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Veterans like me know that response to our direct mail is never going to be what it was decades ago. Among the prime reasons....


* Cluttered mailboxes
* Distractions from other media (and particularly now online media)
* The ageing of America .... young people don't respond to direct mail
Hmm, maybe. But I just discovered another reason. Here's how ....
My wife and I moved into a new condo community last November and we've made a lot of friends. In mid-November, we decide to throw a holiday cocktail party and invite about 20 of the couples.
"Let me do the invitations," I said. "After all, I ought to know something about getting response."
We pick out the 20 couples we know best, so I know the list is pretty good. The offer is pretty good, too .... free food and drink and you don't have to take your car. It's a Sunday night, so you don't have a conflict with Saturday big plans and you can even watch the first football game on Sunday.
OK, now for the package. I go buy holiday postcard stationery at Staples. (I don't get a thing for product placement here). I write the invitation as a funny poem, and I personalize each of the invitations with the couple's name.
We put the invitations into high quality 6"x9" envelopes and write out each couple's address. Our address label serves as the corner card.
The invitations go into the mail on Tuesday morning. Mid-day Wednesday, my wife calls me from her sister's upstate home, asking about response. With a wife like this, who needs clients?
"Nada," I say. "We only mailed them yesterday."
Thursday goes by with no response, and I'm beginning to worry about how good the copy was. Maybe I can blame lack of response on the Post Office.
Friday we get our first two responses and they are positive. My wife returns from upstate and over the next three days asks those she runs into about the party. "Invitation?" some of them ask, "we don't remember seeing an invitation."
My wife probes further. In her next life, she will undoubtedly return as a fearless investigative reporter. She finds out that some of our new friends/neighbors don't bother visiting their mailboxes (clustered an average of 100 feet from their front doors) every day, or every other day for that matter. Some of our invitees only check their mailboxes every third or fourth day.
Aha! So we can make sure we have the right list and offer, develop superb creative that stands out in the mailbox. But if we can't get recipients to their mailboxes, that's a problem, isn't it?
I'm not a highly-paid consultant for nothing. My recommendation here: let's get the Direct Marketing Association to pressure the U.S.P.S. to use a small portion of the next postage increase for a consumer campaign. This would be a "Visit your mailbox every day it's good exercise and good for the economy (and good for the mental health of mailers)" campaign.
Yes?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lee Marc Stein is a direct marketing consultant and copywriter with over 40 years experience. He has developed and executed direct marketing programs for a wide variety of marketers in the publishing, insurance and financial services, nonprofit, technology, and business-to-business arenas. Current clients include Effectiveness Solutions Research, Entertainment Publications, Long Island Children’s Museum, National Grants Conferences, Rickard List Marketing, Travelers Insurance, and a number of direct response agencies.

As a direct response agency executive, Lee worked with companies like Chase, Colonial Penn Auto Insurance, Dial Corporation, Hertz, Mead Johnson, The Money Store, and U.S. Airways. He also held marketing management positions at Standard & Poor’s, BusinessWeek, and McGraw-Hill Information Systems Company.

Lee taught at NYU and Hofstra, and has spoken at 100+ industry conferences. He was a Founder of the Long Island Direct Marketing Association, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Direct Marketing Association of Long Island.