Practice What You Preach
At Inside Direct Mail, we look at thousands of pieces of direct mail each month to report to you on industry trends and best practices, but our efforts don't begin to compete with the billions of pieces of direct mail that the U.S. Postal Service looks at each year. And if you think that it may have learned a thing or two from looking at all that mail, you would be right.
In May, the Archive received an intriguing mailing from the Postal Service: a direct mail piece about direct mail (901UNSTPS0504B). According to Patrick O'Connell, program manager, advertising of direct mail for the Postal Service, this mailing is part of a campaignwhich will include seven mailings and a number of print ads this yearthat promotes direct mail as the cornerstone of customer relationship management programs.
But this mailing doesn't just tell you that direct mail works, it shows you. According to Susan Dow, manager of sales strategy for the Postal Service, the entire mailing was created using best practices gleaned from years of experience with the direct mail industry. "What you see combined here," says Dow, "is thought leadership around relevancemaking sure that your message is properly targeted to the recipientsand adding to that interesting and creative executions that are highly appealing with a good open and read rate, all constructed in a manner that is directed to exactly the kind of issues that [direct marketers] are facing in their role on a daily basis."
In this mailing, it's the creativity that draws you in, and the relevance that keeps you reading. The 6" x 9" folded self-mailer is sealed by a 21/4" x 9" flap with an eye-catching headline: "More than half of all adults will do it this week." The flap opens to reveal the punchline: "Read their Direct Mail." The statistic-filled interior outlines the benefits of direct mail in a bulleted format that provides its busy reader with an efficient, targeted message:
When you place Direct Mail at the center of your Customer Relationship Management program, you reach consumers the way they want to be reached.
It's welcome... It's flexible... It's tangible... It's extendable... It's
selective... It's lasting.
According to Dow, this message was created by using market research to determine the audience's "compelling business issues."
But the message isn't the only part of this mailing that is targeted: the Postal Service also conducted extensive testing to develop its mailing list, identifying not just the right companies, but also the appropriate decision-makers within those companies. In the end, it sent the mailing to a very targeted list of 75,000 direct marketers, and then monitored the response. "Where we thought the best targets would be," says Dow, "was where we found the highest response. We were able to validate this by doing pre- and post-mailing research."
To boost response, the Postal Service also utilizes a new Freemium: a Direct Mail ROI Estimator CD, which was actually created from an internal tool the Postal Service has used to measure its own ROIs for years. The Postal Service has offered educational Freemiums in the past, but this CD is unique because it is a tool with real business applications for the recipients. Offering a useful and compelling product has worked well for this mailing, which dropped in March but is already pulling such strong numbers2.71 percentthat O'Connell plans to use it as a control in the future.
Knowledgewhether gleaned from studying industry best practices or
developed through thorough testingseems to be the key to the Postal Service's direct mail success. The goal of this constant education is, according to Dow, "to learn how to be better aligned in terms of language and positioning and creative and targeting so that we touch the right customers with the right message at the right time."