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Reasons to Use Direct Mail

August 9, 2005 by

The church marketing company FaithSpan has a newly redesigned web site and is offering a new section of How-To PDFs. One of the best is 9 Reasons to use Direct Mail. Some of the reasons include:

  • Cost effectiveness: the non-profit bulk mail rate for postcards can be as low as 4.3 cents.
  • Target your audience: you can use different lists to either target specific demographics or saturate communities close to your church.
  • Long shelf-life: people tend to keep direct mail postcards rather than throwing them away immediately, which improves the chances that people will pay attention and respond.
  • More likely to be read: bulk junk mail is often thrown away unopened, but postcards don’t need to be opened (duh) and therefore are more likely to be read.
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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29 Responses to “Reasons to Use Direct Mail”

  • Anne Jackson
    August 9, 2005

    At our house, we get 3-5 church postcards a week. Maybe my area is oversaturated, but I don’t give them a second thought because they just keep coming….

  • kevin
    August 10, 2005

    3-5 church postcards a week!? I think I’ve only ever received two in the two years I’ve lived in my house (none in the two years I lived in an apartment). Maybe St. Paul ain’t so saintly.

  • Tony Morgan
    August 10, 2005

    We still print postcards for direct mail, but that’s not the the most effective use of postcards. Close to 75% of the people who attend are church for the first time still come through the invitation of a friend. Postcards help with personal invitations because they have all the information about the series, a map, service times, kid’s ministry details, etc. We’ve found that postcards are a great tool for fueling the buzz.

  • Robert Rizzo
    August 10, 2005

    I love that “fueling the buzz” comment. Generally when we talk to our clients about using direct mail we encourage them to have a realistic expectation. We want them to focus less on getting an immediate response and more on building image and awareness for the very reason Tony just mentioned. A decision to attend a new church is not something most people do on a whim. What we would call an impulse purchase. Rather it is a big decision for most people. And not everyone is ready to make that decision the first time you reach out to them. That is why we need to communicate the message to them over and over and over. Great marketing is always consistent and frequent.

  • Anne Jackson
    August 10, 2005

    Besides postcards, there are other creative things you can mail.
    I worked with our student ministry on project last year when our High School and J-High dates and times to meet changed. The theme for that was “Change is Good.” So I had the idea of sending out diapers instead of postcards.
    We literally bought 750 diapers, adhered a small postcard INSIDE The diaper with the new information and a fun tagline about change is good to tie in the diaper just in case they didn’t get the correlation. Then we tabbed the diapers shut using newsletter circles and sent them bulk mail (for about .16/piece!)
    It was amazing how many calls we got. If you got a diaper in the mail (no packaging – JUST A DIAPER and when you open it, the message is inside) – wouldn’t you want to look at it? That was a fun project. ;)

    • Philip Thornton
      February 15, 2011


      This post I read was several years old (2005) but your comments on mailing out the diapers intrigued me. Could you please contact me an fill me in on some details…

      (717) 712-6100 (717) 651-1685

  • Anne Jackson
    August 10, 2005

    I don’t know if I agree with the statement great marketing is frequent. I think if it’s remarkably memorable one or two times, rather than just normal many times, the fewer times is going to be remembered long before the normal one many times. Instead of sending out direct mail constantly, we are going more in the direction of becoming involved in our community – sponsoring events, being present at events to serve as a team, last year we did the 10K turkey challenge and challenged our church and the community to donate 10,000 turkeys to a local food bank who kept a freezer truck on our property for a few weeks. By communicating our vision, “A place where people really matter” by doing acts of kindness and showing that we mean what we say, I think that is leaving a more lasting and honest impression of who we are as a church and the love that Christ has for everyone. The love of God is what draws people into him. Not that postcards aren’t a great tool for some areas (we send maybe 2 a year) but practical acts of love reflect more what the church is about to the community than typical marketing methods.

  • corey
    August 10, 2005

    I would have to agree with the relationship between frequency and effectiveness of marketing. Growing up in Houston, there was a man who ended every commercial for his furniture stores by jumping up and down and saying, “[my store] saves you money!!!!”. The first few times I heard it, I thought it was just more REALLY low budget, innefective advertising. Now, a dozen or more years later, that guy’s furniture stores practically constitute an empire and he’s still employing the same tagline/ service mark. It wasn’t smart at all. Though it was cheap and clumsy, it became familiar, and it worked like a charm.

  • Alex
    August 10, 2005

    Direct mail is great, but to do it effectively, campaigns must be tested and once they have been tested, they must be run consistently over a period of time.
    Also, to exercise the best stewardship of resources, they must be measured. In the marketplace, this means tracking ROI. In the church, it is harder to track dollars attributed to new visitors as a result of a given campaign and debatable if it should even be tracked in this way.
    The reality for most churches?? It’s cost prohibitive. Plus, if DM is not part of a greater strategy (web, personal invites, print media, etc.), then it will likely not pay off in the slightest. Unless a church is willing to dive into a longer term strategy of DM, it is merely throwing away dollars.
    Also, the above mentioned issue of mail glut is a significant issue. Some days, I get upwards of 5-6 postcards in the mail. My response? Into the round file. I don’t have time to read all this stuff. So then, might there be a more effective way to make your church know, like personal invite cards promoting programs or events that members can hand out to their circles of influence?? I think so. Doesn’t cost a lot. And the response rate? Likely much higher then most direct mail campaigns, which are lucky to get a 2-3 % response rate.

  • Anne Jackson
    August 10, 2005

    but do you want to be remembered as the annoying church whose annoying marketing was everywhere or the one who did it with intent and purpose and excellence?
    i am on one church’s email newsletter list and i get 4 a week from them. in comparison, we send 1 email bi-weekly on wednesday. we tracked email click and open rates for a while before we decided the frequency, and we found the less we did them, the more impact they had by a significant percentage.

  • Anne Jackson
    August 10, 2005

    also you mention he did the same tagline on the commercial all the time. that is not frequency, but consistency.

  • Kerry Graham
    August 10, 2005

    Regarding the furniture store in Houston (Gallery Furniture), the owner, (Mac), is not only consistent, he is ubiquitous! He is relentless about advertising on TV, Radio, Billboards, Newspaper ads, event sponsorship, direct mail, you name it. Not to mention his own “personal evangelism.” If you go to his store, more than likely you will see him there working the floor. Anyone who has been in Houston more than a few days will have heard of his furniture store.
    But back to DM… Direct mail is a powerful tool when added to the mix (Personal Touch Cards, website, etc.) Certainly there are some neighborhoods where every other church is sending out a postcard. But there are many more neighborhoods that don’t receive any.

  • Kerry Graham
    August 10, 2005

    Frequency (along with a consistent message/look) is important. Think of your local grocery stores… you probably get a weekly mailer/circular from them. Churches don’t need to do mailers weekly, but at they probably should consider doing them 4 to 6 times a year.

  • Anne Jackson
    August 10, 2005

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this.
    I really think it depends on your market and your message. Our people are so overwhelmed with clutter in the mail, in their inbox – their lives are complex and in order for us to be effective, we do what we can to subtract from the clutter. Frequency doesn’t work in our environment. We’ve tried it, measured it and said a fond farewell to it. We send a monthly newsletter to our attenders, but to the community, only one mailer a year, if that. We don’t advertise in the newspaper or on radio or TV. We rely on word of mouth and acts of kindness and keeping things simple, short and concise. Those work perfectly for us (In the last year we have grown by 600 people, or close to 20% from last year – not counting numbers, but lives changed – after this month we will have baptised over 200 people.) All this is just the work of the spirit in his people. :) We just ask for guidance and listen. DM is just not a standard way of marketing for us.

  • Michael
    August 10, 2005

    It really is going to depend on your market and market tone. Saturation is very different than frequency. If your market tends to be high on the DM, then you risk saturation and you become part of the clutter.
    Frequency is essential in marketing efforts. Yes, a captivating piece will move people, but it usually takes them several times (standard is 7) to actually see it.
    Consistency of course is tied to frequency. Frequently running different style of commercials won’t work. Frequently running commercials with a consistent campaign can be effective.
    The method will change from market to market and it may very well take some time to find out what your market pays attention to. Once you’ve figured that out consistently give it to them.
    Of course this is just one part…we haven’t even touched on tone, message, offer…it takes time. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t.

  • Alex
    August 10, 2005

    Again, I think DM can be useful, but for most church situations, it is a money sink with limited returns. A recent study done by Mission Portland found that 70% of new Christians came to church as a result of a personal invitation. And that does not even broach the retention issue, which most churches, including mine, struggle with. Only 20% of those that visit church visit again. An ex-pastor on our marketing leadership team has quoted stats that say seven impressions (a card, a personal visit, a personal connection on Sunday AM, etc. in combination) must be made within the first two weeks after a visitor comes for the first time, else they won’t stay long term. So then, DM relies on mailings for both conversion and retention, so it can become costly. It seems clear that personal invites and follow up touches are far more effective at driving participation then commitment.

  • corey
    August 11, 2005

    Yes, it’s true, frequency and consistency shouldn’t be confused (regarding Gallery Furniture in Houston), but I believe the center portion of the Venn Diagram containing those two nouns would be quite spacious.
    I liked the comments about quantity vs. quality in mailers. Makes me wonder if it’s more valuable to surgically target a demographic than to wash an entire zip code with a less-expensive/ lower quality mailer. I don’t have the answer, just a thought (shot from the hip).

  • Michael
    August 12, 2005

    I think targeting your audience is the best way to go. It allows you to know who you are talking to and tailor the message to them.
    I agree that consistency and frequency can cross over, but often times frequency outweighs consistency. Many -even large companies- think that as long as they put their logo on an ad it’s consistent and forget about tone and form of communication.
    It’s about quality and raising to excellence for Christ.

  • Michael
    August 12, 2005

    I just thought of this as I was reading the thread on retention…we sent out a targeted direct mail postcard to all households with kids for a family weekend…we targeted the list and of course the message.
    Not only did we have an increase in attendance, but retention was higher because we knew who we were talking to so for those that showed up we met their expectation.

  • Alex
    August 12, 2005

    DIRECT MAIL – Design + Development + Production + Testing + Frequency + Consistency + Measurement = EXPENSIVE (to do it right anyway)
    I am not dissing on DM here (it is a valid strategy for FEW churches), but merely trying to see how it is the best stewardship of funds. DM is a longer term commitment of time and money to achieve effectiveness. Many of the churches I am aware of barely have enough money to pay their pastoral staff subsistence wages. Plus they have a hard time keeping the few people they do get into the door.
    What are some other strategies, maybe viral in nature, that would leverage personal invites and strong word of mouth more effectively? Any thoughts??

  • Anne Jackson
    August 12, 2005

    Becoming involved in community events. Sponsoring good causes. Being doers of the Word. Touching the community with love instead of typical marketing methods. The old adage is true – actions speak louder…

  • Jason Smith
    September 9, 2005

    I’m interested in how you can get the price down to 4.3 cents – what size mailer is this?
    We send 11 x 6 cards and by using a carrier/courier route we get the price down to 9.5 cents a piece.
    I’ve been heading up mailings for the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Cambridge for 7 years. We’ve had great growth – from a church plant of 40 to over 1,000 in Sunday attendance. Still the #1 reason people come is personal invitations. Still, we send 150K cards out 2-3 times a year. They are effective in bringing people in.
    In working with many churches I think the factor of success is does the postcard message match what the service really feels like? If the mailer is trendy and cool, and the church (or pastor) just isn’t then I think the effectiveness drops.

    • wendy
      October 18, 2012

      You can get the cost of postage down to 6.8 cents per peice by using drop ship service – which you would qualify for due to the large volume of mail you do (and of course you would need to have a Non-profit mail authorization number on file with the USPS to get discounted non-profit bulk rate postage). There usually is a fee for drop service, but even with the flat rate fee, and depending on the volume and location of the mailing, using drop ship can save tons of money on postage. Feel free to get a free estimate to see if you would save using this type of mail delivery service – give me a call and I can put you in touch with one of our Church Marketing Specialists: 800.959.8365 ext. 1537

  • jon mccallon
    November 2, 2005

    Direct Mail as much as it pains me to say this is very ineffective unless done in mass. According to those who are the greats in this field (think big companies) marketing is only to keep your name fresh with your customers. Ad space, mails pieces, great web stuff, and more add to this. As mentioned several times, word of mouth viral marketing is the real deal. Bands and new companies feed on word of mouth. The 22 imutable laws of marketing state that the best form of promotion is non-self promotion. Get good PR from being covered by some form of medium or by sources outside of your immediate control. Just tonight I discovered a student who put together their own plan to expose our event to his friends in school. It won’t look slick or pretty but it will come from the credible source, him. Lastly I think we oversell based on looks. I see so many churches put out content the promotes their church but, in reality they did not fit the look at all.

  • John Wurzbacher
    February 8, 2007

    To those who have tried both direct mail and television ads, what have you found to be more effective? We’ve been doing a lot of direct mail but are thinking about doing television ads. Which method has brought in more visitors per dollar?

  • Lynn Thomas
    October 29, 2007

    Following the trend of DM — to do or not to do, there is direct mail and there is direct mail. The promotional product business is a multi-billion dollar industry. It works. I should know, I’m in the business. Research shows that 70% of promotional products received in the mail or picked up at trade shows have a life inside the target market’s household of one year. That magnet on the fridge or the calendar on the computer — could be looked at every day. Your postcard with statistics and directions is great, but make it a magnet and you stand a better chance of seeing that person come through the doors of the church. When they have a need, they’ll have a way to find you. Make your message pertinent to the neighborhood you’re targeting. Some of the magnet companies will seal the magnet right on the postcard. It’s a little more expensive, but the “prize” is visible and functional.

  • Chris
    May 25, 2008

    Responding to the consistency / frequency discussion… Too often we put the cart before the horse. Before doing anything we need good brand development. Most leaders know what their church’s unique vision and personality is but now they need help communicating it. Once the gold rises to top in the form of a well developed image we can put it to use with media. Here’s where consistency and frequency pays off. Now the media is relevant and genuine. This is why we shouldn’t be hasty in sending out a stock card with a gimmicky or trendy message. First speak to them heart to heart.

  • Bill
    January 4, 2012

    I’m looking for a solid mailing list for my area in Florida. Does anyone know of some mailing list houses.

    • wendy
      October 18, 2012

      Bill…just stumbled across this site, so if you are still in need of a mailing list for the Florida area, we can help. I work for a company called Modern Postcard – a direct mail and mailing list service provider. We can get you virtually any list on the planet. Just give our list and data services guy Dan Anglin a call at 800.959.8365 x3383. For years, we’ve been helping churches grow their congregation, successfully, with direct mail and custom print materials. You can get more information about what we offer and how we can help your church grow at

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