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FAQs from Marketers: The Four Basics of Direct Mail


FAQs from Marketers: Understanding the Basics of Direct Mail

Have you ever opened your mailbox to find a personalized offer from a brand? It might look like a coupon from your local bakery for a free loaf of sourdough, or a letter from your insurance provider offering 10% off for bundling home and auto. It could range from a basic flyer to a comprehensive, personalized piece of oversized mail.

If your answer is yes, then you’ve received direct mail.

For the marketer considering adding direct mail to the mix, let's cover the four most frequently asked questions about direct mail, including:

  1. What is direct mail?
  2. What are the different formats of direct mail?
  3. How do you build a direct mail list?
  4. How much does direct mail cost?

1) What is direct mail?

Direct mail is defined by Canada Post as “physical advertising sent through the mail to find new customers and increase the value of existing ones.” It allows you to carefully target customers with precise messages, customized offers and promotions.

Canada Post Direct Mail Statistics
Statistics from Canada Post

For marketers, direct mail can be a powerful medium to include in your marketing mix. When properly designed, DM campaigns combine physicality, data and connectivity to achieve the best results and produce the highest ROI.

  • Physicality – Research has shown that the physical nature of direct mail is proven to generate a 20% higher response rate than digital messaging.
  • Data – With direct mail, you can target the customers that matter most for your business. Target geographic, demographic and psychographic segments where people are likely to respond to your offer and transform prospects into valued customers.
  • Connectivity – Direct mail complements other marketing media, particularly digital. Incorporate it to get your brand and messaging noticed and remembered, raise brand awareness, and drive customer engagement.

2) What are the different formats of direct mail?

The options are endless when it comes to direct mail formats, shapes and sizes. Each has features and benefits that could work for you, depending on your campaign.

Here are the most common formats of direct mail:

Self Mailers

    Self mailers, including postcards and coupons, are one of the most cost-effective forms of DM. Since your customer address is printed directly on the piece, there is no need for an envelope.

    You can be endlessly creative with self mailers. If you’re a pizza shop, you can design a coupon in the shape of a pizza. If you’re a realtor, a postcard in the shape of a house. While best practice is to use a durable cardstock, your self mailer doesn’t have to be a basic format—it can have multiple folding panes and vary in shape and size like the examples below.

    Self Mailer Samples
    Designed by WCD Creative


    Catalogues allow you to include more information than other direct mail formats, so you can tell your brand story and describe your products in more detail. Many businesses use catalogues to send look books, gift guides, or seasonal collections to their customers around important dates.

      Mailing a catalogue is more expensive, so you’ll want to make sure to send them to a highly targeted list of customers or prospects that you know want to hear about your products and services.

      Outer Envelope and Letter

      For more detailed or personalized offers, letters are a great way to reach your customers. Plus, using an envelope provides you with extra real estate to print a unique and eye-catching design.

      Personalized Mail Samples
      Designed by WCD Creative

      3) How do you build a direct mail list?

      One of the most important parts of a successful direct mail campaign is targeting the right people with your message. There are three standard targeting methods you can use to build your direct mail list, including Canada Post Neighbourhood Mail™, Postal Code Targeting, and Canada Post Personalized Mail™.

      Canada Post Neighbourhood Mail™

      Neighbourhood Mail targeting is used to reach mailboxes in a specific neighbourhood, region, or even the entire country. It’s ideal for mass awareness campaigns and acquiring new customers. As an example, restaurants often use this type of targeting to reach new customers in the neighbourhoods nearby their physical location.

      Postal Code Targeting

      Postal Code Targeting is a very precise method of reaching customers that match your ideal customer profile. Using demographic, psychographic and geographic data, you can home in on audiences that have certain characteristics—such as household income, age of the residents, pet and car ownership and many other data sets.

      Canada Post Personalized Mail™

      Personalized Mail is used for one-to-one communication, enabling you to personalize the message and creative for your customer. The mailing data for Personalized Mail can either come from your own list of customer contacts, or you can buy/rent a list from Canada Post.

      Personalized Mail is best for helping you acquire new customers, deepen connections with existing ones and build customer loyalty. For example, not-for-profits often rent lists to obtain new donors, and banks often use Personalized Mail to communicate with their customers or send them special promotions.

      Canada Post Targeting
      Image from Canada Post

      For more information on types of targeting, visit Canada Post.

        4) How much does direct mail cost?

        The costs for direct mail can seem ambiguous, but they’re simpler than you might think. There are three key components to consider when pricing out your DM campaign.


        The cost of designing your direct mailer depends on whether you’re designing the piece in-house, using an agency, or using a Smartmail Marketing Expert Partner (like WCD Creative) to design your piece.


        Factors including the quantity, paper stock, size and finishing of your direct mail piece will impact the price of printing. A basic postcard printed in a bulk quantity could start around $0.15 per piece. For more complex campaigns that involve printing and packaging several pages in personalized envelopes, the cost could be a few dollars per piece.

        Contact us directly for a free, no obligation quote on direct mail design and print >


        Canada Post’s pricing depends on factors like the size, weight and distribution of your piece. To give you an example of what a Neighbourhood Mailer would cost, sending one flyer to every address on a postal route (approximately 500 addresses) would cost as little as $0.17 per piece. You pay: $0.17/flyer x 500 = $85.

          Working with a Canada Post Smartmail Marketing™ Expert Partner like WCD can save you up to 15% on postage rates. Learn more about our direct mail services.

          How can WCD help with your direct mail campaign?

          Our direct mail experts will work closely with you to understand your campaign goals and will recommend a strategic approach that maximizes the effectiveness and ROI of your direct marketing campaign. As Smartmail Marketing™ Expert Partners, we provide creative design, print, preparation and mailing services under a single roof.




          Why Local Businesses Are Turning to Direct Mail Marketing

          Content adapted from Business Matters by Canada Post Currently, local businesses are adapting their services to provide customers with options for curbside pickup and doorstep delivery. Many are turning to direct mail marketing as a way to break through the digital noise so they can effectively communicate changes and engage with the community. Direct mail marketing gives businesses the opportunity to reach a broad audience on a more personal level than email marketing alone can provide. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, direct mail is making a comeback as businesses adapt to reach customers where they are — at home. 81% of Canadians say they read their mail the same day they receive it. Why More Businesses Are Using Direct Mail Despite stereotypes that direct mail is outdated or "old school", research shows that it is far more effective than you might think. Young People Like Direct Mail It's a common misconception that older generations are more responsive to direct mail. In fact, an article by Forbes states that 36% of people under 30 look forward to checking their mail daily, and 95% of 18-to-29-year-olds have a positive response to receiving personal mail. Canadians Pay Attention to Direct Mail To further prove the effectiveness of direct mail, a study by Canada Post revealed that 74% of Canadian consumers always or sometimes notice advertising in direct mail, 81% read their mail the same day they receive it, and 85% will open mail if it looks interesting. Designed by Orange Door 5 Reasons Direct Mail Marketing Works So we know the research proves that direct mail marketing works, but now let's talk about why it works. Here are five of the top reasons direct mail is so effective: 1) Precision-Targeted Reach Today, direct mail can be hyper targeted through demographics and location. It starts by defining your audience, crafting meaningful content with stand-out design, and honing in on your audience through precision-targeted mailing. With Canada Post's Precision Targeter™, businesses can narrow down their audience by choosing from 14 demographic categories like driving distance from your business, household age and income, as well as the type of residence. They can also use interactive maps to target specific neighbourhoods or regions, and more. Designed by Orange Door 2) High Engagement Compared with digital marketing, direct mail receives high engagement from consumers. In fact, postcard marketing has a much higher response rate on average (4.4%) when compared to digital marketing (0.12%). Postcard direct mail marketing has a 4.4% average response rate, compared with 0.12% for digital marketing tactics. 3) Customizable Content When compared to digital marketing tactics, direct mail marketing is highly customizable and has fewer limitations, especially in the realm of creativity. Free from the constraints of CASL compliance, costly email marketing tools and ad blockers, direct mail can be fully customized to whatever purpose you desire and is guaranteed to make it to your customer's mailbox. 4) Affordability Direct mail can be incredibly cost effective for a business hoping to find new customers or engage existing ones. If your business doesn't have the in-house capability to design, print and develop a mailing list, you may need to engage a Canada Post Smartmail™ Marketing Expert Partner like West Canadian. Once you have developed your direct mail piece, Canada Post's pricing for mailing is simpler than you may think. For Neighbourhood Mail, sending one flyer or postcard to approximately 500 addresses on a postal route will cost as little as $0.164 for each flyer. That equals out to only $82 for mailing to 500 potential new and existing customers! Of course, prices are subject to change and are dependent on the complexity of your campaign. 5) Design Potential What makes direct mail stand out is its tangibility. An email or online ad simply can't compare to receiving an eye-catching, well-designed piece of mail that's personally addressed to you. At West Canadian, our in-house design experts at Orange Door are direct mail experts and can work with your unique needs to develop a stand-out piece. Designed by Orange Door Get Started with Direct Mail If you're ready to get started, check out our Small Business Direct Mail Bundle to make it easy and affordable for you to reach your customers while they're at home. Starting at just $0.89 per piece, West Canadian will print 500 direct mail postcards, prepare them for mailing and deliver them directly to Canada Post. Learn more by clicking the link below. Get Started With Direct Mail

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