The 3 Ds of Real Mail Marketing

Are you neglecting real mail (a.k.a. “snail mail“) as part of your marketing strategy?
We've been so spoiled by the immediacy and low cost of email that many of us have forgotten about the advantages of real mail.
In the season of holiday cards, gifts, and Christmas letters, let's remember why it's still valuable to your art business to use the post office.

Sign I came across in Black Eagle, Montana for the 3-D International Restaurant and Lounge. I was told the 3 Ds are “drinking, dining, and dancing,” but let’s pretend they are delight, differentiate, and depend.
Sign I came across in Black Eagle, Montana for the 3-D International Restaurant and Lounge. I was told the 3 Ds are “drinking, dining, and dancing,” but let’s pretend they are delight, differentiation, and dependability.

Here are the 3 Ds of real mail marketing.


Visualize the recipients' faces when they find your art amid stacks of holiday sales inserts and bills. Imagine the smiles starting and then increasing as they open the envelopes.
Email doesn't evoke the same feelings! It is only visual, while real mail uses the additional senses of touch and, sometimes, smell. Pure delight is possible with real mail!
Remember the joy that real mail can deliver.


Real mail feels infinitely more personal and sincere than most email messages.
You differentiate yourself from everyone else when you send real mail. This distinction creates IMPACT, which makes you memorable.


Real mail is more likely to be seen by recipients than email.
There are two major issues that make email delivery unreliable. First, filters might send it to the recipient's junk mail folder. Second, if email does reach the inbox, the busy recipient might delete it in an effort to eliminate an overwhelming number of messages.
Have you checked your email open rates lately? They're probably around 20-25% at the highest.
While those numbers aren't exact results, they do tell us that the majority of people on your list aren't opening and reading your messages.
Can you imagine this happening with real mail? NO!
Everyone wants to open and look at real mail from real people because it’s delightful and different from email.
What are you putting a stamp on these days?

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28 thoughts on “The 3 Ds of Real Mail Marketing”

  1. Delight is right!
    This year I went back to sending snail mail postcards and invites after a 4 year hiatus. The prep time and expense were MUCH higher (about $500/year), but the reward has been incredible feedback, and much stronger engagement and relationships with the people on my list.
    Worth every penny considering my $500 investment resulted in sales that MORE than covered the expense.
    Snail mail is definitely the way to go!

  2. I would LOVE to track my “Open Rates” but can’t figure out how the heck to trigger a ‘read receipt request’ in Yahoo. Do you know how to do it? Or do I be so bold as to ask in the cover email of my Holiday Message and Newsletter to ‘if you’re reading this, please respond simply by typing READ in the subject line’ or is that unprofessional or inappropriate?

    1. Kate: See Scott Hollingsworth’s comment below and my response.
      As for your other question, don’t ask your subscribers to reply with READ. First, most won’t do it so your open rates would automatically be skewed. Second, it’s an unnecessary burden on the people you want to love you most.

    1. Billy: Have you noticed a definite ROI on your postcards? Do you have anything to compare it to?

  3. @Kate Fallucca, the secret is not to use yahoo (or any webmail) for your mailings. There are many problems with doing so.
    I recommend you try mailchimp, which is free until you get so big, you won’t mind paying. Then tracking your open rates will be a cinch.
    Try it out, you’ll love it, and no they are not paying me, but they are giving me a great service for free, which is just as good. There are also lots of other services, but mailchimp is the one I use, (infrequently, I must add.)

    1. Scott is right, Kate. You can’t do it with Yahoo and you should be sending bulk mail with them anyway. He’s on target with sending you to MailChimp.

  4. I too have returned to snail mail blasts after a while of not doing them. I am tired of email cards personally, so my clients probably are too.
    This Holiday Season I have two cards going out. One a postcard with images of me standing by artwork from a recent show of mine, loosely worded so I can use them after the Holidays too and another festive fold card that I did a painting for, “Christmas Eve, Harrods”. This will go to a more tight list of clients.
    My one suggestion would be to find a really good printing/design person. It has helped me enormously finding Alfred Lewis of Studio Nothing, if you are in the greater Los Angeles (Ventura) area.
    I’ve heard Vistaprint is used by a lot of artists too.

  5. Hi Alyson,
    I couldn’t agree more! My Christmas cards are at the printer and hopefully will be in the mail soon! I only did 2 snail mail postcards this year and want to increase that to 3-4 in 2013!
    Happy Holidays!

  6. Thanks for making me reconsider snail mailings. Since I haven’t collected snail mail addresses for my mailing list, only email addresses, I will take your advice and send out some real mail to my best customers whose addresses I have. Keep these good ideas coming please

    1. Barbara: And you can start collecting the snail mail addresses that you don’t have. Just be on the lookout.

  7. Alyson – you are so right on this! When I was coaching small business owners and doing online business training I often reminded people on the importance on diversifying marketing strategies and using snail mail. I’ve been using a fantastic service for sending personalized cards since 2005. The cool thing is you can personalize your cards with your own artwork and handwriting, plus cards are stamped, addressed and mailed out for you for less than the cost of a regular card. I have a few of the Christmas cards I sent out a year or two ago on my homeschooling website:

  8. You and Johanna (above) are right…when you get a beautiful postcard in the mail from an artist it’s a bit more intimate. They’ve gone to a lot more trouble to create and get them out in the mail…that means more than an email blast. you’ve inspired me to get on that!

  9. I’m afraid i’m one of those people who drown so much in excess email that they don’t open their snail mail any longer. I haven’t opened a letter since September and mail pile in the hall is reaching ridiculous heights… Letters don’t make me feel delighted, just tense (god, another overdue notice…)!

    1. I feel better about email! Because I can hit that delete button and it’s gone! While paper letters stack up…

  10. The timing of this post is uncanny. I can relate a real “field experience.” My wife and I recently entered the “first stage” of an ongoing and growing art project that we’ve combined forces on. Amanda is the researcher – she spent a few weeks looking up art world persona, gallery and museum folks, and general people / celebrities who admire and collect art and getting their addresses. Next, on the cover of 70 manila colored, 9 x 11 mailers, I hand-drew and hand-colored our project logo (“Project Job Creation”) and I signed each return address. Inside, there was a hand-written card (by Amanda) to each recipient; a 3 page introduction about me as the artist and our project; 2 pages of my art (8 pieces selected from the portfolio of 49 perfect squares – the heart of the project). I also included a cover-stock print of the project image, as designed by me on computer. The mailers were time consuming. I averaged 9 minutes hand-drawing each mailer (I created a YouTube video of my completing one of these drawing in time-lapse). In all, I spent no less than 630 minutes on the mailers – minutes spread over a period of 2 weeks. Amanda hand wrote a letter in each mailer, averaging 7 minutes per letter. That’s 490 minutes of her time over two weeks. We really felt we had “our stuff” together. This was “it!” Our creative juices had been flowing, our ideas building on better ideas – together we’d created a few golden nuggets. The last mailers went out two weeks ago. So far, we’ve gotten 3 responses. 70 mailers. 3 responses. 3! I know, I know. I’m impatient. No one expected our mailer. Some would naturally disregard such a thing. Some might be waiting to reply because they are busy. Some probably set it aside, or worse, recycled it! The silence is disheartening. But I’m old enough (39) and I’ve worked hard enough on my art in the past few decades that I know I’m solid. I know where I fit – into that category of earnest artist who works hard – for a few decades even – and just can’t stop working hard and seeking notice – seeking recognition. Maybe not all artists are like this – but I am. I’m that kind of an artist. I wouldn’t feel so confident if I didn’t really believe in myself and believe in the strength of my work, but I believe in both of those things. So the mailers were a lot of work and so far, no reward. I was feeling busted (there’s still hope that there are people out there who will still contact me – that they’re just busy). I needed to ramp up my game. So on Tuesday, November 20, I completed a performance art piece that had existed for years in my dreams – I wore my art into Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and also Chicago’s prestigious Art Institute, all in a single day, and Amanda photo-documented the entire process. My art, in two museums, in one day. The result? Potentially the greatest performance art piece created in the world on that single day of human existence (it’s called “Museum Day”). The photographs are spectacular. I constructed a stunning blog post of the day – in chronological order with just enough narrative detail to lead the viewer along on what was our thrilling journey. “Museum Day” is a rocking piece of art. I emailed the post to friends and they liked it. I also emailed it to art critics in Chicago, and national art magazines and art blogs and art persons (like 20 emails so far) in this past week and number of professional responses? Zero. Not even a single, simple pat on the head. Not a, “Wow Christopher Shoup – we’ve never seen anything like it – your work is amazing – your ideas innovative and extremely forward thinking – but it’s just not for us.” How does it get done? How do others do it? I’m not being stubborn by not wanting to pound the pavement gallery to gallery and submit my work in the heavily saturated art world. I just want to do it on my own. Doing it on my own is a part of my art. This marks the very first moment I’ve taken a minute to honestly reflect on where I was and to where I’ve come in the past few months. I think you’ll understand my work. I do hope you’ll visit my website. Thanks. – Christopher Shoup, Kankakee County, Illinois

  11. Sandra Cherry Jones

    I send notecards with an image of one of my paintings on the front with a message handwritten on the inside. I let the receivers know that the card can be framed if they would like to do so.

  12. Pingback: Love Your List « Art Biz Blog

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms