Message & Media: What I Learned From P.O. Box 1857

AT&T found success with this control mailing made up of a pinstriped outer envelope (see here) and an invitation-like card.

AT&T found success with this control mailing made up of a pinstriped outer envelope and an invitation-like card (seen here).

7 direct mail takeaways for cross-channel marketers

Opening envelopes and unzipping direct mail snap packs provides cross-channel marketers with the chance to lurk-and-learn from their direct mail marketing colleagues. I speak from experience.

Lurking, learning and confirming is what I’ve been doing for more than a year as I saved a stack of mail pieces I received from P.O. Box 1857 in Alpharetta, Ga. Sometimes I received two or three pieces a month from this address. You probably did, too, if you’re an AT&T customer. P.O. Box 1857 is the home address for AT&T Customer Care. Here’s what I learned:

Takeaway No. 1: Direct mail (still) works. Or at least it’s working for companies like AT&T that use it to cross-sell services to their customers. As with insurance buyers, telephone and digital service customers have an attractive lifetime value because of their “automatic” monthly renewal. In other words, it’s likely you can mail to them cost-effectively, because it’s not a one-time sale. It’s similar to a continuity program.

And while email is less expensive to send than direct mail, it’s not always an option. Or appropriate. For example, AT&T doesn’t have my email address. But the telecom does have my postal address. So AT&T is using it, repeatedly. If direct mail isn’t already in your 2014 marketing plan, consider testing it whenever it’s appropriate.

Takeaway No. 2: Repetition counts. One-shot mailings—traditional mail and email—are a shot in the dark. If you’re going to use direct mail or email to cross-sell and upgrade customers, you need to commit to testing a series. One touch is rarely enough. Here’s why:

In the case of AT&T (my land line and long distance provider), the company is asking me to switch my wireless, high speed Internet and TV from other providers. This is not an impulse decision. It requires research, planning and timing of contracts. So I’m most likely to consider switching when I, 1) have a problem with an existing provider, 2) experience a significant rate increase, or 3) have a contract about to end. While all three of these decision-influencers are out of AT&T’s control, AT&T has learned it needs to keep its message in front of me until the time is right. By sending me repeated mailings, AT&T is more likely to be in my mailbox when I’m ready to switch.

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.

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