Direct Mail

How Much Does Direct Mail Cost?

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
January 28 2020,
September 26 2020

Are you looking for a way to make your marketing message stand out among all of the digital noise people are subjected to everyday?

Then send them something through the post. Something real. Something they can hold in their hands.

Digital marketing has transformed the way businesses communicate with their customers, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for direct mail. In fact, it means direct mail campaigns are coming into their own.

But, digital marketing is incredibly cost effective, we hear you say? Well, let’s have a look at how much a direct mail campaign will cost.


So, how much will a direct mail campaign cost?

Unlike email campaigns or Facebook advertising, there are a whole host of variable factors that come together to create a direct mail campaign. Think design, format, print, item size, postage type, and the list goes on. Direct mail campaigns can be made as unique as your business, so you could, in all honesty, spend as much as you like on one.

This makes it almost impossible to provide a ‘rate card’ for direct mail costs as you might see for printed leaflets and brochures. Instead, to get a true idea of the worth of the campaign, it’s important to look at the cost effectiveness of it.

A typical direct mail campaign has five cost elements that you should weigh up to do this, however many people miss out one or more. This undermines their understanding of the cost effectiveness of the campaign and can lead to going over budget in some cases.

The five cost elements are:

1. Origination
This is the design aspect of the campaign and includes the creative, the copy and the artwork.

2. The delivered cost
This is the cost of sending the campaign out. It obviously includes printing, packing and postage, but will also include obtaining the mailing list data.

3. Cost of poor data
Chances are a percentage of your mailing will be wasted due to the intended recipient no longer living at the address.

4. Risk costs
This won’t be a problem if you work with accredited data providers, but if you don’t, the cost of potential data protection breaches should be accounted for. As well as the potential for non-compliance with postage regulations which would incur additional charges.

5. True cost
This is the return you get on your investment in the direct mail campaign. What response rate you generate from the campaign, versus what it has cost you to run.


We’re aware this doesn’t give you an idea of what kind of outlay you could be looking at to run a direct mail campaign though. So, below we’ve provided some indicative costs for a basic campaign. The table shows the print, packing and posting cost for both an A4 letter and an A6 postcard.

It’s also split by the number of items, as you can secure discounts on UK postage rates with 4000 items or more.


Delivered costs per item start from:

Size of mailing A4 one sided colour letter in an envelope A6 full colour postcard
3000 - 4000 41p per item 39p per item
4000+ (sorted postage discounts available) 31p per item 28p per item

(Price includes everything except, Origination and Data)


How can I keep the costs down?

As mentioned above, the price per item is entirely dependent on the choices you make when you create the campaign. Here are a few of our top tips to help you keep your costs down:

Use your data wisely

Segment your data and send each section the messaging most relevant to them. Also cleaning your data list regularly will ensure that it is working hard for you, and that you aren’t at risk of failing into any regulatory traps. It’s best to work with an accredited data agency to help you do this.

Work with the best postal company for your campaign

There are a whole host of companies that you can send your campaign through that offer different benefits and price points. Do your research or speak to an expert to find out which will be best for you.

Consider postage through the design stage

While unusual shapes and sizes may be eye-catching, posting them will increase your costs. It’s worth sticking to standard letter and parcel formats if you can. This also applies to the stock and packaging materials. Heavier weight paper may look and feel better quality, but the extra weight could also push your postage costs up. Ask your print supplier for advice on this one.

Think ahead

Many mailing companies offer reduced rates for pre-sorted mail campaigns, as it saves them time. Also make sure you try consolidating campaigns into larger mailings when possible, so you can reap the bulk buying benefits.

Plan for each step of the process

Remember to consider whether your printed materials will need storing or transporting before they are mailed as this will often incur additional costs.


But, what about the cost to the environment?

Alongside enquiries about the financial cost, we’re increasingly receiving enquiries about the environmental cost of direct mail. And, much like the monetary outlay, the environmental implications depend on the choice you make for the campaign.

Yes, if you decide to send heavy, bulky plastic items through the post to your customers it’s going to damage your green credentials. But, otherwise print services and direct mail – when done by a reputable, environmentally-conscious company ­­– are much better for the environment than people expect.

In fact, when compared to the increasing environmental impact digital communication is having, we need to look at alternatives. It is now thought that the ICT industry is responsible for 2.5-3% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and this figure is only set to rise.  

Using sustainably sourced paper and recycled packaging, opting for uncoated finishes to your print materials and ensuring your campaign is distributed by an environmentally-conscious courier all go a long way towards minimising the environmental cost of your campaign. Though your print marketing agency will be able to advise you on the best combination of options to help you achieve a low environmental impact, while ensuring it meets your marketing objectives.

It’s also important to look for the ISO 14001, FSC and PEFC certifications when choosing a print marketing company. Check they are responsible recyclers and that they have initiatives across the company as a whole that aim to reduce their carbon footprint. At Prime Group, we take our environmental commitment really seriously. You can find out about what we have in place to reduce our carbon footprint here.


So, is a direct mail campaign worth the money?

Without a doubt! Direct mail marketing is a wise choice for many businesses – B2B and B2C – as it is so effective. In fact, the Data and Marketing Association points out that direct mail is the most effective form of direct marketing, with a response rate of 4.4%. To put this into perspective, that’s compared to only 0.12% for email marketing. 

Plus, technological developments and the amount of data we can access about consumers means that we can create fully integrated direct mail campaigns that work alongside TV advertising, digital advertising, in-store experiences, and so on. When used in this way direct mail becomes even more powerful and increases the average ROI on the other advertising channels from £2.81 to £3.40 for every £1 spent.


How to maximise your response rates

There are also several things that you can do to try and increase your response rate even further.
Here are our top tips:

Be personal - Addressing the recipient by their first name is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personalisation. Tailor the copy, images, offers and CTAs to the individual person so that they feel like you have taken the time to get to know them.

Tell a story - People don’t like to feel like they are being sold to. You could enquire about how they are getting on with their previous purchases, add a competition or include some interesting news about the company or your products, to make the mailing seem less pushy.

Stand out - Use different textures, finishes and shapes to help your mailing stand out and encourage people to pick it up.

Be clear - Use short sentences and language the reader can easily understand to get your message across. Using bullet points can help with this too. And, don’t forget to include strong CTAs. 


Following these tips won’t just make a better impression on your customers. It will also have a tangible impact on the success of your campaign. For example, research has shown that adding the recipient’s first name to a direct mail item increases the response rate by 135%. It’s worth doing!


To help you deliver successful direct mail marketing campaigns every time, we’ve put together this infographic that contains an easy-to-follow guide that will help you get it right. Or, get in touch with a member of our team today for some personalised direct mail advice.

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