Just like any other marketing effort, your direct mail campaigns require a steady and solid strategy. Old school thinking is that you just pop a postcard in the mail and call it a day. As long as the copy was proofread and given the green light, and the postcards got to their destination, the campaign was considered a relative success. Then direct mail got more "sophisticated,"❠with response rates being tracked and making sure the branding was obvious. As technology has advanced, the face of direct mail has changed as well. It's important to make sure that direct mail strategies are in line with current marketing techniques. Here are 10 tips to implementing a successful direct mail program:

1. Consistent branding is still imperative to any direct mail campaign. Without consistency, your direct mail piece will be the proverbial fish out of water in your overall marketing efforts.

2. A clear call to action is essential. Will your direct mail piece ask the consumer to log on to social media and share something? Will it have the consumer scan a QR code that will lead to an instructional video? Will it be a personalized URL leading to a special discount? Don't make assumptions that your audience knows what to do. You need to tell them what to do and what the benefits of following your call to action are.

3. Compared to a lot of online marketing methods, direct mail can seem costly and perhaps a bit scary for your overall marketing budget. It's important to set a realistic budget and then stay within that amount. When dealing with the bottom line, cut your costs without sacrificing branding and message impact with metered mail, targeted mailers with a streamlined address database⬦ but absolutely do not cut costs by making it look like your kid designed the mailpiece or typed up the copy.

4. Test and track. With unique URLs and other marketing technology, you can easily test and track the response rate of your direct mail pieces. Make sure the sample size is large enough and be sure to mail out test and control batches at the same time. Don't test more than one change at a time or you won't be able to pinpoint exactly what is working and what might not.

5. Make this more than a "one touch and you're done"❠scenario. Your direct mail piece shouldn't be some stand-alone communication. It should be in full coordination with your marketing messages via other channels. And you should make this work to your advantage by using one channel to set up the upcoming touch from the other channel. Think message synchronicity.

6. While your direct mail campaign is working in harmony with your other marketing efforts, your direct mail piece should have an exclusive offer, discount, contest, or other message that your audience will only find out about through the direct mailer. If it's something that your audience has already come across via some other communication, then the impact of the direct mail becomes negligible.

7. Use short and enticing copy. This isn't a test to see how much text you can get on your mailpiece. There is no prize for using long $5 words. Keep it short, sweet and persuasive.

8. Use 100% of the real estate you are given with your direct mail piece. Using an envelope? Make it work for you. Make it a standout color. Use reverse psychology with a bright sticker that says: Do not open. If you can fit it in the budget, slip something into that envelope that makes the piece obviously bulky so the audience can't help themselves and just has to open it to find out what resides inside.

9. Don't forget to integrate with your social media efforts. Print URLs to your social media profiles to make your company easily found.

10. As with many things in life, timing is key. As you coordinate and plan out your direct mail strategy, you need to make sure that your other efforts (perhaps an email or text message, perhaps a social media post) are set up to make sense to help bolster each message, creating an overall larger impact than a single message alone.

Bonus - If you want true ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to measure them. On a direct mail piece, every call to action needs a response mechanism. Whether it is a phone number, website, QR Code, event registration, form, etc., each must have their own measurement capability and their own unique identification.

For instance, don't put your general website ID on a certain campaign. Create a domain or shorten one. Instead of "yourcompany.com," use something like "getnewsnow.com" or "link.me/getnews."â

On phone numbers, use a number with tracking capabilities. It is not that expensive and allows for you to see your response to the campaign. This is really the most important part of any campaign. Being sure you have the visibility to see and measure the response to the channel and media used is absolutely critical.

John Foley is the founder of Grow Socially, an online marketing company including Social Media. They provide marketing consulting and delivery services. Created in 2010, Grow Socially, Inc (www.GrowSocially.com) helps companies with their online marketing efforts, with a focus on social media. These services include discussing and creating marketing plans, strategies, tactics, and goals that align with your company's needs. In addition to his role at Grow Socially, Mr. Foley serves a CEO for interlinkONE, an integrated multi-channel marketing web solutions company serving the print and fulfillment industries and marketing departments.