Is direct mail an effective marketing plan for small businesses?

Hi there,
I’ve opened a new coffee shop in my town. I’m trying to think of different ways to advertise it. I was thinking of establishing a direct-mail (postcards) to help my business. So, I’m thinking of including a coupon code in the postcard to get an additional discount. What do you think about the idea? Will this work? I’ve contacted a direct mail service for this. I’ve chosen some postcard designs but haven’t finalized them yet. Does anyone here has tried any of these methods? Please do share your experience.


I don’t have a business and have not tried this, but I think the postcard format will help your ads stand out. Regular flyers get often thrown in the trash but postcards are decorative so people might put them on their fridge and generally pay more attention to them. I think it is a good idea.


Let’s be real, if I’m on this site it’s because I love postcards. Still, when I get ads in the mailbox I tend to check them out and I noticed that flimsy stuff gets thrown in the bin immediately; instead, I spend more time reading other things that catch my attention: discounts, bright or colourful ads, funny or bold fonts… And I do tend to pay more mind to ads made of sturdier material.

I don’t know how useful this type of information could be to you :woman_shrugging:


I would put such a postcard in the dustbin immediately.
I think the best advertisment is to have the café at a place where many people walk on by.


It sounds like a needlessly expensive way of advertising. Why not contact local media outlets to write interview/article about your new business? They have an already established audience, and if they are online media the piece will stick around longer than a piece of paper.

You could also just put a small stack of postcards on the counter for customers to take if they are interested? :slight_smile: That at least saves you the postage, and the postcards are less likely to end up going straight into the recycling bin, which is better for the planet too :earth_americas:

I think for a discount coupon a business card size might be better, as customers can more easily keep it in their wallet.
Some kind of loyalty card (for example collect a rubber stamp at each purchase and get a freebie when the card is full) might be more effective to get customers to keep coming back.


I put any advertising entering my mailbox immediately into the bin.

I’ve also a “no advertising” on my mailbox (this excludes personal advertising of course but also ignorant distributors).

I think it would be okay to leave such promotion cards in a corner of your Café. No problem.

If you send it out I’m sure I’m not the only one getting angry receiving such things.

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Think like the others. Advertising in the mailbox – we do not read it. Only have a look on it. And throw them away. But what always works for me - give people a bonus card. After ten coffees, if the card is full of stamps, there is a free coffee. (or anything else) And, what @qrulez has already correctly noted, invite the press and have reports written in the newspaper. They are happy when they can write something. Professional pictures, some lines what you want and what is the thought behind yours café, a drinks menu card - I think that’s a lot more useful than postcards, many of which end up in the rubbish bin.


Actually, if done properly, direct mail can be highly successful, if you have a “targeted” mailing list (in this case, targeted toward people who, as indicated by past behavior, would probably like coffee, or coffee shops) In such a case, a a postcard campaign would probably work. Years ago, pre-internet, I used to go to shows at art galleries based on the postcard-based announcements they’d send me. Now, with the internet, they no longer send cards but instead send mass emails, which I delete immediately and which I find to be much more annoying than paper-based ad messages. When I used to receive postcard-based announcements from galleries, I knew they at least had to make an effort to send such mailings. Now all they have to do is hit the “send” button on the computer.
It should also be remembered that, even though paper-based merchandise catalogs are relatively expensive to produce and mail, such mailings still tend to be successful, because people still like to peruse such catalogs, and they might see things that they wouldn’t have been looking for on the internet.
If I were opening a coffee shop, I’d put a blank journal on the counter in which people could write their physical addresses, with the understanding that the addresses would be used to mail them future announcements vis-a-vis the coffee shop. I would then later use those addresses to send out hand-addressed, stamped postcards to the customers. I would use all different, probably even vintage postcards, as most of the intended recipients probably wouldn’t have received such a piece of mail for years, if ever. (You can buy vintage, or newer, unused postcards for fifty cents apiece or less at postcard shows). It should also be remembered that in the direct mail world, it is commonly known that a stamped piece of advertising mail is much more likely to be opened, and read, than a metered piece of advertising mail.
But anyway, I know that if I personally were to receive such a postcard in the mail, from a coffeeshop, one for which someone actually had to make an effort to mail, I’d definitely return to the coffee shop.

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woo! may be you can have some lottery for the first customer each week

Thank you!

I have the same sticker, so you would not be able to reach me or if your card gets in my mailbox, I’m annoyed anyhow

However, I’m not sure if there’s a cultural difference to this topic? In the Netherlands you see a lot of no advertising stickers and reading here it might be the same in Germany.
However I heard about people who hunt for coupons and try to use one for everything they do in the States. You’d think the Dutch like their discounts as well (we do!), but no coupon culture with large sheets of coupons from every type of business over here. And it might differ how it’s receivee between country side and city life people.
So best to check experiences with local businesses!

I get postcards from my veterinarian and car insurance company often and today I got a postcard from my car mechanic offering a discount on service. Maybe print the card to offer a free cup of coffee or cookie, it might entice folks to come in and see your new business. People like free stuff and once they are in your door they are a new customer!

As to some of the other points mentioned here:
*it’s really cheap to print postcards in the US and domestic postage for them is just 36 cents. I assume Canada is similar
*our mail system is entirely supported by bulk business mail which is advertising fliers etc. We receive them everday and no one get angry about it (but we do throw most of it away)
*mail carriers are required to deliver everything to us, they can not just decide to leave out the ad materials. It is illegal to tamper with our mail
*its fairly common to get coupons in the mail. They often come in an envelope called “val-pac” and are for restraunts, tire stores, and weird services such as carpet cleaning

Interesting to see these cultural differences!

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I would actually like to have a coffee shop being advertised by postcards in the mail - I like discovering new places to go out to in town and when I get a flyer from a new food place, it‘s much more likely that I‘ll go and give it a visit. I would appreciate a postcard even more. And that is although I have a „no advertisement“-sticker on my mailbox - somehow, food places tend to ignore those anyway which is good because I have other kinds of advertisement in mind :wink: but I don‘t know of course if it‘s a reasonable marketing strategy in terms of cost/benefit etc.

They can’t leave out ads if they’re addressed directly to you. But no one is allowed to put ad mail addressed to “the inhabitants of Main Str 1” or with no address at all into your mailbox by law (if you have such a sticker). The ads this is directed to are ads that are put into every mailbox on the route.
I too have such a sticker, as I want to reduce waste. :slight_smile:

Thinking about it, this might be the reason why you have to always put a name onto cards to someone in Germany. :exploding_head:


Ours often say “Resident of 123 Maple Street” or " Our Neighbors at 123 Maple Street" or some other generic name

As a previous poster pointed out, mail carriers in the U.S. are required to deliver all mail as addressed. Mail carriers here have more than enough to do, let alone having to heed “no advertising” stickers on mailboxes. They’d go crazy if they had to repeatedly stand at mailboxes separating the ads from the first class mail, and why on earth should they have that responsibility anyway? If the intended recipient doesn’t want advertising mail, then he or she should just accept the mail and then put it in the recycling bin, because if the carrier has to bring such mail back to the post office, it’s just going to be recycled anyway. (By the way, in the U.S., they sometimes did, and perhaps still do, put stickers on some patrons’ mailboxes, stickers that said “Carrier Watch.” Such a sticker meant that an elderly patron lived at that address, and that if the mail hadn’t been removed from the box for a few days, then the authorities should be notified. Numerous lives had been, and still are, being saved after carriers had reported that mail had been accumulating at certain addresses on their routes).

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Would you really write 100 cards by hand, if there were 100 addresses in the mentioned journal? That would take a lot of time and cause a sore hand.

If it meant retaining long-term customers, yes I would. People appreciate the personal touch, which is why the addresses in much advertising mail is now written in cursive, so that people think* the piece of mail was addressed specifically to them. People who are going to get married don’t seem to have too much of a problem hand-addressing perhaps several hundred wedding invitations at a time. By the way, as a member of Postcrossing, I’ve already hand addressed several thousand postcards.

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So you stepped down from writing the cards to just writing the addresses. And you did not write thousand postcrossing cards within a day or two.