By Charlotte Huff, Deliver Magazine
Consumer direct mail has one overriding goal: to inspire a purchase, whether that’s a toaster oven or a trip to London. Many marketers behave as though the buying process is limited to only a customer’s initial receipt of a marketing piece and his or her ultimate decision to buy. 
But there are stages in between that marketers should do more to heed. As our take on the classic “purchase funnel” below shows, mail can influence in a myriad of ways.
Stage 1: Recognition
New or obscure businesses many have to target better or send a message repeatedly to earn recognition. New Orleans marketer Dukky used mail recently to promote a new local shopping mall, sending out personalized gift cards from 26 mall retailers that helped raise their profile.
Stage 2: Consideration
Some purchase decisions can take years–others nanoseconds. Either way, mail can influence consideration, even before a piece is opened. For example, Visant Marketing Services mailed out laminated “intelligent” cards that could be felt through the envelope, prolonging customer interaction with the piece.

Stage 3: Purchase Intent
Mail can help marketers gauge consumers’ intentions. For instance, architects of the Dukky mall promotion found that more than 700 people responded to the mall campaign’s offer to activate the mail piece online.
Step 4: Closing the Deal
Response to the Visant Intelligent cards was 13.4 percent. The campaign also yielded a nearly 87 percent repeat sales rate, as recipients redeemed the cards for a free soft drink. A traditional coupon with the same offer earned a 2 percent response.

Step 5: Retention
Pleasant interaction with a brand helps consumers remember it. To this end, one veteran marketer had his company redesign a national insurer’s mailed enrollment package to include a free customer hotline and decrease the legal jargon. Within a year, renewals increased 60 percent.
—Source: Deliver Magazine May 2009 ( Deliver is a USPS® publication.