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3 of the Most Common Issues in Direct Mail and How to Get Ahead of Them

Direct mail is an incredibly effective channel to meet your customer retention or acquisition goals when done right. Compared to digital and display ads, direct mail offers the ability to break through the clutter. You can make it in front of your ideal customers in a time and place where they are most likely to take action — the home, without digital obstacles such as viewability or fraud. 

However, executing direct mail marketing campaigns can be cumbersome if you aren’t equipped with the right tools, have to manage multiple partners or vendors, or have access to the right data. 

Below we’ve outlined three of the most common issues in direct mail marketing and what you can do to get ahead of them.

3 of the Most Common Issues in Direct Mail

1. Latent Data  

One of the biggest culprits in direct mail issues is latent data — and sometimes, it’s not even your fault! You may work with a vendor to purchase a recent list, but they haven’t updated that list in a month.

With the 2–3 month lead time most traditional direct mail programs require and the length of time it takes to get to the home with standard postage, by the time your prospect or customer gets your mail, the data may be almost six months old. 

Data latency can hurt your marketing programs’ performance. The consumer may no longer be in the consideration window for your product or service, or the address is no longer accurate. 

Stale data can cause waste in your marketing budget. You may send mailpieces to those who don’t want to hear from you or who are unlikely to take action.  

Latent data also contributes to pesky problems for consumers. They may receive marketing mail for former tenants who haven’t lived at their address for years.

PebblePost’s PDM® Platform combats this problem by using real-time online intent signals to influence all our direct mail. It leverages our proprietary Data Asset, the PebblePost Graph, to identify anonymous online site visitors’ household addresses in a secure and privacy-compliant way. 

We also leverage our sophisticated print and logistics network to print on demand, removing the need for month-long lead times. We use first-class postage to ensure our mail arrives in-home within 2–3 days of consumers’ exhibited online behavior. 

This speedy delivery and fresh, up-to-date data ensures that the consumer is most likely to be in the consideration window. Because they’re more likely to take action after receiving your marketing mail, this improves the effectiveness of your marketing objectives.

We use fresh, real-time data across all of our products, from Retargeting to Lookalikes. With our Lookalikes product, we use online behavioral data as recent as yesterday and create new machine-learning models the day before we print. This ensures the mail we send to prospects is the most relevant to their interests, and more likely to perform. 

2. Not Scrubbing Existing Customer File 

When sending direct mail, the more personalized the offer is, the more likely the prospect will respond. And as marketers, you want to ensure you use your marketing budgets as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

That’s why it’s vital to scrub your existing customer files as close to sending mail as possible. This helps you better target your audience and tailor your offers to the right segments. A common mistake is sending a direct mail piece that the recipient can’t take action on. For example, you may send a “new customer” offer to a consumer who has recently become a customer.

Not only does that drive your costs up, but it also mar unconsciously create a rift in customers’ trust.  If they are a loyal customer and receive a mailpiece for “new customers only,” they may seek out other solutions. 

You may already be scrubbing your data files for existing customers before sending direct mail. But if your current mail lead time is 2–3 months, that message will be stale when hits the mail stream. Leverage the PDM Platform to seamlessly scrub against your customer file 24 hours before heading to print. This minimizes leakage and ensure you can tailor your offers to your customer segment. 

The PDM Platform also undergoes thorough data hygiene practices and runs all your addresses through the National Change of Address the day before sending mail. This ensures the addresses are the most up-to-date and accurate as possible. 

3. Investing Too Hard in Cost Savings 

The modern marketing experience centers around the customer and brand alignment from head to toe. This experience applies in the direct mail marketing industry, too.

For example, are you a brand based in nature or climate change, but you don’t print on recycled paper with a visible Forestry Stewardship Council® (FSC) certified seal? While seemingly innocuous, this small detail can create dissonance between the customer and how they perceive your brand. 

We cannot stress this enough — the paper and postage aspects of direct mail are areas in which you should not cut corners. 

Thin paper may save you money upfront, but if it arrives ripped or smudged at your prospect’s house, it may be too damaged and unable to Survive the Sort™.

Another popular option on “cost-cutting measures” is using standard postage instead of First Class Mail® or opting out of using sorting and logistics companies and delivering straight to the USPS. While standard postage can bring costs down, it comes at the price of adding 2–3 weeks to your in-home date. By then, your prospect may be out of the consideration window, or worse: they’ve purchased from a competitor. 

As far as sorting and logistics is concerned, this critical step is often overlooked. But it can save you days, as mail is sorted by location and date at these facilities. By the time mail is sent, it’s on a pre-optimized route to get to consumers’ homes as productively as possible.  

PebblePost has created an integrated workflow that leverages a sophisticated print and logistics network to print and mail seven days a week. Our on-demand printing ensures mail reaches consumers quickly while offering brands the flexibility to adapt or change their creative without lengthy lead times. Additionally, we offer a host of sustainable paper options that are FSC-certified.

In Conclusion

Any one of these common issues can easily disrupt your campaign’s performance. As you begin to take steps to get ahead of these challenges, consider turning to Programmatic Direct Mail®. 

PDM® provides a seamless way to integrate your existing workflows, manage your mailing frequency, and ensure your programs meet your marketing objectives. 

To learn more about Programmatic Direct Mail or PebblePost and how it can complement your marketing efforts, please reach out to us at

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