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How to Use Direct Mail in the Customer Journey

Written By Shannon Bailey

June 11, 2021

Have you ever received a postcard in the mail with a coupon offer and put it aside to keep? I have a tendency to throw Jiffy Lube discount postcards in my purse. There is always the off chance I’m spontaneously motivated to get my oil changed. Sometimes I use it; sometimes I don’t. Inevitably, many linger for too long and the offer expires. While this behavior may seem insignificant, this simple 4×6 postcard is accomplishing monumental results for Jiffy Lube and their customer retention efforts.

That’s because Jiffy Lube has me behaving in exactly the manner they hoped. At a minimum, the postcard keeps their brand front-of-mind, and when the timing is right, I transact—the optimal response for their direct mail marketing efforts. With thousands of locations nationwide and millions of customers, consider the return on investment if tens of thousands of customers do the same thing I do. I can tell you, based on some hypothetical calculations, it’s not insignificant.

Of course, Jiffy Lube is also leveraging online channels for customer acquisition and retention. They orchestrate customer communications, both online and print, to move individuals through the customer journey from pre-sale to post-sale, from prospect to customer to brand advocate. Like Jiffy Lube, you will need to determine how and when to leverage direct mail at any stage during the journey based on your marketing goals, how your customers interact with your brand during these phases, and qualifying the metrics of success during each. When you can meet both your marketing objectives and your customers’ needs simultaneously … success! Let’s look at how you might use direct mail during each of these stages.

Awareness and Consideration

During the pre-sale stages of awareness and consideration, your marketing goals may look something like:

  1. Increase awareness and customer interest
  2. Increase product education
  3. Drive website traffic

Initially, since prospective customers are just learning of your brand, they may not have any goals. They are deciding if they, in fact, need your product or services. Once they identify a need, customers move into the consideration phase. Consideration involves researching, comparing and evaluating alternatives—a decision-making process that may take seconds or years depending on the nature of the need and the investment.

In these early phases of the customer journey, your audience is the largest and least qualified. While much of this communication happens online, print can help you break through to your audience and gain brand awareness.  After all, prospects can’t start the customer journey if they don’t know you exist. 

It can be more difficult to reach prospects with direct mail during the awareness or consideration phase, as you may not have a mailing address. The return on investment can also be difficult to track and measure. But it’s not impossible.

If you know where your customers are (i.e., you either have the data or know the neighborhoods), postcards are the most cost-effective method to reach prospects and introduce your brand, running anywhere from $0.60-$1.15/piece, depending on the size of your audience and the size of the postcard. (For more on neighborhood targeting, check out our recent post on how to use EDDM to send direct mail.)

Purchase and Retention

Converting a customer from the consideration phase to the purchase phase is the ultimate customer journey moment. Your company has overcome incredible obstacles, and customers are now in the post-sale phases. Once your audience moves into the latter steps in the customer journey, direct mail is less risky and often easier to execute. It can also become more sophisticated and targeted, driving the desired consumer behavior. 

The moment a prospective customer transacts, it is time to really wow them! We all know you do not get a second chance at a first impression, and with the conversion, you likely have the necessary customer data (i.e., mailing address) to deliver a thoughtful welcome experience that positions your brand for long-term success. 

Anything you send during the purchase phase needs to ensure a quality customer experience and reinforce the customer’s decision to work with your company. Welcome experiences can range from a personalized, well-timed letter to a welcome kit that delivers an unforgettable introduction to your product or service.

Create a welcome experience to onboard new customers.

Once the novelty of the purchase wears off, you must nurture and retain these new customers. Your competition is always looking to woo your customers away. What you do during the retention phase of the customer journey can solidify your relationship with your customers. 

Research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score) explains that it is far less expensive to retain existing customers than it is to find new ones. By increasing customer retention rates by 5%, profits can increase by 25% to 95%. As the Jiffy Lube example suggests, subtle, inexpensive direct mail can play a vital role in customer retention and keeping your brand front-of-mind.

When you’re talking to existing customers, it’s important to leverage what you know about your customers and not treat them like a first-time buyer. Stay relevant by offering timely information, offers, cross-sells or up-sells that they will find valuable. Your retention print budget doesn’t have to be crazy, but it is important to continue engaging your most valuable audience: your current customers.


Advocacy, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, is the function of pleading for or supporting. Your ultimate customer journey goal is to turn customers into advocates. As Reichheld suggests, loyal customers offer the most cost savings and increased profit over time, and “Cost-effectiveness dictates that you segment clients to identify the subset that holds this potential, so you can target your investment in relationship-building.” When you qualify your A++ customers and brand advocates, you should allocate a healthy marketing budget to implement customer appreciation campaigns. 

Online ads, emails and welcome letters evolve into customer appreciation, delivering valuable and high-end touch points. It’s true you can get creative with online gifts. But while delivering a physical gift experience requires more time and energy, you can be assured it will not go unnoticed. While your audience during the pre-sale phases was large and undefined, by this stage of the customer journey, your audience is clearly defined and you should engage and woo them often. 

Really step up your game for your advocates.

The Bottom Line

Depending on your audience’s relationship with your business, direct mail can help enhance customer relationships and build equity in your brand. In preparation for sending direct mail, ensure you have clear marketing objectives that are measurable. Be thoughtful with your data by qualifying and segmenting your audience. Look at customers’ purchase history (or lack thereof) to inform how you talk to and nurture them during their journey. When used strategically, direct mail has the potential to build brand awareness, convert leads, and build lifelong brand advocates.