The periodic table of direct mail marketing elements

Direct mail marketing is one of the great methods of communicating with your audience. In the age of digital, where the average worker receives 121 emails per day, direct mail offers companies the chance to stand out.

The opportunities for direct mail are exponential; dimensional mail, AR are QR codes are all examples of modern advances. For the best possible responses, we’ve put together the ultimate periodic table for direct mail. If you want success, you have to consider all elements…

Periodic Elements To Direct Mail Inforgraphic

Mailing House Elements
Data Elements
Print Elements
Creative Decisions and Ideas Elements
Cost Elements
Promotional Elements
Measurement Elements
Rare Elements

Mailing House Elements

1 UK Wide Service 1UK wide service

A mailing house offering a UK wide service is essential to the success of your direct mail marketing campaign. Direct mail companies offering direct mail services throughout the UK – such as WDM – will ensure you reach the greatest number of consumers.


Direct mail is a cost-effective method for marketing. Your mailing house will be able to offer you bulk mail discounts for volume and pre-sorted items. For instance, for long print-runs of the same item, litho printing is cheaper the more you print.

Direct mail elements - ISOISO compliant

A mailing house really must be ISO compliant to ensure they fulfil your marketing needs. The ISO certificates to look out for are: ISO9001, ISO14001, OHSAS18001 and ISO27001. They ensure your supplier has all the processes and data security in place to handle your work and avoid costly errors.

If you would like to assess the quality of your mailhouse, we also suggest looking for testimonials reviews, and membership of other industry bodies. More information can be found here.

Direct mail elements - adviceAdvice and experience

Direct mail companies with advice and experience  instinctively understand the difference between successful and weak marketing campaigns, and how to get the best from them. There are thousands of hints and tips to consider when producing direct mail designs and communicating to your audience, so prior knowledge is invaluable.

Direct mail elements - account managementAccount management

Campaign management is essential. Account Managers can dedicate their time to overseeing the data cleansing and segmentation, design, multi-channel integration, cost control, delivery and even idea generation. Essentially, they will take the hassle out of your hands and work with you to ensure all bases are covered. More info on the campaign management service can be found here.

Direct mail elements - renewableRenewable paper source

Mail advertising is completely ethical if paper stocks come from guaranteed sustainable sources. The ISO 14001 for environmental management ensures mailing houses follow certain legislation to becoming eco-friendly. The likes of using polythene in direct mail campaigns is a great step forward, especially as it’s 100% recyclable. We have recently become an ORB member, providing guidelines on becoming ‘green’.

7 Industry MembershipIndustry membership

Industry membership is a sure sign of a reputable business. Look to see whether your chosen print and mail services provider is a member of the British Print Industry Federation (BPIF), is a Royal Mail MailMark Partner, a member of the Direct Marketing Association, among others.

8 GDPR CompliancyGDPR compliant

You have a duty to protect your data subjects’ rights, and this extends to your chosen direct mail company. You must choose a mailing house that shows verifiable and regulated data security policies and procedures. We have produced an extensive guide with advice on the GDPR regulation and obtaining personal data today.

Data Elements

9 Data DuplicationData deduplication

Data deduplication is the method of eliminating duplicate copies of repeated data, using a specialised data compression tool. As data volumes grow and you expand your customer base, you need to store more information. Data deduplication ensures you have the space and resources to do this. Similarly, this process is crucial for cutting costs and keeping data under control – particularly in the age of GDPR.

10 Customer ProfilingCustomer profiling

Customer profiling is essential for understanding your audience, who they are, their interests and needs. Understanding this can only serve to enhance your marketing campaigns and, subsequently, lead prospects through the sales funnel. Customer profiling also enables you to segment your consumers based on characteristics, helping to deliver hyper-personalised direct marketing.

Direct mail elements - prospect matchingProspect matching

Prospecting is an essential part of most expanding businesses. Looking for prospects that are similar to your existing customers is the natural extension of this. Most decent mailing houses will be able to help you do this by prospect matching based on your customer profile.

Direct mail elements - appendingName appending

Data appending, or name appending, takes your existing customer data and cross matches it with other databases, to append or provide additional information on your audience. Good mailing houses will be able to help you do this, guiding you on the best methods and most appropriate data appends to increase your response rates.

Print Elements

Variable 13 Variable Digital Printdigital printing

Variable data allows you to segment your customer base, placing them into categories. For instance, grouping them by sex, age, characteristics etc. Variable data printing, can then be used to tailor your message further, improving your responses due to personalised direct marketing. In turn, this will also help cut costs, as you are not bulk mailing in the hope one prospect responds. Digital printing also allows for a faster turnaround for your campaign.

14 Litho PrintingLithographic printing

Litho printing is a traditional print service, and has a trusted reputation. Litho printing is ideal for those looking for printing at higher volumes. The larger the amount, the cheaper each direct mailer.

15 Programmatic PrintProgrammatic printing

Programmatic printing is a method of integrating digital marketing with on-the-fly digital printing, using real-time analytics. For example, if someone places a product in their online basket and later abandons the cart, you can instruct your mailing house to send a direct mail reminder almost instantly. This will usually arrive within 24 to 48 hours. Recent stats show it works as programmatic marketing offers your brand the chance to stand out in a world where emails overwhelm consumers.

Creative Decisions and Ideas Elements

Direct mail elements - personalisedPersonalised letter

Personalisation is the foundation to all good mailing, with a record 84% of consumers stating they will more likely engage with a consumer personalising their mail.

17 One Piece MailerOne piece mailer

One piece mailers are a cost-effective method of communicating to your audience without the need for envelopes or polywrapping. In essence, a one piece mailer is a mailer that acts as its own envelope, with one of the outer sides showing the address and postage paid mark. The beauty of a one piece mailer is that the whole production can be easily and quickly automated in one process, rather than involving the merging together of various items such as envelopes and printed inserts.

Direct mail elements - couponsCoupons

All consumers love a freebie and a coupon may just nudge them gently down the sales funnel. However, try to make the coupon relevant to their needs – by segmenting data beforehand. By doing this, you stand a higher chance of them engaging and later using the coupon.

Direct mail elements - shaped mailerShaped mailer

Shaped mailers can boost your response rates off the chart. We’re talking about high-impact, non-standard mailers without an envelope. They can take any shape, so let your creativity run wild and stand out for your prospects. Currently, shaped mailers are one of the most in-demand trends for direct marketing.

Direct mail elements - bindingStapled or perfect binding

These are the two most common options for a multi-page booklet, catalogue or magazine. The former involves multiple pages bound together along the fold with staples. The latter has a flat spine, with glue applied along the binding edge. At WDM, we have both options available, as part of our print finishing services.

Direct mail elements - nude bookletsNude booklets

This is a budget-friendly option for companies because you are, essentially, sending out your marketing piece naked. That is to say, without an envelope or polywrapping, for example. There are no additional material costs, which may benefit for companies with budget constraints.

22 PolywrappedPolywrapped

Polywrapping has a fantastic reputation, and it’s easy to see why. As a mailing house, we see the benefits as polywrapping is the fastest, most economical and efficient method of delivering your marketing mail. For example, brochures, catalogues and booklets.

23 Snap Apart MailersSnap apart mailers

If you want to create urgency, snap apart mailers may be the way to go. Snap apart mailers are designed to look official, such as a government notice. Subsequently, they have an open rate of a massive 95%. Your consumers only have to tear the perforated edges to see what’s inside – hence the name.

24 Peelable NotesPeelable notes

Peelable notes for direct mail marketing make life easier for the consumer. You’ll catch their attention, and they’ll even be able to rip off the post-it note to reveal your contact details. Not only will they remember your message, but they’ll take it with them.

25 Print LayoutsPrint layouts

The print layout is essential for the longevity of your direct marketing. The layout is the foundation, with the consumer following the journey laid out to the end goal. However, you don’t have to construct your own, but use already existing ideas to save time.

Direct mail elements - weight and qualityWeight and quality

If you’re producing a direct marketing campaign, it’s important to note the postage weight. By consider the weight of your mailing or catalogue, you can significantly save on postage costs. In the UK, most direct mail packages are in the 100g-250g brackets.

27 Wallet With InsertWallet with insert

A wallet with insert provides an additional dimension to your direct mail, and an incentive to engage with your brand. You can use them to mail out coupons, special marketing letters etc. 65% of people are visual learners, and wallet mailers are likely to aid in recalling your marketing message.

Direct mail elements - cross shapeCross shaped mailer

A cross shaped mailer improves response rates due to interactivity. The consumer opens the dimensional mail – in the shape of a cross – to reveal the marketing message.

29 Triangular Fold Out MaileTriangular fold out mailer

Similar to the above, this mailer provides an incentive to respond to your message. This mailer provides is flat, folding out into a triangular shape, displaying marketing messages and imagery – possibly your sales process. This type of marketing mail is hugely popular and more likely to be recalled.

Direct mail elements - membershipMembership cards

Delivering membership cards allow your consumer to truly stand out. For instance, there are a range of print finishing services available to reflect premium membership: matte, gloss etc. Similarly, you could introduce your brand to a prospect through ‘membership cards’, offering those consumers exclusive sign up discounts and services.

Direct mail elements - print sizePrint size capabilities

Most mailing houses offer a variety of print size capabilities, but you should check they can handle both the size and volume of your direct mail campaign.

32 FoldingFolding

There are a range of folding techniques for direct marketing: half-folding, tri-folding, roll-folding, gate-folding, double-gate folding and z-folding.

Direct mail elements - leafletsLeaflets

The growth in email marketing means direct mail marketing has – paradoxically – more of an impact today. Leaflets ‘cut through’ the noise and 92% of all leaflets/door drops are read.

Direct mail elements - ARAugmented reality

AR is new to the direct mail industry, and allows you to thoroughly integrate your marketing channels. For example, you can include QR codes to your mailing and ask consumers to scan the code for a specific brand illustration or message. We’ve touched on the possibility of AR marketing here.

Direct mail elements - large format printingLarge format printing

Large format printing is an advertising medium that is ideally suited to banners, posters, wallpapers, murals and more. These require large visuals or graphic-heavy designs, wide images and larger scale text to create an effective advertising tool.  Large format printing is also known as wide-format printing or grand printing.

Direct mail elements - addressed mailAddressed mail

Addressed mail is any direct mail that is ‘addressed’ to an individual. Mail addressed to ‘the homeowner’ is largely ignored as they are impersonal. However, if you use your prospect’s name when describing a product that will change their life – you can pretty much guarantee engagement.

Direct mail elements - unaddressed mailUnaddressed mail

Unaddressed mail is any direct mail that is ‘not addressed’ to an individual, but rather ‘the homeowner’, or other such title. It was largely used before data collection and segmentation became crucially important. Today, personal data is so readily available – especially on your own CRM – so you should always try to address your direct mail to the prospect. Direct mail marketing boasts the highest response rates of all marketing channels, according to the DMA, and these opportunities should not to be missed.

Direct mail elements - door dropDoor drop

We touched on the possibilities of door drop distribution – a market that has grown substantially by 7.39%, in 2016. Door to door distribution improves brand awareness, engagement and ROI. To further strengthen the argument, door drops remain in the home for an average of 38 days.

39 Hyper PersonalisationHyper personalisation

While personalised direct mail is essential these days, hyper-personalisation can move your response rates onto an entirely different plane. Rather than send mail addressed to your customer base segmented profile, through variable digital printing, hyper-personalisation allows you to tailor each and every direct mail on a one-to-one basis. Whether you need 10 or 10,000, or 100,000 or a million, each can be different and based on the needs of an individual.

Direct mail elements - QR codesQR codes

QR codes are becoming more apparent in direct mailing, especially with the rise of integrated marketing. You can explicitly measure those visitors who scan the QR code and choose to visit your site, or any other call-to-action you provide.

41 Automated EnclosingAutomated enclosing

Automated enclosing or envelope enclosing is beneficial for companies requiring high volumes of mail, produced at a fast turnaround. In addition to the ability to turn around your campaign within a number of hours, you can include a wide range of inserts through this machinery.

Direct mail elements - business replyBusiness reply envelope

A business reply envelope is a pre-paid envelope that is added to a direct mail pack to enable the reader to respond more easily. It returns the readers response back to the company conducting the direct mail campaign, and is proven to increase response and engagement rates.

43 Envelope And Colour SizeEnvelope colour and size

Choosing the correct envelope is vital and can significantly affect overall results. You should consider Royal Mail’s ‘letter’ format to save on postage. Similarly, quality is crucial, because this is the first impression of your brand. You could include teaser messages on the envelope to create a sense of urgency, and encourage consumers to open. Lastly, consider the print, possibly opting for different textures to test which produces the best results. We have more info on envelope options for your direct marketing here.

Cost elements

44 Pack Weight Cost BreaksPack weight cost breaks

The weight of your direct mail must always be considered, not least for the price. The weight of your direct mail can actually encourage consumers to open and affects the way the finished item feels. If companies do opt for bulk mailing, many direct mail companies – including WDM – can offer discounts to fulfil your delivery.

Direct mail elements - postage volumePostage volume cost breaks

Similar to the above, postage volume can affect budget. If you are sending thousands of mailers, we recommend leveraging a discount from your print house.

Direct mail elements - pack shapePack shape cost breaks

The shape of your mail can also affect costs. For instance, if you are diverting from the typical ‘letter’ format and looking to produce dimensional mail, you may have to spend more if it doesn’t fit through the Royal Mail shape guides.

Direct mail elements - bleed and cropBleed and crop marks

Bleeds are important. Without them, you run the risk of leaving a thin white box around the edge of your printed item, regardless of the design of your artwork. Both bleeds and crop marks ensure your job is printed and cut to perfection, thus improving the appeal of your marketing.

Direct mail elements - CMYK v RGBCMYK v RGB

CMYK and RGB are both print processes, but importantly, they’re very different. RGB typically utilises inkjet printers and refers to a mix of red, green and blue colours to produce the colour required. CMYK, on the other hand, is produced on a lithographic press, using the colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black. More information can be found on the differences here.

Promotional Elements

Direct mail elements - promotional giftsPromotional gifts

Finding new ways to engage with your audience can be difficult, and promotional gifts afford companies the chance to do so. You can give your marketing a push with a promotional product, product samples etc. that keep them coming back for more.

50 Promotional AssemblyPromotional assembly

There are many times when a three-dimensional promotional item actually needs assembly before it can be fulfilled and mailed out. A good mailing house will be able to arrange for this to take place and roll the activity into the overall cost.

Measurement Elements

51 Mail MatchingMail matching

Mail matching refers to producing and inserting multiple personalised items correctly into one mailer. This is essential for items such as bills, memberships packs, medical details and so on, where receiving someone else’s personal details would be a serious data breach. A good mailing house can provide mail matched packs containing up to 9 pieces, all weighed and checked by barcode camera to avoid any mishaps.

52 Pack Weight CheckingPack weight checking

Arrange to calculate your direct mail weight beforehand, and speak to your mailing house regarding the best options for your campaign. Sometimes, it’s possible to use lighter paper stock to reduce the weight and therefore costs.

Pack weight checking - 100% mailout100% mailout

There will always – no matter which mailing house is chosen – be production snarl ups, but a good mailing house will offer a 100% mailout option. This means that if there are any spoils during production, the mailing house will reprint and send them. You are guaranteed that 100% of your list has been mailed out.

Direct mail elements - response handlingResponse handling

Most full service direct mail providers will be able to arrange for response handling for your direct mail campaign. This is usually an add-on service that allows you to collate the results in an easily usable format, but without the (considerable) pain of having to open the responses.

55 Integration With DigitalIntegration with digital

Integrating your marketing channels helps to expand your reach and improve responses. While both online and offline marketing have experienced success, together they can lift response rates by a staggering 118%.

Rare Elements

Direct mail elements - scratch cardsScratch cards

Scratch cards can see your revenue soar and are a particularly effective tool for improving repeat customers. For example, your scratch card can encourage consumers to ‘scratch’ for a specific discount or offer. Alternatively, you could promise a further discount on their next purchase, thus encouraging them to buy again.

direct mail elements - pop upsPop-ups

Pop-up mailers provide an impact that traditional direct mail cannot. Pop-up mailers that encourage users to construct the piece enjoy significant response rates, as identified with our direct mail examples article. Direct mail helps you stand out, pop-up mailers even more so.

58 Peel Off StickersPeel off stickers

Peel off stickers can add value to your direct mail. They offer versatility, as you can create several different stickers, and the gift is built right in. Similarly, peel off stickers are a more cost-effective option than promotional packages, and your consumer can also take the message with them or pop it in a safe place.

59 Scented CardsScented cards

Touch is one of our five many senses, and one of the primary reasons direct mail marketing is so successful. Smell can also help build relationships, directly affecting the emotions of your consumer. For instance, certain smells associated with ‘summer’ could take them back to their childhood. If you can play on your consumer’s emotions and associate your brand with a particular memory, they are likely to respond.

direct mail elements - neon coloursNeon colours

Inject colour to your marketing campaign and enjoy more responses. Colour and a clever design will ensure your mailing piece is read and, quite possibly given the latest research, kept in the house. Direct mail, on average, lasts 17 days in the house, and you stand a better chance of interaction with bright colours.

61 Metallic ColoursMetallic colours

Metallic colours and effects suggest your mail is of a premium quality. If your consumer associates your brand with luxury, they are more likely to trust your message and respond.

62 White InkWhite ink

White ink on dark paper is a classic, yet rare option for direct mail, due to its costly production. Yet the costs are coming down and it has proven success rates. It also suggests a luxury brand – one that has taken great care with their mailing.

63 EmbossingEmboss

Embossed printing adds an extra dimension to your campaign. Embossing has a high retention rate, as the texture and overall appearance suggest quality. We recommend embossing for business cards, as the finishing technique sets your business apart.

direct mail elements - foil blockingFoil blocking

Appealing to the inner magpie, foil printing refers to the process of applying metallic or pigmented foil to your mailing. This method is especially appealing for B2C marketing, reflecting the premium nature of your brand. This type of technique is also budget-friendly, particularly for brands sending large quantities.

Spot UV printing - spot uvSpot UV printing

Spot UV printing is a process of coating or varnishing chosen spots on the mail. The design draws attention and highlights particular areas of your marketing. While also adding a visual stimulus, it’s also beneficial having varied textures. to improve lead generation.

66 PerforationsPerforations

Perforations are used to make a piece of your direct mail easy to remove. A perforation can be used to return information to the company, or remove a coupon. Tear off sections also boost response rates immensely.

67 PrototypingPrototyping

Prototyping has a place in the direct mail world, particularly for promoting products. You could send a prototype of the product and the key features, but to high-priority prospects. Those prospects have already been identified as likely to buy, and prototyping may just cause them to do so.

We consider all 67 elements as part of our direct mail services. If you would like to discuss more options, you can get in touch with us today.

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