Create B2B Direct Mail that Sells [step-by-step]

We’re going to learn exactly how to create a B2B Direct Mail campaign that sells.


These are the exact steps we use to make direct mail our most profitable channel.

Let’s dive right in.

Step 1 – Define your campaign Goal

To start with, you must define a campaign goal.

Start by choosing one of the goals below:

  • Customer Acquisition (Get new customers)
  • Custom Activation (Convert leads into customers)
  • Cross-Selling (Sell more stuff to existing customers)
  • Retention and Loyalty (Keep customers happy so you don’t lose them)

Each of these goals apply to a stage in the customer journey. As we’ll see later, our strategy will be different, depending on the stage of the journey we focus on.

Next, we want to be much more specific. The goal should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely)

Here are some examples of good goals:

  • To increase the % of leads who become customers by 30%
  • To acquire 20 new level 3 companies in the west of England
  • To reduce churn by 10% by the end of March
  • To educate customers about our new product launch and get 50 trials started

Why is this important? By making your goal specific and understanding what stage of the customer journey you are targeting, you’ll be able to send the right type of direct mail to your customers.

Step 2 – How to create [and refine] your B2B mailing list

If your goal is to run an acquisition campaign (to find new customers), you’ll need to find and create a mailing list.

If you’re sending direct mail to existing customers, you’ll need to find their addresses, segment (more on this later) and clean your list.

First, let’s look at the case when your goal is to acquire new customers. How do you create your mailing list from scratch?

Before you create your list, you’ll need to know what type of companies you’re targeting. You’ll need to know 2 things. 1) Which companies you are targeting, and 2) Who are the relevant people within those companies you want to target.

Define your ideal customer profile. What industry are your customers in? What size company are they? In what location? And what job role are you targeting? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you when sourcing your list.

You may skip this section if you serve a small niche and already know exactly who these customers are, or you may have this list already.

Once you know which type of companies to target, you may want to talk to a list broker or create the list yourself. We’ll discuss the best way to create this list yourself here.

Now is a good time to mention companies house. This is a government database of all UK registered businesses and is publicly available (This is for UK Companies, but you can use the equivalent in each country) .

Companies house data gives you the physical address, and personal details of the company directors.

There are a lot of shell, and newly formed companies which are not actively trading or relevant. So it’s better to use the database to find the addresses and directors of companies, rather as a source to find which companies to target. (It is possible, but requires additional refinement)

Use google + industry directories to find the initial companies you want to target.

Search for “industry” + “directory” in google to find these directories. Or search for “industry” + “in Location”

Tip: It can be a good idea to use or similar websites to find remote freelancers who can use this technique to create the mailing lists for you.

How to find your existing leads/customers physical addresses?

Fortunately it’s easy to find addresses for your customers, as they are businesses, whose addresses are publicly available in the companies house database as described above.

When targeting employees who are not directors, use LinkedIn to find their name.

Cleaning your address list

As their is a significant cost to sending each direct mail piece, you want to ensure that none of the mail is undelivered. That is why you need to take great care to ensure the addresses are valid, up to date, and correctly formatted.

This is especially true if you’re addresses come from user submitted online forms.


Chances are, most of your customers aren’t the same. Your enterprise customers will need a different message to start-ups.

CEO’s are interested in different things to project managers and so forth.

Take a look at your list, and ask yourself, how best to splice your list so that the right messages can be sent to the right people.

Step 3 – Choosing your direct mail format

There is an unlimited number of direct mail formats you can send. From postcards & letters, through to boxes, and balloons.

Which format should you use? There are generally 4 common formats:

  • Postcards/Leaflets/Flyers
  • Letters
  • Self-Mailers
  • Custom Mail

Here is when to use each:

When to use postcards/flyers/leaflets

Postcards/Flyers/Leaflets can be used interchangeable. You can choose from different thickness, and sizes. If you’re unsure 300gsm thickness, and A5 postcards are recommended.

These are the most versatile formats and can be used for all campaign goals. They are also the most-cost effective and standardised form of direct mail. For most cases, this is a good option.

Here is an example of Google’s direct mail postcard

When to use Letters

Letters can be effective for marketing at later stages in the customer journey. This is because when Leads are already aware of you, and considering making a purchase, they require more information. Letters allow you to include much more information.

Letters, especially personalised B2B mail, is almost guaranteed to be opened, but if the recipient has not already been exposed to your brand (such as with acquisition) then you risk having a negative impact on your brand.

Google understands the value in sending direct mail for B2B

When to use Self-Mailers

Self-mailers are folded cards which are posted without envelopes. They are great for promotions which require educating the reader or contain a lot of information.

Here’s another example, showing the self-mailer

When to use custom mail

Your mail doesn’t need to be standardised and look like everyone else’s. In fact, being different and sending mail which may not even be made from paper, is a great way to guarantee the attention of your readers.

This approach is much more expensive and time consuming, so you will need to make a balanced decision on whether the increased responses would justify the additional cost.

There is no limit to what you can send, for example this booklet

For inspiration and ideas on different types of direct mail, take a look at the most incredible examples of direct mail we’ve ever seen.

Step 4 – Designing your direct mail with purpose

The design of your direct mail serves 3 main purposes:

  • To grab attention (So your mail gets noticed)
  • To communicate relevance (So the reader understands what your mail is about)
  • To invoke emotion for brand awareness

The design is one of the most important variables in the success of a direct mail campaign.

Ensure that you stand out and grab attention, so that your message will be remembered and actioned.

Clear, relevant images

A common mistake, is to use images which are not relevant to the business or your brand. If you’re selling enterprise cyber security feel free to be abstract and expressive, but don’t use a picture of a puppy if it’s not a core part of your branding. (It might sound obvious, but we see it done far too often!)

You might think it’s clever, but making it easy for the reader to identify broadly what your mail is about at a glance is the difference between being ignored and a successful outcome.

Use bright complimentary colours

Use bright complimentary but contrasting colours in your design to make it stand out.

Keep it simple and avoid clutter

This is one of the most common mistakes with direct mail design. Too often people will try to cram as much information as possible in the space. But simpler designs perform much better.

It’s better to keep a headline and a short sentence on the front of a postcard.

Use high quality professional photos

This is a basic tip, but make sure that you use high-quality images and fonts. This goes without saying.

Avoid the “stock-photo” look

Stock photos look generic and unappealing. This is especially important for B2B direct mail, which will often be delivered to offices. You don’t want the mail to be confused with junk mail before it’s even left the front desk. This is particularly important for open mail such as self-mailers and flyers.

Step 5 – Crafting a killer headline

Every piece of direct mail will have some sort of headline. The headline only serves one purpose, and that is to get you to read the rest of the mail.

Therefore, it should be focused on gaining attention, and be relevant to the reader, so they understand what the direct mail is about.

Here are some examples of effective headlines

Headlines which highlight a pain point:

  • Your customers are searching for you on Google, but you don’t show up on the first page. [From an SEO agency]
  • 45% of companies are unprepared for a serious IT attack.

Headlines which highlight your value proposition:

  • Help your sales Reps close more deals with…
  • We manage your social media for half the cost and twice the results

Personalise the Headline:

Personalising each mail-piece headline to include the persons first name, or company name is a great way to draw attention and get noticed.

For example: “Martin, help MacroSoft launch stable apps faster by outsourcing your testing to the award-winning team at Test Ice” Will resonate a lot more with someone as the message is immediately more relevant.

Step 6 – The message

Once you’ve got your readers attention with the design and headline. They will now need to read your main message.

Make your copy easy to read

Your reader is busy, they will probably be glancing and skimming through your message.

If you received some direct mail at work today, would you be reading through it word-by-word, or quickly skimming it?

Use the following as a checklist to make sure your copy is simple:

  • Short paragraphs
  • Avoid Jargon, and complex words
  • Use subheadings and highlight key sentences
  • Repeat your key point multiple times

Demonstrate trust & credibility

Reference your biggest existing customers, and use their logos to demonstrate trust and credibility.

Using testimonials and short customer quotes here is great way to establish credibility for your direct mail.

Depending on your format you will have more space, but just because you have more space it doesn’t mean you should write more.

Step 7 – Writing a CTA that appeals to decision makers

You probably know you need a CTA – A direct instruction for your reader to take the next action. But what type of call to action works best for B2B mail?

Your reader is probably very busy, and have a list of important things to do in front of them.

Try these tips to get more actions from your campaign:

Reference the pain again

What as the problem you are solving? Reference it again in the call-to-action. For example:

  • Avoid your best talent walking out tomorrow and contact Hannah Smith today at for a free consultation

Keep the ask simple

If doing acquisition campaigns, don’t ask for a purchase straight away. Ask for a free strategy session, invite them a web page, or request them to send an email.

Creating as little friction as possible and making the ask easy will give you many more responses and opportunities sell.

Read this post with more general tips on writing a call-to-action for direct mail.

Step 8 – Delivery and fulfilment

Printing and sending a direct mail campaign can be as complex or as simple as you like.

Using an online service like Postary you can run an entire direct mail campaign online.

The useful thing about Postary is that you can upload your design, import your mailing list and the printing and delivery is handled for you. Things like tracking and personalisation with merge text is built in.

If you want custom non-standard direct mail printed, you should find a local print company, or mailing house who has this capability.

A final Note

Please share this post if you know anyone who finds this useful, or comment below or contact me if you have any questions.

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