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June 7th, 2018

What You Need to Know About Direct Mail

What You Need to Know About Direct Mail

People like to get things in the mail.

When you open your mailbox and see that you have mail, doesn’t it make you just a little bit happy? And if it looks special – don’t you get a little excited? There’s a reason why direct mail is still one of the most powerful marketing tools. In fact, according to United States Direct marketing Association, 42% of recipients read or scan the direct mail pieces they receive. Direct mail is tangible, it can create an immediate emotional response, and almost everyone checks their mail!

But, just like any marketing platform, it can easily be a hollow investment that delivers little to no return if not designed and executed properly. The trick, as with any marketing tools, is to enable a strategy that will give your campaign the best chance for success. At PDA | Marketing Group, we have successfully planned, designed, and executed direct mail campaigns for dentists for almost a decade. Let us show you a little bit of what you need to know before starting a direct mail campaign.

A successful direct mail campaign is all about reaching the right person with the right offer at the right time. This means using the right mailing list, the right content, and the right frequency.

Lists – Targeting Your Market

Not all mailing lists are created equal. This is critical because lists can determine the overall success of your campaign. Ask yourself this question: is your mailing list helping you targeting the people who are primed and ready to pick up the phone and call you? Or, said another way, if you want to attract patients that are over 50 years old living in one specific zip code or neighborhood within 1.0 mile of your practice, would you select a list filled with families between the ages of 25-35 living 10 miles away? Probably not.

There are three types of lists that go from very general to very specific targeting: Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), Targeted Resident, and Consumer.

Every Door Direct Mail

Commonly referred to as EDDM (every door direct mail), this type of mailing may seem attractive on the surface, because no mailing list is required. While that makes it seem less expensive, it’s also one of the least discerning types of mailing programs. With EDDM, every person on a street will receive your unaddressed mailer. While this type of mailing might be a good option for a local grocery store sending out coupons, the problem with EDDM for dentists is you will end up spending a lot of time designing and a lot money paying for the printing and postage of your mailers just to have them discarded because they are not personalized or addressed, and are delivered to a lot of people who aren’t in your target audience (ex. trailers, apartments, PO boxes, etc.). Every mailer sent to someone not in your target audience is a waste of postage and printing.

Targeted Resident

Targeted Resident lists pull a list based on address, housing type, location, proximity (distance or drive-time distance), average annual income, and more. This is a more precise list and has proved effective for many dental practices because it allows you to target the people who fit into your target demographic based on what type of neighborhood they live in: single family dwelling, income, city routes, multiple family, rural, etc. It also allows you to exclude specific addresses from receiving your mailers so you’re only paying for mailers to go to people who are more likely to need your services. If you’re interested in knowing what the demographics of your area are, every Complimentary Marketing Assessment from PDA | Marketing Group includes a demographic report.


Consumer lists are even more exact and are ideal for people – like dentists – who serve a specific audience. PDA | Marketing Group usually recommends consumer lists when a dentist wants to narrow their marketing focus to a very specific type of service for a very specific patient type, such as cosmetic dentistry or implants. Consumer Mailing Programs target specific people based on their patterns of behavior and purchasing, birthday, gender, income, occupation, age, hobbies, education, and more. The benefit of this type of mailing is that it is personalized to target specific types of people not just a mailing route or address. Again, if you’re interested in knowing where to target your direct mailers, PDA | Marketing Group has access to demographic data that can help you.

Content – Engaging and Eye-Catching Design

Creating an engaging design is crucial for getting a response rate on your mailing. We have found the most effective mailers in the dental market have:

  • A design that stands out: It might seem obvious, but your mailer should stand out and make people take notice. Just like the first sentence in a novel, the mailer should quickly grab peoples’ attention and hold it. It also has to establish credibility. Is your content relevant to the reader? Helpful? Authentic?
  • Specific call to action: You need to give potential patients a reason to pick up the phone and make an appointment. Usually, some type of special or “limited time” offer will work. Just be careful that the offer benefits your practice and has value for the potential patient: this doesn’t necessarily have to be something “Free” but the offer needs to be compelling. This offer will depend a lot on your target demographic and what type of patient you are working to attract. If you’re struggling to come up with an effective call to action, PDA | Marketing Group can help you with that.
  • Prominent contact information and trackable phone numbers: While it seems basic, having your contact information printed in prominent areas will ensure people know how to contact you. Phone numbers should be trackable, so you can measure your return on investment. Tracking your phone calls will also let you know if you need to adjust your messaging or offer. We have listened to thousands of hours of caller response and can share with you our “best practice” suggestions.

Frequency – A Tale of 25 Seeds

The most successful direct mail campaigns put their resources into targeting a specific group of the most ideal potential patients, and regularly offer these people the opportunity to schedule an appointment. In order to be successful, direct mailers must be sent out on a regular basis, every 4-6 weeks on average.

Why target a specific group so often? In the book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin uses this analogy: You have 100 seeds and enough water to water each seed one time. To ensure your seeds bear fruit, what would yield the highest success of growing seeds: planting 100 seeds and watering each one once, or planting 25 seeds and watering each four times?

Direct mail is not a one-and-done tactic. In fact, according to a survey by the National Sales Executive Association, 90% of sales were made when recipients were contacted between 4-12 times.

There’s no way around it: when people receive mailers on a regular basis they are more likely to pick up the phone and make an appointment. Our strategies and tactics around the direct mail campaigns we run for our clients are designed to take advantage of these proven results.

Bringing It All Together

Direct mail can be a powerful long-term strategy for dental practices because direct mail targets not just the patients who need you right now (like when they hear the radio commercial or see the Google Ad right after they broke a tooth) but also the more discerning patients who are thinking about their dental needs, but are not yet ready to call. New patients calling from a direct mailer usually schedule around a life-change like their current dentist retiring, a new move, illness, a new family member, a change of insurance, or an emergency.

While potential patients may not need all your services right now, when they chip a tooth, want whitening for a special occasion, need an implant, or need work done that they have been neglecting for a long time and want sedation dentistry, they are more likely to call you because they have seen your mailers on a frequent basis.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Direct Mail Company

PDA | Marketing Group has been helping dentists all over the US with their direct mail campaigns for more the last decade. We can help you evaluate the best mailing program based on your current patient demographics, your specific services, and your new patient goals. We also regularly report real-time response, analytics and demographics to ensure that your direct mail campaign is helping you reach your marketing goals. Call us today to see if direct mail is right for you and let our award-winning strategists and designers help you build a direct mail campaign that is right for you.

Here are a few things to look for, and questions you can ask, when looking for a company to help you with your direct mail campaign.

  • Look for a successful track record:
    • Do you specialize in direct mail specifically for dentists?
    • How long have you been specializing in dentistry?
  • Knowledge of local markets:
    • In what areas of the country do you usually mail to?
    • (Effective content and purchasing trends are different across the country. It can make a big difference to the ROI from your campaign if your marketing company is like PDA | Marketing Group and has experience in every geographic area of the country.)
  • Understanding of mailing lists and demographics:
    • What type of mailing list would you recommend?
    • Can you help me determine my ideal demographic? If so, is there an additional charge for this information?
  • ROI stats:
    • What type of information do you gather to help me determine how my campaign is working?
    • What kind of tracking, monitoring, and follow up do you do with my campaign?
    • If the results are not what I was expecting, can I revise my message and design?

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