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What is a Mail Shot?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A mail shot is a form of direct advertising. It is a letter, coupon, magazine or flyer sent directly to a person’s home in the hopes of gaining more business for a company. The goal is for it to be directed toward those people who would most likely use the business, but it is still often referred to by the many who receive it as junk mail.

Generally, a mail shot that offers some type of discount or promotion has a better chance of not being ignored. Companies may choose to distribute their own, or may work with a distributor so they can maximum exposure for their business. Distributors often have access to the largest potential customer list, though many a mail shot is simply addressed to “Resident” or “Occupant.” This avoids the mail being returned if the addressee name is different than the person who currently lives in a home.

This form of direct advertising also works best when it reaches its target audience. For example, a business in a certain part of a large town might want to reach those people closest to the business. Towns are often broken up into districts. A mail shot that is sent in order to gain customers from certain districts needs to be mailed only to addresses within those districts.

People who send out their own mail shot may compose address lists from previous customers. Names and addresses are often gained by people either registering to receive mail, or from the names and addresses on people’s personal checks. Targeting past customers, especially when offering discounts, is often a way to drum up more business.

New businesses may also employ a mail shot to announce the opening of the business, to offer discounts, or to give information about their websites. It might also feature an introductory letter from a new professional in town like an insurance salesperson, chiropractor, accountant or dentist. Virtually any new professional can use direct advertising to increase public awareness of their business.

Depending upon the number of people to whom one plans to send a mail shot, the price will vary significantly. Some people skimp by sending it on a post card, which can be effective, but might be lost among other mail. Using a direct mail service is often cheaper than composing and sending one’s own, but this too will vary. A mail shot can be as effective at a lower price than radio or television advertising, although it is easier to ignore what seems to be junk mail than a radio or television ad.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Bertie68 — On May 18, 2011

@B707 - I know what you mean. For every 100 pieces of mail shot I get, I probably keep about two. And, I might or might not use them. I think one reason why there's so much junk mail is because in bad economic times, businesses offer good deals to draw in more customers so their companies can make it. I use some of the coupons that come in. But, I don't think I would ever go to a doctor, lawyer, or account who advertised by mail. I would get a recommendaton from a friend or relative - definitely!

By B707 — On May 17, 2011

Boy, it seems that on some days the only mail we get is mail shot, junk mail, direct mail or whatever you want to call it. In some ways it's a nuisance - with all the odd shaped ads that have all kinds of flaps and fold-outs. I usually just dump these in the circular file.

I do take a look at the ads for stores and services that I use. But, unless they have a special discount offer or coupons, I end up tossing them.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia...
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