Principles of effective direct mail, Part II

March 21, 2012

In our last Issue, we introduced and discussed the components of a successful direct mail campaign, included a Planning Checklist, and shared some of the more profitable target audiences, going into some detail about the pros and cons of targeting new residents.

In our last Issue, we introduced and discussed the components of a successful direct mail campaign, included a Planning Checklist, and shared some of the more profitable target audiences, going into some detail about the pros and cons of targeting new residents.

Now, let's talk about the more promising, and therefore, exciting, target audience, namely, demographically selected segments of the current population. Other 'boutique audiences,' such as brides to be, employees where they work, and persons with specific medical conditions [see my article on integrative dentistry], will be covered in a future  Issue.

The times when only highly capitalized firms could afford to employ sophisticated marketing research and implementation technologies are thankfully behind us. The advent of the Internet, and the ability of companies like ADM to 'bundle orders' means any dental practice can, for a reasonable investment, have access to precision targeting, list acquisition, mailer design, print, fulfillment, and tracking services.

A Laser Beats A Shot Gun Every Time, Especially When It Saves Money! ?

For many years, we've advocated targeting at the carrier route, as opposed to zip code, level. A carrier route is a series of physically contiguous addresses used by the postal carrier to efficiently deliver the mail. It is, quite simply, and as the name implies, the mail carrier's route. Targeting carrier routes has two distinct advantages over mailing to entire zip codes. First, it permits the practice to be far more precise in identifying, and connecting with, only those households that are a 'fit' both in geographic and demographic terms, for the practice. Convenience continues to be the number one factor in someone's decision to visit a dental office for the first time, so it is nearly always a waste of valuable resources when a practice is constrained by targeting entire zip codes, instead of only those portions of zip codes that are a fit for the practice.

Second, because targeting at the carrier route level allows a competent fulfillment house to do much of the work for the Post Office (by sorting and bundling the mail), the per piece postage rate can be as little as half that of mailing to all (or even part) of a zip code. Because postage often accounts for more than half of the cost of a mailing tactic, the savings really add up.

Design, Copy, and Offer(s) That Speak To Your Audience?

In designing your mailer copy, selecting graphics, and choosing your offer(s), place yourself in the shoes of your intended audience. The mailer must 'speak' to them, that is, get them first to identify with the message, by answering the question "Is this (about) me?" in the affirmative. This requires that the imagery, be it a photograph or illustration, represents a person, group, or lifestyle to which your audience can relate. The offer should be likewise appealing to them.

What's the Frequency (and interval) Kenneth*?

?As any good marketer will tell you, once is never enough, that is, repeat exposure of your memorable and compelling message is necessary to break through your audience's protective barriers (if this does not yet resonate with you, ask how many times you see the same television commercial before you even know what they're promoting, and I think it will). Our experience dictates a minimum of three, and as many as twelve, identical, or highly similar, mailings to the same person wtihin a twelve month period to be optimum. We typically recommend and A, A/B, or A/B/C program, defined as follows:

'A' Program: mailing to the same Group each month for 12 consecutive months (total ?of twelve mailers per Audience Member)

'A/B' Program: divide audience in half and mailing to each Group in alternating months (total of ?six mailers per Audience Member)

'A/B/C/' Program: divide audience into thirds and mail to each group every third month (total of four mailers per Audience Member)

The decision as to which approach to employ most often is made on budgetary considerations, but sometimes also on the volume of new patient inquiries the practice feels is can effectively handle over a given month (capacity).

*For more on this reference click here.

Issue III will delve into tracking, evaluation, and sound decision making with respect to dental direct mail strategy.