Hippity, Hoppity, 'the Check Is on Its Way'
I remember the first time I received a check in the mail from AT&T; it was a win-back effort, and it workedon me and apparently everyone else, as such check efforts quickly usurped the majority of the telecom win-back genre. Next in line were the banks. Pretty soon, everybody and their brother had a "check enclosed."
The very first direct mail check package everan AT&T win-back effortgot deposited in consumers' mailboxes in 1991, and the check has been a successful recruiter since. But, after so many years of use and so many others jumping on the bandwagon, has the illustrious check lost its luster?
Direct mail consultant Alan Rosenspan, who had his copywriting hand in that very first AT&T check mailing, thinks so. "Based on my experience, checks in the mail have lost some of their powerwe used to get double-digit response ratespossibly because they've been overused, and there have been so many 'phony' checks," he says. "However, lots of people still use 'check-like' objects as a way to get people to open the envelope, and that's probably still pretty effective."
AT&T's most recent mailing could be a random test, but it also could support the notion that the check's heyday may be coming to a close. In November, AT&T hit the mail stream with, not a check mailing, but a postcard announcing that a check was on its way (808ATTCOM1103).
The postcard "pre-alert" subtly notes in the upper left-hand corner: "Your check will be here in just a few dayswith a special offer for international callers."
Another box on the same side of the postcard calls out the copy: "After your $100 check arrives in the mail, call 1 800 437-0966, ext. 34497 for your check code and to sign up." Nestled between the two check-teasing boxes, a blurb in pretty small type mentions the AT&T AnyHour Advantage plan and its accompanying "City Savings."
Aside from this mailing, as far as we know, AT&T has mailed out only two other pre-alerts in its time. One (a postcard sporting an American flag image) was sent out post-Sept. 11it dropped in January 2002and announced: "This advanced postcard has been sent to you to let you know that you will be receiving a letter from AT&T within the next few days. It will arrive with a special cash offeralong with a way to keep in touch with those who matter most."
The other pre-alert was, in fact, mailed to announce that first-ever check package back in 1991, recalls Rosenspan. "The pre-mailer tried to be intriguing. It said, 'Your check is in the mail.'"
According to Rosenspan, no other pre-alerts were mailed through at least 1995 (the last time he worked with the telecommunications company). "As far as we could tell, the pre-mailer had absolutely no effect on response," he says.
Since it's not a typical direct-response mechanism (you are not asking the prospect to act, except to watch for the next mailing), it is hard to test and even measure, although at least with the latter, you have some options. "There are two ways to measure the effectiveness of a pre-mailer," says Rosenspan. "One, mail it only to 50 percent of your list, and see whether they respond at a higher rate than [those] who don't receive it. Two, include a way to respond (like the 800 number)."
AT&T includes the 800 number here, but suggests recipients call after the check arrives. Perhaps the extension number is an attempt at tracking this effort.
Tracking or no tracking, Rosenspan is not optimistic for the effort's success. "In my experience, I've never seen a pre-mailer justify its cost. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think they are probably just a waste of time, or at the very least, a relic from the days [when] people received much less direct mail."