Direct Mail Works! It's been proven by any number of research bodies, most notably Ricoh's research in collaboration with the DMA, whose executive director Chris Combemale says, "When you put the consumer first, direct mail emerges as a highly engaging and successful medium", and the Royal Mail's investigation 'The Private Life of Mail', has a top line finding showing that direct mail has a 72% stronger impact on your long-term memory than television advertising.

Many integrated marketers who for the last ten years have run full-tilt at digital marketing are now starting to realise that direct mail adds a dimension to their campaigns that digital alone simply can't achieve. Its nature encourages a more considered, tactile attitude to their engagement that occupies the mind in a quieter, more durable way than the flashing lights of banner ads or the jangling chaos of TV.

But how do you make all this letter-writing work for you? It's a well-known fact that blanket mailing to all and sundry does nothing but waste money and irritate your consumers, which with tight budgets and unparalleled levels of competitions are mistakes your company can ill-afford.

We've come up with 5 must-dos if you want your direct mail to work for you:

1. Avoid suspiciously cheap data.

Whether you are mailing consumers or businesses, the same rule applies: if it's too good to be true, it's probably not true. Many data owners will promise you that the data you're buying is full of your exact target audience - people who like expensive cars, ladies who listen to Rod Stewart, people who want to learn a new language. They'll offer millions of records for next to nothing, assuring you that their data is profiled to perfection, or geo-demographically enhanced. Unless you are buying from a record company, a car insurance database (this is possible; there are some very good insurance databases around) or directly from a language school (e.g. if it's mail order data, which is the best kind), THIS CANNOT BE GUARANTEED. If you are going to buy from a large lifestyle database, always ask how the data was collected: if the data is based on transactional information, the chances are that it will be slightly more expensive, but far more accurate, and you're much more likely to get your message in front of people who are likely to be interested in your offer. If the words 'profiled' or 'demographically enhanced' are used to describe the data, the chances are it's guesswork. For more information on different types of list, check out our guide to lists.

2. Ensure all data is opted in and MPS cleaned.

Especially in the light of predicted new changes to data protection laws, this is an essential step. Opted in data means that the person you're writing to has agreed to receive correspondence from third party mailers. If they have not agreed to this, it is illegal to write to them. Make sure you have agreement in writing from your supplier that this the data is opted in, so that if incorrect data was sent to you in error, you have the necessary paper chase to ensure you wrote to them in good faith.

In some scenarios, an individual may have agreed to receive third party mailings, but may also be on the MPS (mailing preference system). This is a national register of people who have requested not to receive third party mailings of any kind, EVEN if they have opted in to do so. Ensure your data is MPS cleaned. If the supplier says it's not, you are obliged to get this cleaned yourself. Listbroker can help with this. Call and enquire about this today on 0870 120 1326.    

3. Make sure your content is personalised and engaging.

If you want to relate to your target audience, remember this simple mantra: people buy from people. What this means is they have to like you; they have to like what they read. Tell a story. Make it funny, or interesting, or emotive. Simply screaming "buy from us!" will not work. If you're not a confident writer, it is always worth the investment to employ a decent copywriter. Ask for example of previous work, and if you like it, chances are your audience will too. CarsonCC have worked closely with us for a number of years - check them out here.

4. Give your audience good reason to get in touch today.

This can be done in a number of ways. Typically a unique discount code is applied, giving the recipient incentive to test your product or service at an introductory cost. This also provides a simple way of tracking how successful your campaign has been, as you can measure the number of new customers you've acquired through the mailshot. Depending on what your business is however, entry into a competition, a free consultation or a promotional gift might work better for you. whatever it is, your target audience need to feel that the mailing piece is a ticket to some sort of reward, whilst also providing you with an opportunity to measure your campaign's success.

5. Integrate, integrate, integrate!

There is nothing like word of mouth to spread the message of your business. Get them to like and share your deals of Facebook - again, rewards will help with the success of this - ask them to follow you on Twitter; engage them in competitions or opinion polls. Offer them rewards for recommending your products to friends, and follow up your mailing piece with an email, or even a phone call if appropriate. Direct mail offers the chance to engage with customers in a unique way, that enters physically into customers' social and private spaces, but it is by no means strongest on its own. A multi-disciplined approach is always best is you want to make a powerful statement; be imaginative and use the new and inventive alongside the traditional and proven to send your message far and wide!