Digital Marketing

What are mailshots and why they work for Marketing

min read

In every door there is a letterbox. Through those letterboxes are your customers, either at home or at work.

The post arrives. They pick it up. And there in their hands is your business, your image, your product or service, your offer.

You talk to them. You tell them your news. You make them an offer. You get a response. You close the sale. Then, over time, you keep talking to them.

You build a relationship. They become loyal, lifelong customers, buying your products and services time and time again, and recommending you to their friends.

What are mailshots - direct mail example from Pawcific North Designs

“Yes, but that doesn’t happen in the real world,” you might be thinking. Only it does: it’s called mail marketing. It can be a mailshot (personally addressed advertising) or a door drop (unaddressed advertising sent to specific postcode areas).

Mail is used by all types of businesses, in all sectors, to acquire customers, retain them and encourage them to spend more.

It’s a highly targeted, highly personal, highly successful form of marketing that’s worth over £25 billion in sales revenue each year in the UK.

So how does it work?

What are mailshots?

Target, Target, Target

Whether targeting consumers (business-to-consumer) or businesses (business-to-business), mail is a precise and personal form of marketing.

It’s one of the few media that enables you to know exactly who you are talking to, where they live and what interests them.

Information about your customers is crucial to any mailshot. This may already exist in its most basic form as a list of your existing customers’ names and addresses.

What are mailshots - direct mail example, "Any Excuse to Eat Cake" invite

Or you can buy a list of potential customers to match your target audience. Refining your customer information helps to target your audience more accurately for more effective mailings.

It can also provide a clearer understanding of the person. What age are they? What income? Are they male or female? Are they avid readers, or into sports and exercise? Do they give to good causes, or are they keen investors?

The more information you can draw on, the more precise you can be in your targeting. The aim is to speak to those who are more likely to want to hear from you, and therefore more likely to respond.

Dear Personalised, Dear Friend

Mailshots, also known as direct mail, are the personalised form of marketing by mail.

You have known names and addresses of either existing customers (a ‘warm’ list) or people who fit your target audience and are potential customers (a ‘cold’ list).

Door drops, sometimes known as door-to-door, are the unaddressed form of marketing, where you don’t have the names of the people you want to reach.

These mailings can be very similar in form and content as personalised mail, but are delivered to areas (districts and postcodes) that fit your target audience’s profile.

Both forms of mail can be used individually or together in any campaign, and often play key roles in wider, integrated campaigns using TV, radio, press, web design and outdoor advertising.

What are mailshots - direct mail example from CITGO

CITGO partnered with Synchrony Bank to create and promote Reward Cards, by Sarah Shumway


People respond to mail like no other media. They really read it. Research shows that people can spend up to 10 minutes reading mailshots.

They digest the information in their own time and at their own pace, and then decide to act, or not. 

Mail provides businesses with a discrete, individualised environment to get a response from an individual customer. And there are many tools and techniques that can be used to help you get that response.

The first and most important is to have a compelling reason for the customer to respond (a fantastic offer…only available through mail…for a limited period only…etc) and then provide the customer with the easiest way to respond.

The very medium of a mailshot offers you the chance to be more engaging, more persuasive and even more detailed in what you have to say and sell.

What are mailshots - RSVP and invite example

Wedding Invites by Evgeniya Goktas

A flexible medium

Longer, more persuasive messaging. Deeper, richer information. Mailshots allow you to set out your stall in as structured and as engaging a style as you wish.

Mailshots and door drops can be created in many different formats and often include one or any number of the following items:

  • Letters and postcards
  • Leaflets
  • Brochures
  • Catalogues
  • Videos/DVDs
  • Samples
What are mailshots - College acceptance package

Ringling College Acceptance Packet for new students, by Olivia Strohm

The key thing is to exploit mail as an exciting and engaging medium. It is one of the few media that can affect all the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Creative and well thought through mailshots really do help get your message across, and solicit that all important response. The possibilities are restricted only by imagination, budget…and the size of the standard letterbox.

Why mailshots work

Mail is a boom advertising medium. And it generally boils down to one key point. It works. Mail works because it’s personal, it’s responsive, it’s measurable and it’s cost effective.


You talk to an individual on a one-to-one level. It’s you and the customer. You have more time to persuade, convince and engage your customers. You can ask customers a direct question, and get a direct response.


Mail is the most likely form of communication to get a response from a customer. Physically, because you often actually supply the means of response, which can include coupons, reply cards, application forms or telephone numbers.

But also emotionally, because you are talking to people at a time of their choosing, when they are more receptive to messages.

What are mailshots - foldable teepee invitation

Teepee Invite by Device Creative Collaborative


You can measure the exact cost of every response. Mail is a continuous learning process: the data collection and analysis on mailshots can deepen your understanding of your customers.

What you learn can provide information which will help refine your next campaign. Each mailing can be more effective and more precisely targeted than the last.

Cost effective

Mail provides a very affordable way to sell to people who want to buy. Targeting and profiling customers help maximise return on investments and minimise wastage.

And there are other savings to be made: a printed response form, for example, gathers exactly the information you need, at a fraction of the cost of a phone call.

Facts about marketing by mail

Mail provides a very affordable way to sell to people who want to buy. Targeting and profiling customers help maximise return on investments and minimise wastage.

And there are other savings to be made: a printed response form, for example, gathers exactly the information you need, at a fraction of the cost of a phone call.

The power of Direct Mail

Acquiring new customers

Direct Mail gives you the unique opportunity to target new customers at home or at work, when they’re at their most receptive and likely to respond.

With Direct Mail, Royal Mail can help increase your business revenue, build your brand and grow your customer base.

Building customer relationships

Building profitable customer relationships means taking the opportunity to sell more products and services to customers who already know you.

With Direct Mail you can target your message, be personal, relevant, engaging and memorable.

Retaining customers

Keeping customers as well as growing your own business can be a tough balancing act. It costs money and time to go out and get a new business – time and money you also want to spend on keeping your existing customers happy.

Fortunately, Direct Mail offers a simple, cost-effective way to keep in touch with existing customers – and keep your bottom line protected.

Caroline Hagan

Caroline brings over 15 years as a Designer and Developer; featured in .NET magazine, the only woman in the UK accredited for Google Mobile Sites. A business mentor with Enterprise Nation, STEM Ambassador and Google Women Techmaker Ambassador Previous client projects include Blackberry, FIAT, Clark Shoes and Sky.