The Why’s and How’s of Competitive Research: A Guide For Your Next Direct Mail Campaign

For organizations using direct mail as a marketing channel to promote their brands, knowing what the competition is mailing can be extremely useful. Are you just starting out or want to take your marketing plan in a new direction? Discovering what worked in your industry in the past and present can save time and money. Your competitor’s previous experiences will give your company an advantage with your next direct mail campaign.

Wondering how to identify what direct mail strategies your competitors use and where to search for insights on their previous campaigns? Read on to learn how competitive research can help your brand take the next step to successful direct mail campaigns.

Comparing The Data: What Worked Before vs. What Works Now

Competitive research is essential for many reasons. Let’s explore what insights you may get by researching your competitors’ mailings. It gives you a clear understanding of what’s going on in your industry.

By comparing your competitors’ previous campaigns with their current solutions, you can identify what didn’t work for them before to not repeat their mistakes. You will also save time and money by learning from their experience and replicating successful mailings for your brand.

It will also help you spot various trends that are taking place and leverage them to your benefit. See what you can uncover:

1. Direct mail copy insights

For example, your competitors’ direct mail copy length may have changed over time. Look at the two Amazon mailings below (one from 2014 and the other from 2021). Amazon uses the same concepts and formats in both letters, but the copy itself has gotten shorter.

direct mail copy word count change

2. Formats that work

Other companies may have switched to a different direct mail format that is more cost-effective.

Here’s an example – In 2008, Kay Jewelers used more envelope campaigns for holidays, such as this Mother’s Day promotion. But in 2021, they relied on postcard mailings.

direct mail format preference change

3. Smart personalization ways

Many companies have success with personalized campaigns. Your research will shed light on how your competitors change their copy, offers, and images depending on the audience they are targeting.

Take a look at the two personalized mailings below:

  • Notice the differences between the selling points on the mailing targeting parents of teens (budget-friendly cost breakdown, ease of use, free earbuds with purchase) vs. the mailing for adults (New Year’s resolution, improve appearance, build self-confidence).
  • Both mailings include a special discount offer, emphasis on fast results, and relevant before and after photos.
  • Think about how you can adapt a personalized direct mail campaign to appeal to all the demographics identified in your market base.

direct mail personalization

4. Digital response channels

The best marketers meet their customers where they love to be — online. The call to action and engagement remain the ultimate marketing goals on the Web. Research what digital response channels (QR codes, PURLs, emails) your competitors regularly use to drive traffic, engage their customers and increase sales.

digital response devices direct mail

5. Interactive direct mail ideas

Are your competitors using interactive direct mail to make the recipient take physical action?

Interactive direct mail is an excellent way to:

  • Drive new, targeted traffic to your company website
  • Increase repeat sales as customers browse and order online
  • Grow the company mailing list and newsletter signups
  • Gain followers and shares on the company’s social media channels to help get the word out to other prospects.

interactive direct mail ideas

6. Discounts and special offers

Competitive research helps uncover discounts and special offers your competitors promote through the mail.

Use your findings to understand what types of promotions and discounts your competitors are using in their direct mail campaigns and what price points or special offers were tested in the same campaign.

direct mail testing

3 Ways to scale your direct mail campaign

Who’s Mailing What! helps you pinpoint what your competition is doing successfully so that you can design your direct mail campaign with confidence. Use what’s working for your competitors and leverage this information to upscale your business marketing strategy. Some ideas that you can use to make your direct mailings pay off for your brand:

  • Which offer delivers the highest response?
  • Which is the optimal format for your niche?
  • What design is most likely to perform well for your audience?

1. Explore your industry

When it comes to direct mail, it’s better to leverage a tool that will give you this information in a few clicks. General industry research may uncover some brands you didn’t know were competitors and give you more examples to consider.

find direct mail competitors in your industry

2. Search by target locations

WMW! enables you to search what’s being mailed in specific regional markets. To narrow down your search even more – apply a location filter to see who’s targeting the locales of interest for your brand.

find direct mail competitors in your target location

3. Check companies similar to your known competitors

Already know the names of some of your competitors? Leverage this knowledge to expand your list by looking at similar companies. Our Mail Advertisers tab allows you to access your competitors’ profiles and research the Similar Companies section.

find companies similar to your competitor

Simply enter your competitor’s name to discover similar companies. Check their profiles to see the latest activity and campaigns they are sending. Review competitors’ profiles and save the most relevant ones to your dashboard to track their activity and access their recent direct mail ads with a few clicks.

Uncover valuable ideas the competition is using to find success

With WMW! competitive intelligence, you get answers in 4 easy steps:

1.  Use industry and location filters to access your potential competitors’ recent mailings, get the most relevant mailed ads that worked for them and consequently are worth your review and consideration.
find direct mail competitors in your industry and target location2. Filter your search for Controls and Grand Controls to dive deeper and see direct mail campaigns that performed successfully in your industry and location, month after month. View PDFs of previous creatives from your competitors to see what formats your competitors prefer and what offers performed well for them.
look at the best direct mail campaigns of your competitors

3. Pay attention to the design details, colors, fonts, and offer placement. The more creatives you research, the better you can identify a top-performing campaign. Understanding the commonalities between these campaigns can help you reduce both the time and investment associated with market testing.

see the design elements your competitor uses in direct mail

4. Set up customized weekly notifications to keep your finger on the pulse of industry trends and what your competitors are mailing.

track your direct mail competitors by setting up notifications

In Review

It’s been said that wisdom is learning from other people’s experiences. By discovering how other mail advertisers have succeeded in the past, you can model the perfect direct mail campaign to achieve growth, customer engagement, and increased sales for your business. The best part is you’ll already know how, because your competitors’ have done the trial and error for you.

Knowing your competitors and what business strategies they use will help you stand out in your industry and increase your prospect engagement and market share.

Who’s Mailing What! is the best direct mail competitive research tool to get the data you need to move your market strategy to the next level and beyond.

Still not convinced? WMW! offers free instant access to the data for up to 10 of your competitors’ direct mail campaigns. What are you waiting for? Get started today!

Originally Published by Who’s Mailing What!, Written by Jill Corcoran, President of Who’s Mailing What!