Direct Mail For Artists

Creatives and Business Postcard

A great direct mail piece grabs attention, touches the emotions and leads to taking action

Direct mail is often referred to as “junk mail” but if it is used properly it is anything but “junk”. The usage of direct mail has been declining for many years brought on by the recession and a shift towards digital media. There may not be a better time to use direct mail as the competition for space in the mailbox as declined and studies have shown that direct mail can be very effective.

To have an effective direct mail program you need to have your market targeted, secure a list which matches your target customers and create a direct mail piece that gets read and acted upon. Direct mail can take on many forms such as postcards, letters, coupons, packages, samples, promotional items, brochures and other marketing materials. Direct mail can be sent to your existing customers and prospects, galleries, collectors, patrons, businesses or other organizations.

Treat direct mail as you would any marketing tool such as advertising, public relations, digital or social media – try different things and see what works for you. Direct mail can complement your uses of these tools especially with your digital marketing efforts.

Here are some things you should consider in using direct mail for your art business:

Know your customer

  • Are they reachable via direct mail?
  • Do they prefer and make buying decisions on based on physical offers such as a mail piece or prefer digital methods?
  • What websites do they visit, magazines they subscribe to and other media habits?
  • What complementary products is your customer likely to buy
  • What are their hot buttons and how can you touch their emotions?
  • What benefits do your customers get from doing business with you?

Developing your list

  • Using your own or purchase from a list vendor. There are many companies that specialize in direct mail lists and they can help you with finding the right list.
  • Develop a list of past customers, prospects, and other contacts from gallery shows or events. It is important that you keep your target customers in mind when developing your list – you should mail only to those who are likely to respond.

Designing an effective direct mail piece

The design and elements that go into a direct mail piece can make or break your direct mail program. Don’t forget that the objective of any direct mail piece should be to interest the recipient and get them to follow through with a sale or request for more information. Here are some of the things you should look at:

  • Create a quality piece that reflects your brand and the benefits of the products and services you offer.
  • Conduct tests before you go all out with any direct mail program. Test your list and test your direct mail pieces. As postage costs have gone up cost it has become even more important to watch your costs and response rates. The days of mass mailing are becoming a thing of the past.
  • Design an effective piece with a good headline, story, offer and call to action. Think outside the box and try some 3-dimensional pieces that come in a box or other “non flat” packaging. You are creative so put some of this creativity into your direct mail piece!
  • Make something that screams “open me I want to find out more!” In addition to printed materials you may want to include items such as CDs, DVDs or even samples.
  • Make it easy for your prospects to get more information and place an order. Have a call to action and direct them to make a purchase, call you, visit your website or mail in a reply card.
  • Think about ways you can personalize each direct mail piece to its intended recipient.
  • If you choose to do some kind of postcard, be sure to check out printing companies that specialize in postcards. You can easily find these companies on the internet.

Delivery options

There are many options to get your direct mail piece to the recipient. Some of the options available to you include:

  • Using the postal service.
  • By delivery services such as FedEx, UPS or other courier services for your “high value” targets as these deliveries have a higher chance of getting opened and read.
  • By hand delivery to residences and businesses where allowed.
  • Taking part in a coop mailing program where offers from multiple advertisers are packaged and mailed together in a single envelope or package.

Tracking, measuring and results

As with any marketing activity it is important to track and measure the results of your marketing efforts. For many marketing activities like advertising, public relations or digital media it can be challenging to measure the effectiveness of any one activity. Fortunately it is must easier to measure the results of a direct mail program. You know how many you sent out, you know the production and delivery costs, and you know how many responded to your efforts and the revenue that was generated – simple! Here are a few things to look out for in this important step of any direct mail program:

  • Keep track of your results, costs and make changes as needed. Direct mail is all about testing until you come up with right formula.
  • Make it easy to track by asking for a call back, visit website with code, special offer/code or send in this card for more information.

The bottom line(s)…

With the decline of overall direct mail usage now may be the time for you to try this powerful marketing tool in your art business. If you can put together the right direct mail piece with the right message and mail to the right list, direct mail can work for you. As with all of your marketing efforts you need to test, try new approaches and measure your results until you get a formula that works for you. If you would like to learn more about building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto

2 thoughts on “Direct Mail For Artists

  1. Inese

    While your suggestion is fine to some degree, the direct mail is often referred to as “snail mail”. Advertising materials, flyers and brochures are referred to as “junk mail” within directly delivered mail.
    Directly delivered advertising brochure or flyer is comparatively expensive, and it indeed may be thrown out with other leaflets and brochures. The chance that we hit the intended audience by sending out (ordering the delivery of) art advertising materials is very small. As the Internet is practically accessible on all phones and wear on devices, ipads, tablets, etc., it obviously makes more sense to reach the intended audience over the Internet. There are no limitations in size of your advertising material, and the content can be way more insightful and visually enhanced.

    1. Neil McKenzie Post author

      Inese, Thanks for your comments. Yes, direct mail is not cheap but do not assume that there aren’t expenses associated with a web presence! With direct mail you are reaching out as opposed to a website where you hope to attract visitors. There are also many people who prefer getting information on products such as art through traditional marketing methods versus the internet. The internet is not a cure all for your marketing problems – it is only one of the tools available to you. If direct mail fits with your target audience then use it. You won’t know until you test it out.

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