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Big Data for Small Businesses

Article - 4 Min. Read

Targeting direct mail using big data helps marketers get their messages to the right people, at the right time.

Big data isn’t just for big companies. Small businesses can also harness it to their advantage. Mining the right data is important to businesses of every size—because it can help you connect with customers in more meaningful ways.

What exactly is big data?

Every moment, mountains of data are being created through customer transactions, social media interactions, texts, emails, photos, and a multitude of other connected sources. This is considered “big data.”

Big data isn’t a fad, it’s here to stay. In fact, it will get even more precise, personalized and predictive in the future. It’s the raw material that can be turned into insights to pave the way for more personalized, customized one-to-one relationships with prospects and customers— across demographics and mobile devices. According to a study by Experian Data Quality, “93% of companies think using some form of data is essential to marketing success.”[1]

“…small businesses shouldn’t be hesitant to use big data. It’s accessible and can help deliver the impact needed to drive growth.”

Analytics can be a game changer for small businesses.

Big data digs down past surface demographics to uncover more detailed and personal information than was available in the past. This information holds valuable insights that small business marketers can use to obtain a clearer picture of who their customers really are. When you know who your customers are, you can reach them on a deeper level to better meet their needs.

Direct mail and big data: better together

Thanks to big data, today’s direct mail is able to deliver targeted offers based not just on geography, but on more in-depth information like interests, recent online and offline shopping behavior, and product usage. These offers can be so precise that they feel truly personal.

The personal insights revealed by big data analytics play an important role in delivering greater impact and a stronger call to action—which can ultimately help increase conversion rates. For current or past customers, the message might focus on purchasing trends as a means to making recommendations for future product purchases, e.g., “If you liked that, you’re really going to want this.” In turn, the message that is used to attract new customers can be more directly tailored to their specific tastes and purchasing habits.

Staying on target

Precisely targeted mailings using big data help marketers get their messages to the right people, at the right time, with the most relevant content. Targeting helps create one-to-one relationships, now considered the “holy grail” of marketing success. For example, a postcard with a customer’s name, customized offer or nearby service location helps to build an individual relationship with that customer.

Here’s how big data is impacting the marketing world:

“Big data and predictive analytics can produce great results for direct mail. In certain situations, we found a 100 percent improvement over random targeting and a 10 to 20 percent improvement over sophisticated targeting.”[2]
62 percent of respondents to the CMO Council’s fourth annual “State of Marketing Report” claim they plan to focus on analyzing customer data to improve segmentation and targeting.”[3]

Goal-oriented data collection practices

Gathering the right type of data is a key step for small businesses just starting out with direct mail. Taking the time to analyze this information can pay off significantly as it empowers you to get the most bang for your buck. By analyzing who your customers are and who is buying the most, you can target customers based on real attributes.

How data collection can help you achieve the following goals:

Goal: Increase customer acquisition

  • Tap into your social media. Analyze which content is most liked, and why, on your Facebook page (and other social sites), so you can incorporate it into your direct mailpiece to connect with new customers.
  • Stay on top of product reviews. If customer reviews of your products/services are available on your website, check out what people are saying and, if possible, feature positive reviews in your direct mailpiece i.e. “Here’s what people are saying about us.”

Goal: build customer relationships

  • Analyze which messages are resonating. Take inventory of your marketing efforts to determine which marketing messages are most effective in getting customers to take action.
  • Segment your audience. Once you analyze your audience, segment them by specific demographics such as Millennials, Business Women, Geographic Location, etc. This allows you to create targeted messages that will appeal to them on a deeper level.

Goal: Increase lead generation

  • Track offer responses. Analyze which offers are generating the most response, so you can build on them in future pieces.

Key Takeaway

The bottom line is that small businesses shouldn’t be hesitant to use big data. It’s accessible and can help deliver the impact needed to drive growth. Moreover, direct mail powered by big data is a way for companies of all sizes and budgets to meet their ultimate goals—to connect with customers, get them to take action, and grow their relationships.


  1. [1]Debunking the business of analytics, Experian Data Quality, 2014.
  2. [2]“Long Live Direct Mail - Thanks to Big Data,” Carpe Datum RX-Blog,, February 13, 2013.
  3. [3]CMO Council's fourth annual "State of Marketing” Report, MediaPost, 2014.

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