Admissions and Advancement: The Power of Direct Mail 

Direct mail has been proven to have some of the highest response rates. The reasons are simple. It’s a great tactile experience with a long shelf life and it touches multiple members of the family at the targeted mailing address. The combination of email and direct mail is one of the strongest multi-channel approaches any college or university can use. There’s no question that omnichannel campaigns are the most successful, nowadays.

The use of direct mail has changed tremendously with technology developments. Gone are the days of spray and pray where an institution would purchase some ambiguous list, and mail the entire list with a single message, hoping that the single message would resonate with at least a small segment of recipients. Enter the digital world. It’s all about highly targeted lists. A university can use its CRM data to drive direct mail based on trigger events, such as web site visits, college fairs, campus tours or any other interaction. This direct mail is typically highly targeted based on the interaction, both in message and imagery. Even the post office has evolved its services to address the needs of marketing teams using direct mail.

A few ways direct mail is used effectively:

  • Saturation mail continues to be a very inexpensive way to reach a large audience. That audience may still be highly segmented and targeted, but the saturation approach keeps postage costs to a minimum.
  • Targeted mail to individuals. This may be triggered by an action the person took online, at an event, elsewhere, or not at all. For example, this could be a prospective student who attended a college fair and now you want to encourage a campus visit. Or, it may be an alumni donor that you have not heard from in a year and you want to encourage giving.
  • Admissions and Advancement support are some of the most common and growing uses for direct mail. When combining the power of a CRM system, email and direct mail, you have an incredibly high rate of engagement and conversion. This automation is not hard, and the piece count is typically exceptionally low per execution, so very affordable once setup.
  • Email systems are wonderful, and every school loves this inexpensive channel. However, non-deliverables, new-in-box rules and segregation, and of course spam blockers have changed the game. 2018 saw some of the first declining email response rates, and it will only continue. The dual channel effort of email and direct mail is most beneficial. Know your audience and automate the decision making for who gets what direct mail.


The effectiveness of direct mail is greatly enhanced by the addition of personalization on the piece. Nothing drives higher engagement rates across all direct mail approaches than using relevant personal information in communications. This makes the content directly related to the recipient. Imagine a direct mail piece with academic and personal interests captured from a web site visit. These are all extremely useful personalization techniques.

From Real World to Digital Realm

No channel stands alone. Just like print is effective for improving email performance, the web visit is essential to direct mail’s success. Utilize personalization to create ‘web codes’ for unique offers and trackability. Get your prospect to engage with you online using these codes, and they have now identified themselves. Then move to remarketing for your next channel. Many more techniques can be used to drive direct mail to online engagement.

To learn more about the power of direct mail, contact one of TAG’s experts