Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Posts Tagged ‘mail

Advertising Media – Part 5: Direct Mail

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Have you ever responded to a piece of junk mail?  The chances are that you have.  Not often, but once someone sent you a flyer, an ad within a weekly circular, or some other postcard type piece of snail mail that just happened to be what you needed at exactly the time that you needed it.  Maybe you received a coupon for a new pizza place that you wanted to try out.  Maybe, like me, you received a postcard for a tree removal place at just the same time that you’ve spied a dead tree in your yard that could take out your kitchen during a strong storm.  It’s likely you’ve acted on a piece of direct mail advertisement at some point in your life.

Now, just for a minute, think about all the times that you’ve received junk mail in your life.  Compare that to the number of times you found a piece useful.  Not a very good rate of return, is it?  Care to guess the national average rate of return on direct mailings?  0.5%.  One response out of every 200 mailings.  Is that good?  Yes and no.

When I was the Creative Services Director of a pair of TV stations in Vermont, our lifeblood was the Nielsen ratings system.  In this rating system, receiving 1 rating point meant that 1% of the TV households in your market was turned into your station watching a particular program.  Even that’s not entire accurate.  The ratings books published only whole numbers which Nielsen would round up after reaching .5.  Therefore, buying a commercial in a show that had a 1 rating point in our market at the time meant that you were reaching at least 1640 TV households.  To achieve the same rate of response as direct mail, that means you would have converted 8.2 new customers.

Sounds good so far, but you have to consider reach.  To figure out if direct mail might be good for you, you have to consider the cost of sending direct mail to 1640 households versus the cost of a spot that airs in a show that receives a 1 rating point.  Expand it out.  How much to send out 5 times that number in direct mailings versus a 5 rating point show?

If the numbers start to work for you, you also should be considering the base differences in the media.  With TV, you can use the senses of sight and sound to build your message, but by virtue of the medium, the message is transitory.  With direct mail, it’s a print piece.  It’s sight only.  But the message is persistant until that time when some decides to turn your message into recycling…which might be immediately.

For my clients, I’m willing to talk to them about direct mail as an option.  I think when done well and targeted properly with a well generated mailing list, it can be more effective than a print ad placed in a newspaper, but it’s still considered low-brow advertising.  Direct mail is to advertising as puns are to comedy.

Have you had experience in direct mail?  If so, what has been your rate of response?  Is this form of marketing something you’ve considered for your company?

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Written by Jeff York

May 18, 2008 at 1:14 am