Timing is everything in life and business, and one of the most common mistakes marketers make when they’re sending out a direct mail campaign is to get the timing wrong. It doesn’t help, for example, to be sending out a mailing in mid-December promoting special offers for Christmas! That’s just way too late, but often it happens because the planning process underestimates how long it takes to put the campaign together and pull it off.
The second problem with timing is that marketers often don’t allow enough time for the idea to percolate. When pressed, 90% of consumers will opt not to rather than to buy if they have limited time to decide. So when a cut-off date exists for taking up the offer and the mailing goes out three days prior, there are a number of reasons why it could miss the mark. So how far in advance of an event should you send out your mailing, and why?
A direct mail campaign generally comprises some form of printed material, which has to first be copywritten, designed and produced. Unless you’re turning it out in-house, that means scheduling it with a service provider who does this sort of thing on a regular basis. Typically, graphic designers and high bulk printing companies connect with you through agencies or “middle men,” particularly for smaller accounts. Therefore, you have a whole chain of people to coordinate before you can actually have your mailing campaign ready to go.
Preparation and Insertion
The next step in a direct mail campaign is preparing the materials for sending. This might sound like a superficial activity, but if you’re sending a letter, an offer flyer and a brochure, there are three pieces to collate for each recipient. All items then have to be inserted into the envelope or packaging you’re sending them in. Whether your mailing is going to 500, 5,000 or 50,000 people, this is a huge task and often one best done mechanically.
Most companies that specialize in direct mail have automated equipment that collates and inserts most items simultaneously, so it’s only when you’re adding a novelty toy or gadget that actual human labor might be required. The equipment “picks up” each piece from a different stack, collates them together, folds them if necessary, inserts them into the envelope and seals it. In many cases, the postage is pre-programmed and added to the envelope at the same time.
Just because it’s being done by a machine doesn’t mean it happens overnight. Your campaign usually needs to be scheduled with the mailing house well in advance. If your production process runs late you could use your time slot for inserting, because keeping the equipment running is vital for the mailing company’s cost management.
Once the campaign is ready to go, getting it to the postal service can be a giant task. This is also often handled for you by the mailing house, but getting it out on time depends on everything that precedes it going smoothly. Otherwise, if your mailing goes a day late, it could result in it landing in a USPS facility over the weekend and reaching your customers three days later than you intended.
Time to Think
And of course, only once the mailing reaches the target that your customer can begin considering the offer contained in it. The industry typically allows three days from receipt for the client to review the offer, two days for mulling it over and a week to get around to taking it up, so you must ensure it arrives at least two weeks before the offer deadline.
Direct mail can generate good sales leads for your company, while at the same time raising brand awareness, but it only works if it gets there in time. So don’t plan a month-end campaign on the first day of the month, because you’re likely to need more time than that to do it properly.