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Direct Mail Marketing - How Long Does It Take?




How much time should you give yourself when preparing for a direct mail campaign?

Well, there are several key steps that affect the lead time needed to execute a campaign.  Today we’ll discuss the process from start to finish so you’ll be ready, they’ll be no surprises, and you’ll be able to estimate the lag time needed from inception to response measurement.

Let’s say you’re wanting to mail to New Movers within a given area.  Remember, the whole point to doing a direct mail campaign is to develop a lead generation program for you and/or your sales team.  If done correctly, you’ll be able to save time, not miss any important steps, and duplicate the process easily with future follow-up New Mover Database campaigns.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

The first step, whether it’s just you, or a team of vested participants, is to size up the entire potential of available prospects to mail.  This is important because knowing the full potential helps marketing decision makers quantify the size of the full potential list of prospects and estimate the budget. 

Step 1 – Sales Team Meeting – 1 hour to 3 days

Many business owners neglect to take the time to discuss their future marketing decisions with their sales team.  But by doing so, they miss out on very important bits of valuable information that the sales team can weigh-in on.  Involving their sales team doesn’t require a large investment of time on your part, or theirs, but it gives the sales team members an opportunity to help in generating leads that they themselves want to work, and a better understanding of how the leads originated.  If your sales team is paid a commission based on sales then getting their, “buy-in” is mutually rewarding since they also seek to make the process effective.

This process can take anywhere from an hour, to a few days depending on your business operation, and the number of sales team members you employ.

Step 2 – Mailing List Count – 1 hour to 4 days

While we don’t typically see a “count” of the available prospects to mail take more than 4 days, and usually only a few minutes, there are occasionally specialty count requests that simply take longer.  But for estimation purposes, whatever time it takes to turn a count around and size up the potential list quantity, it’ll likely take the same amount of time for future campaigns.  If an hour today, then an hour next month.

Step 3 – Graphic Design – 24 hours to 5 days

This again is a process involving different people and those people may have other projects in front of yours.  So, give yourself an hour to 5 days for the initial proof and any additional edits.

Step 4 – Print and Mail – 24 hours to a week

This print and mail process can take up to a week depending on the run schedule of the print/mail house, and also the available paper stock you choose.  If you want to mail an ivory paper letter within an ivory paper envelope, some printer may not have this type of paper on hand.  They may have to order it, wait for delivery, before printing.  Also, if you’re mailing a postcard and the printshop is slow, they may have to wait a few days before other postcard orders are placed.  This is due to postcards being printed with other postcards, on the same sheet of paper, also known as “gang run”.

Drop Date

Then the mail pieces are dropped in the mail, but then must travel to their final destination, which we refer to as, “In home Date”.  The US Postal Service must receive the mail, sort it, and deliver to the destination.  Depending on the rate, this could take 1 to 3 days or more.

In Home Date

The prospects that receive your mail generally get it from the mail box on the same day it arrives. 


No 2 businesses are the same, but if you have a sales team, we strongly advise that you take the time to measure your success.  Count how many people responded to your offer.  How many bought?  How much did they buy?  How long did it take for them to take action?  Was it 5 days?  30 days? 3 Months?


Again, not all businesses run the same way, but the goal here is to streamline your entire process to save you time and create the least amount of distraction possible.  So, designate an individual to keep count of any and all New Mover responders.  Maybe that’s the sales manager, or maybe it’s someone else, but keep count of response, and make available your results.  This may take a while since some promotions trickle in while others are finished over the weekend.