Stoking the Coals of Customer Interest
When it comes to reactivation of lapsed customers and leads, for two-step marketer Odysseys Unlimited it's all about the "R" in RFM. This Watertown, Mass. travel company, which sells small group overseas tours exclusively through direct channels, has two goals for its reactivation mailing: weed out contacts who no longer wish to hear from Odysseys and identify strong prospects for future sales activity.
Recency plays a big part in reaching these goals via a 4-1/4" x 5-1/2" triple postcard Odysseys has been mailing for a few years now (Archive Code #501-605064-0508). According to Sue Bonchi, director, marketing, the postcard goes to different segments of the housefile based on when customers came onto the file and the age of their last transaction. Odysseys defines a transaction as "booking a trip, booking and cancelling a trip, and/or inquiring about a trip," says Bonchi.
As such, the company is continually mailing older leads on a rolling basis. "In general, it's much cheaper to reactivate customers than to get new names on your list," explains Bonchi, so Odysseys mails this reactivation effort to each lapsed segment until the contact is no longer profitable. Usually, says Bonchi, it takes about two mailings to each segment to test the responsiveness of these wayward customers and leads, but the company has sent more efforts to some segments. Those people who don't respond remain in the database, but are flagged as "do not mail."
The reactivation postcard is the result of numerous tests to find the most efficient format and message. Bonchi reports having migrated from a 6" x 9" envelope package to a 6" x 9" self-mailer before arriving at the current triple postcard control. She's also tested paper weights (heavier stands up better in postal processing), and the photos and headlines on the outer panel (moody shots of European cities work best). The effort the Archive received features a vibrant image of an Irish castle with a horse-drawn cart in front, which is a test against the control image that features a sultry shot of Paris. Inside, the copy that resells the benefits of small group travel with Odysseys and accompanying photos are updated infrequently, and without much testing.
While the panel of qualifying questions does not get tested, it's static for good reason: These six questions get at the precise insight the firm needs to reconfirm a customer's or lead's active status. The six queries ask if the recipient wants to continue receiving travel catalogs, the recipient's age range, preferred destination choices, e-mail address, willingness to receive e-mail contact and recency of his or her last trip outside the United States. This last query is the moment of truth for Odysseys; those customers/leads who traveled outside the United States recently are far more likely to book a future trip than people who have never traveled abroad or did so more than three years ago, says Bonchi.
For its efforts, Odysseys not only is able to prune the mail file of wasteful circulation, but also gains insight into which international locales are of most interest.
Due to the constant requalification and flagging cycle Odysseys follows, Bonchi couldn't pinpoint the company's exact savings from using a reactivation program. "A fairly consistent number of people decline to be contacted for future promotions," she says, adding that she feels there is a good balance between reactivation and suppression of dormant names.
"We know there are plenty of travel promotions [from us and competitors] going to our customers and leads, so we're doing what we can to stand out," Bonchi concludes.