Practice Management |6 min read

Tips to Set Your Practice’s Direct Mail Marketing Up for Success

The number one question our team is asked by new prospective customers is, “Does direct mail work?”

I’m sure this comes as no surprise. So—does direct mail work?

Well, the answer is yes and no.

One of the great things about direct mail is it’s one of the few marketing channels that can provide transparent results, whether it worked or not, by executing what is called a match back report.

After your direct mail campaign is complete, a match-back report compares new patients acquired by your practice to the actual mailing file used for your direct mail marketing.

From here, we can isolate the new patients who were influenced by your direct mail marketing, providing a level of transparency that you cannot get from digital marketing, radio, billboards, or other marketing channels.

We have executed thousands of these reports and can confidently say that direct mail is consistently highly effective.

However, just because you can track results doesn’t mean you will achieve results.

To achieve results, your direct mail marketing needs to be carefully crafted and strategically executed at each step of the process.

Below are a few of the many keys to having a successful direct mail marketing campaign:

  • Determining your ideal prospect, where to target them, and acquiring the best mailing list to accomplish this.
  • Select the right direct mail product to deliver your message.
  • Carefully crafting the right ad copy and call to action to get prospects to act.
  • Developing the proper cadence of frequency and reach. Frequency is the number of times your prospects are exposed to your marketing message, and reach is the total number of people exposed to that message.

In his book Permission Marketing, author Seth Godin uses an analogy of seeds and water to explain why reach without frequency is often ineffective.

If you have 100 seeds and 100 watering cans, should you plant all 100 seeds and water them once or plant 20 seeds and water them five times?

Let’s see how each scenario would play out.

If any of the steps above is not executed flawlessly, you will likely either see a significantly diminished return or no return at all. Direct mail fails when this happens.

Fortunately, there are easy tips to consider and discuss with your direct mail partner during marketing calls to avoid the pitfalls of a poorly executed campaign.

Tip 1: Start with a penetration report

Example penetration report with map and radius

Begin by requesting a penetration report from your direct mail partner. Essentially, a penetration report takes your patient database and plots it on a map with a radius.

The report shows where your patients are coming from and how far they are willing to travel to you.

Additionally, it overlays key demographics, such as income, number of children, etc., allowing us to further identify ideal prospects.

There is no cookie-cutter approach.

For example, we know that patients want a practice that is conveniently located to them. A three-mile radius in a suburban area is vastly different from a three-mile radius in an urban area.

The only way your practice can determine ideal marketing zones is through a penetration report.


Tip 2: Product selection

Direct mail product examples for dental practices.

Most practices default to an oversized postcard, such as a 5.5×10.5 or 6×9. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We mail millions of these postcards, and they are effective.

However, there are quite a few other direct mail products that are highly effective and should be considered, such as postcards with magnets on the back, plastic postcards that provide unmatched quality and feel, brochures, envelope mailers, or even larger size postcards.

The decision may be dictated by the time of year if you have done any previous direct mail as well as the amount of content you have.

Tip 3: Ad copy

The subject of ad copy arguably is one of the most challenging topics to determine. Without a deep dive into your specific practice, it is hard to provide cookie-cutter advice.

However, there are some best practices that win every time.


Use real images of your staff and facility as opposed to stock images. Refrain from using images of patients getting their mouths worked on and opt instead for images of smiling, happy patients.

What’s important to patients?

Determine the key benefits your practice provides that will resonate most with your patients.

For example, do you accept most insurances and/or offer an in-house dental plan for uninsured patients? Do you provide financing options? Do you take immediate appointments, provide extended hours, or the like?

You know your industry better than anyone, so apply some commonsense logic and brainstorm with your marketing partner to identify what is important to patients to craft this critical content.

Tip 4: Frequency vs. reach

Many times, this is where campaigns fail. We hear it quite often: “I just want to try it once.”

Marketing of any kind is never a one-time try. It helps to understand how direct mail marketing works and that most consumers require more than one touchpoint before they act.

For example, you may have heard that it takes ten times for a consumer to see your message before they will buy from you or use your services. Of course, with a limitless budget, ten is a great number of touches.

However, in a world of limited resources, what is the ideal number? Is it six times, eight times, ten times? One thing is for certain: It is not just once.

Our starting recommendation is a minimum of three touchpoints. There are no case studies behind the number three, but it’s been a successful cadence for us, proven by years of real-world results.

Speak to your direct mail partner and assess their professional recommendation.

In the interim, we suggest reading this informative article, Reach vs. Frequency: Prioritizing Spend for Maximum Results… This text opens a new tab to the article…, to further understand the importance of Frequency vs. Reach.

Finally, it is important to have realistic expectations regarding response rates and ROI.

To set a realistic expectation, it is critical to understand how to evaluate response rates and ROI. To help you do so, we have put together. a comprehensive guide to General Dentistry: Direct Mail Response Rates & New Patient ROI.… This text opens a new tab to the guide…

About the Author

Josh Davis in blue buttoned shirt
Mail Shark logo

Josh Davis is a sales professional, marketer, and direct mail marketing expert.

He provides high-level sales and marketing expertise to help businesses grow with direct mail. With over 12 years of experience in the industry, he understands the needs of small businesses, franchise networks, and corporate entities alike.

Josh is the Chief Revenue Officer for Mail Shark, a national direct marketing company and one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies 9 years in a row.

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