How can you increase your clients' return on investment (ROI) in their direct mail marketing campaigns without taking a hit on your own revenues? As a print/mail service provider, either in an outsourcer role or as an internal operation, it is in your best interest to help your clients get more from their direct mail campaigns. This keeps your document operations center thriving.

    When a client experiences great results from a direct mail campaign, you both win. The client is happy because of positive results and a high return on their investment. Your company is likely to secure more frequent campaigns from the client. Hint: start talking about the next campaign as the positive results from the current job start rolling in.

    Strategic Approaches to Enhancing Direct Mail ROI

    Print/mail service providers can leverage strategic approaches to enhance your clients' direct mail ROI. Your operation's contribution goes beyond merely sending mail; it can sometimes involve expert advice and executing a cohesive and strategic plan.


    Design and content are critical, but by the time a mail center manager sees the material, it may be too late to make design modifications. This is why developing an outreach strategy to work with your clients early in the project process is so important. Show clients you have something to offer that can save them money, make the job run more efficiently on your equipment, or improve the response rate. Use your postal knowledge to help your clients avoid running afoul of mailing guidelines. Tell them about aspect ratios, address placement, barcode clear zones, etc. Help them integrate direct mail with other aspects of their marketing strategy.

    I recall working on an annual project that the internal department had always done on their own. The way they designed it involved several sets of identical personalized labels they then affixed to multiple personalized items and closed-face envelopes. Staffers manually matched items, sorted them into categories, hand-folded the letters, and stuffed them into labeled envelopes. They wanted us to replicate their process until I showed them some alternatives. We switched to legal-size paper with perforations, segmented the data before printing, and made other changes that eliminated all the matching and hand work. We did it all on our automated equipment, saving them money, days of labor, and frustration.

    Get Noticed

    Assist your clients by ensuring their direct mail stands out from the clutter. Give them examples of outbound envelope designs that have produced exceptional results in the past. Show them statistics about the effectiveness of different size postcards. Talk to clients about dimensional mail or other innovative ways to make customers pay attention to their mail.

    Lower Costs

    You might also find ways to lower costs for your clients, which improves the campaign ROI. Discuss the pros and cons of First-Class vs. Marketing Mail. See if you can help clients reconfigure flats as lower-cost letters. Ask about geographic segmentation to increase presort density.

    Postal promotions are another opportunity to lower mailing costs. Learn about the promotions and when they apply. Approach clients well in advance and plan to take advantage of the postal savings the USPS offers during the promotional periods.

    Precise Timing

    Direct mail delivered at the right moment can enhance ROI. Encourage your clients to tap into information sources like their CRM system and consider the ideal timing for their product or service. Discuss triggered mail or connecting mail delivery with messaging in other channels, such as email or text.


    Offer to help your clients compare the effectiveness of different approaches using A/B testing. Show them how to test various designs, offers, and calls to action. Draw attention to the results and recommend adjustments to their approach based on the responses they receive. Recommend a flexible approach and a readiness to adapt based on results from each campaign. Highlight your flexibility to adapt with them.

    Capitalizing on Data

    The mail center may not have direct access to the data used to create the mailing pieces unless you are doing the composition. But you can suggest improvements to personalization or segmentation based on information that probably exists somewhere upstream in the client's organization. Talk to clients about the value of providing you with more data than only the names and addresses. Show them how you can turn added data into better targeted mail.

    When clients do not have that extra data, you may acquire it for them via third parties. If you can use that data to customize offers or drop unqualified buyers from the list, your clients will notice a difference in how well the campaigns perform.

    Enhance your capacity to handle and interpret data. As a result, you can offer more integrated solutions and present your clients with valuable feedback about their customer bases. This will put you in a better position to maximize their ROI and solidify longer-term business relationships.

    Mail pieces such as statements, bills, and invoices include a great deal of valuable data. However, if the document center receives only pre-composed print-ready files, extracting that information seems impossible unless you've invested in post-composition document re-engineering software. I have written about this software many times in this column. See "What Can Document Re-Engineering Software Do for the Mail Center". Use data already in the documents, such as purchase details or customer loyalty levels to customize the documents or add graphic elements like charts or graphs.

    Encourage your team to be consistent in their use of data and proactively seek training opportunities to ensure their skills keep pace with change. Informed employees will not only enhance your service offerings but also bolster your reputation as an innovative, forward-thinking service provider.

    Personalization Drives Direct Mail ROI

    Boost your clients' direct mail ROI with personalization. Make every message count, ensuring that each piece of direct mail speaks directly to the recipient. This will increase your clients' engagement levels and overall campaign success. With variable data printing you can create customized mail pieces that resonate by acting on the specific preferences or needs of each recipient.

    Personalization is about more than just inserting the recipient's name — it requires a 360-degree view of the customer. This is where data management plays a part. By working closely with your clients, you can help them segment their data to reveal valuable perceptions about their customers. These insights can then be used to tailor your clients' messages, offers, and promotions, resulting in an improved campaign performance. Your service becomes indispensable to their marketing efforts. Make it a point to stay engaged with your clients and keep making suggestions to help them succeed.

    Effective Tracking

    Your clients may not be aware of the big changes in postal mail tracking that have occurred over the last several years. The USPS Informed Visibility program tracks the mail as it advances through the postal distribution network. You can offer your clients precise updates about when their mail pieces are expected to reach their final destinations. Detailed reporting can assure marketers their direct mail campaign is being executed on schedule, further enhancing their trust in your services. Marketers can also use the tracking data to trigger other actions, such as staffing for an expected influx of inquiries or scheduling a complementary message to be delivered via email.

    Another USPS program, Informed Delivery, can increase the number of impressions for your client's campaigns at very little cost. Learn how to submit an Informed Delivery campaign on your clients' behalf and allow them to benefit from this program that now includes over 50 million subscribers. The USPS charges nothing to use Informed Delivery (and during promotional periods, they actually offer postage credit). Print/mail service providers can charge to set up the campaigns for their clients.

    The Big Picture

    In most scenarios, print/mail service providers are far from being powerless spectators in their client's quest to improve direct mail ROI. By offering strategic approaches, leveraging data effectively, personalizing communications, and keeping track of results, they can actively contribute to the achievement of their clients’ objectives. In doing so, they enhance the ROI of their clients' campaigns and foster stronger relationships built on trust, efficiency, and shared success.

    Every direct mail campaign can be an opportunity for print/mail service providers to demonstrate their expertise, while forming a sturdy base for future collaborations. As service providers respond adaptively to their clients' needs, they promote the continuity of established partnerships and the initiation of future campaigns. Print/mail service providers can be vital allies in maximizing marketing efforts, transforming direct mail from cost to a true investment.

    Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content that helps attract and retain customers for companies in the document industry and he assists companies as they integrate new technology. Learn more about his services at Follow @PMCmike on X, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.

    This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2024 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.