~250 responses to be able to profile the respondent group and draw campaign insights;

(c) Set up a control group. This cell will not receive any communications or offers. By measuring the difference between your control and test cells you will be able to gauge the success of your campaign; and

(d) Gather response data from every customer touchpoint to ensure you get a full picture of who is responding to your message. This can include your toll-free number, unique landing page/webpage, coupons, promo codes, address capture (online and off-line), white paper download and postal code capture at point of sale. Use this information to get a better understanding of your customers’ journeys and to get more intelligent about where you reach them and with what message.

2. Test

(a) Change only one element so you can identify what caused the shift in results. We recommend testing only the variable that will have the most positive impact on your results; and

(b) Here are examples of where you can change the elements.

  • Creative: Outer envelope (OE)/craft envelope versus plain white envelope, teaser messaging on the outside of the envelope versus no teaser messaging or different teaser messages.

  • Format: plain #10 envelope versus a more creative format like a self-mailer.

  • Imagery: show the outside of the house versus interior, people versus places and real people versus cartoon images.

  • Offer: test a dollar offer against a percent offer, free gift versus dollar off and offer versus no offer.

  • Segmentation: for example, lifestyle and/or demographic targeted message versus generic.

3. Measure

(a) Measure what’s important. Find the success metrics that align to your objective, establish your benchmarks and measure progress;

(b) Measure consistently and use uniform metrics to determine the success of one program over another. For example, if a measured metric is to drive to a landing page, repeat testing of this metric throughout all your programs so you can establish benchmarks and measure effectiveness;

(c) Hold back a random sample to determine if marketing made an impact: 5%-10% of your base, which is your control group, should receive no marketing material to determine if there was a lift over this control group;

(d) Build your response curve to understand when to expect the majority of people to respond to your campaign and then track this information after your direct mail piece has been deployed;

(e) Profile responders versus non-responders. This is a standard metric that will give an indication of your campaign success based on how many and who responded out of your total direct mail distribution; and

(f) Run custom analysis that measures life cycle success, such as customer renewal rates and lifetime value. This will provide additional and valuable insights as to how various channels perform beyond immediate campaign response and how particular segments are behaving year over year.

Knowing how to unleash the power of direct mail can help businesses like Structube—and businesses of any size—get the most out of their campaigns. Which means more customer action and ultimately more sales.

To find out more about the power of direct mail, visit

Cynthia Reynolds is a senior writer with Canada Post.

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Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.

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