What is Direct Mail Copywriting?

S. Crawford

Direct mail copywriting is public relations, marketing, or advertising writing done for a client that goes directly to his potential customers, often landing in their mailbox or email. Frequently marketed on postcards or through other extremely visible methods when using postal mail, such campaigns are generally unsolicited. The object of direct mail copywriting is to induce potential customers to purchase the client’s goods or services. Direct mail campaigns are distributed to large numbers of people in order to obtain as much attention as possible for the client. A writer who is skilled in writing compelling advertisements usually performs direct mail copywriting.

Direct mail copywriters try to induce customers to buy products.
Direct mail copywriters try to induce customers to buy products.

Freelance writers who have talent for writing pieces that move potential customers into positive action are most successful at direct mail copywriting. This type of copywriting is considered advertisement. Sometimes the advertisements are brought to the customer via methods like door hangers, package inserts, and fliers. These approaches are still considered direct mail even though the mailbox might not be the primary method of delivery. Direct mail is meant to go directly to the consumer and to bypass other third-party interventions such as stores and salespeople.

For the copywriter, direct mail copywriting can be a lucrative business. When a writer gains a reputation as an effective copywriter, clients seek him out for his expertise; however, for the businessperson who pays for direct mail campaigns, the method is often hit or miss. It is easy to measure the positive response of customers on the receiving end of direct mail marketing campaigns, but the number of people who perceive unsolicited advertising mail as annoying junk mail or spam is more difficult to ascertain. Recent legislation of commercial email messages in many countries requires businesses to offer recipients an opt-out link where they can remove their name from the mailing list. In this way, people who receive spam email messages can stop the influx of these messages from specific senders, but no such legislation exists for postal customers.

Direct mail copywriting for clients who have postal customers might be a dying art in many locations. In the US, for example, the amount of direct mail delivered via the US Postal Service declined by 10% in 2009. The decline is attributed to an economic downturn as well as to the use of the Internet and alternative methods for direct marketing. While a decline in the use of the postal service to deliver direct mail is likely, direct mail is still a popular method of advertising since customers can be targeted and the mailing can be optimized to garner positive results from those targeted customers. Writers who have talent in producing persuasive copy should always be able to find work.

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