Direct Mail Programs, Costs & Results

Who Should You Mail?


This is so important; it deserves a web site of its own.  In short, you should mail the prospects most likely to respond to your offer and service.  There is an old direct mail marketing proverb that reads: “If you mail the right offer to the right people, you can mail it on toilet paper and it will work.”  While every component of direct mail is important - including the quality of the paper - this old adage does point out that selecting the right people to mail is paramount.  The best offer – Free Lawn Service Forever, – with the best creative – A DVD produced by George Lucas of Industrial Light and Magic and available in 3D - won’t generate lawn care leads if you mail to people who have no lawn.  For more details:


Read more about: TARGET MARKETING




When Should You Mail?


You should mail in the spring.  To find out the best time for your market area, you will need to test, but here’s what we have found based on USDA plant hardiness zones:


  • Zones 8, 9 & 10 – mail 1st drop between the last week of January and the 1st week of February


  • Zones 6 & 7 – mail 1st drop between mid to end of February


  • Zone 5 – mail 1st drop between the 1st and 15th of March


  • Zones 3 & 4 – mail 1st drop between the 1st and 15th of April


Your spring sales window is about ten weeks long so if the mailing quantity is substantial or you are mailing multiple times to the same prospects (or both), spread your drops out over a 5 to 8 week time frame.


You should also test mailing in the fall.




What Should You Mail?


Whatever you find works – the offer you have tested time and time again that generates the best response presented in the format you have tested time and time again that generates the best response.


THE OFFER - Another old direct mail marketing proverb goes like this: “If you want people to respond to your mailing campaign, make them an offer only a moron could refuse”.  You could mail an offer to every homeowner in your market with the offer “FREE LAWN CARE for ONE FULL YEAR.”  Chances are good that you’d get a tremendous response.  It would not be profitable, but you’d get a great response.  Instead consider offers that are both compelling and can still be profitable like a FREE LIME treatment where you add product to an already scheduled visit, or FREE AERATION at the end of the year where no product costs are incurred.  We also have clients still using dollars off (i.e. $20 OFF your 1st treatment) quite effectively as an offer to entice response.


The Creative – At Yes Marketing we test and retest everything whenever possible.  We have conducted focus groups to examine all aspects of different direct mail brochures and packages – some ours, some not – to see which photos capture the eyes of consumers; what headlines they are attracted to; which formats appeal to them most.  We assume nothing.  You may notice that most of our brochures have pictures of kids and dogs on lawns, that’s because those were the photos that grabbed the attention most often of the homeowners we surveyed.  Many of these photos we took and can’t be found or used through any other source, however you can find plenty of photos on line that you can purchase and use in your direct mail programs.  You may also notice that we use a lot of lists and text with bullets in our copy.  That’s because our research has shown that copy is more likely to be read when presented in that form.  If we encapsulate the main message in headlines and ask for the order on every page, it is because it works.


Of all of the formats we have tested, including letters of all kinds, postcards of all sizes, and self-mailers of all types, we have found the following to consistently respond the best:


* Self-mailers that fold to 7 ¼ * 5 ½ and include a Business Reply Card


* 6*11 postcards


Both brochures are quality 4 color pieces printed on card stock.


(When using a self-mailer with a BRC you will need to secure a Business Reply Mail (BRM) permit from the United States Postal Service (USPS) prior to beginning art production. With this permit, you'll also receive a unique Zip + 4 for the BRM. The BRM is the postage paid post card, attached to the mailer that prospects can use to contact you for an estimate. Most people will contact you by phone or the internet instead of sending the card, but studies have shown that not having the BRM reduces response rates.)




What Will It Cost?


That depends on a lot things including but not limited to the type of mailing, the quantity of the mailing, the type and size of the brochure, the type and source of the list, and of course postage rate.  In the last couple of years we have used both Every Door Direct Mail and Standard Mail to distribute brochures for clients.


EVERY DOOR DIRECT MAIL – This year the cost of EDDM averaged $0.29 per piece.  This US Postal Service product is the least expensive method of distributing mail to prospects in the United Sates. However, with EDDM, carrier routes are your lowest common denominator in targeting your mailings.  Certainly there are carrier routes where all, or at least almost all, addresses are prospects for your service.  You may find that the cost savings with EDDM net you the lowest cost per sale in 10%, 20% or even 40% of your marketing universe.  That still leaves at 60% of your marketing universe where a more detailed targeting approach works better.  Also be advised that in using EDDM, you (or someone) will have some manual sort and tray work to do in order for the post office to accept the mail.  Visit for more details.


STANDARD MAIL – This year the cost of Standard Mail (formerly 3rd class) ranged from $0.425 to $0.46 per piece depending on the quantity and list source for various clients.  That includes the cost of the brochure, the list, the mailing shop, postage and freight.



What Are The Results?


Results can vary quite a bit depending on the market, the offer, the price point of the product or service, and what other advertising you use to supplement your direct mail program.  Here are some averages.


RESPONSE RATE – Response rates on Standard Mail ranged from 0.58% to 1.10%.  This data is based on the number of addresses of all leads that came in throughout the year that matched the addresses mailed.  The average response rates on EDDM mailings as 0.30%


CLOSE RATE – Closing rates on direct mail ranged from 36% to 55%.


COST AS % OF ANNUAL REVENUE – Direct mail costs as a percent of annual revenue ranged from 17% to 35%.


COST AS A PERCENT OF LIFETIME VALUE – Direct mail cost as a percent of lifetime value (annual revenue divided by annual cancel rate) ranged from 2% to 11% with an average of slightly less than 6%.


Every element of a direct mail program impacts the success or failure of the program.  The list, the offer you extend to the consumer, the timing of that offer, how the offer is presented, the perception of your brand in the market, all of this and more will determine if your direct mail program is effective.





Direct mail has been the most consistent lawn care marketing tool for generating quality leads that close at a high rate.  Yes, it’s true that many direct mail responders who used to mail or phone-in orders now shop on line - thus the importance of your web site.  But in most cases, it’s the direct mail campaign that sends these consumers to their computers.  Not only does direct mail put your sales message into targeted homes, but based on our research, the sales generated from your mailers are more likely to remain long-term customers.  If used correctly, direct mail is the best way to target the specific market segments and consumers that are most likely to buy your service.