Match Direct Mail Frequency to Purchase Frequency

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September 22, 2011

Why waste precious marketing dollars sending direct mail or email marketing to your customers weekly when they purchase from you monthly? Not matching your mailing frequency with your customers’ buying frequency makes your messages go from ripe to waste. Companies that hammer customers with repetitive offers may make them feel stalked, not catered to.

If your company truly knows its customers, you also know their shopping cycles. This information allows you to match your mailing frequency with their buying cycles. It’s counterproductive to promote to them above and beyond those buying cycles regardless of your CEO’s sales goals. If two mailings equate to $500 dollars, four mailings doesn’t necessarily equate to $1000. Unfortunately, the math doesn’t work that way because of an element called free will.

Costco mirrors its customer buying cycles beautifully. Each month it mails its customers an information-rich lifestyle magazine called Costco Connection and an envelope of coupons good for the last half of the month. Why?  Because Costco knows that its members spend $94 every 2.5 weeks. So to assist its members with their quest for value, Costco mails its specials through the mail twice a month. Brilliant.

Timing is just as important as frequency though it is often called marketing’s stepchild. When you target the right people with the right message at precisely the right time, you position your direct mail campaign for much higher response rates, particularly when you calculate frequency with recency and monetary value (revenue received), otherwise known as RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary).

Because frequency can be a misleading time metric, it’s best combined with recency and monetary value (revenue received) to optimize the timing of marketing campaigns. RFM turns out to be the most popular segmentation method used today, primarily because it helps hone buying-cycle matching and is easy to calculate. RFM helps you identify the very best and the very worst customers (the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent).

Let’s look at three RFM masters and see how they tie their mail drops to what’s going on in their customers’ lives:

  • Proctor & Gamble mails promotions about “pull-up” diapers to parents when their child is about to start walking. P&G knows because of collecting customer histories.
  • AARP sends its membership offer to folks who are about to turn 60 and enter into retirement.
  • Farmers Insurance, among others, sends personalized birthday cards to each customer from his or her own agent. Collecting birth dates is easy and a great way to increase loyalty. Sending this message in a variable data format would be even better and more effective.

Birthday mailings can be one of six touch-points. It is recommended that small businesses reach out to the customers at least six times a year with relevant messages and offers.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, the best months for direct mail are February through May, and September. “OK” months are January, August, and October. The absolute worst months for direct mail are June and July.

Local mailings should get mailed out on Fridays, this generally gives enough time for the mail to be sorted and delivered on the best days of the week, which are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Lowe’s coupons arrive in customers’ mailboxes just when they need them thanks to its Realtor cross-promotion.  Rather than pummeling people with coupons, Lowe’s clairvoyantly mails to couples who have just purchased a home.

Lowe’s also ramps up marketing during the summer season, when it brings in $15 billion in sales and allocates marketing dollars tied to calendar events like Cinco de Mayo as it pursues the Hispanic market, according to its 2010 Media Plan.

Companies and customers win when aligning the frequency of mailings with buying habits. If your company finds itself omitting some poorly timed and irrelevant mailings, dollars saved can be shifted to another marketing campaign, or better yet, boost the voltage of your less-is-more mailings with multi-channel marketing.

Don’t forget to make sure you’re mailing to people who are still doing business with you and clearing out the people who aren’t spending money with you. It’s amazing how many small and large businesses don’t data cleanse and continue to mail promotions to people who haven’t bought from them in decades. If you haven’t received a recent order, it’s the perfect chance to call and re-engage that customer or remove them from the database.

NextPage can help with all the above complexities, laws, and steps necessary to execute a well-timed, frequency-correct direct mail program. Once in place, the rewards and increased ROI will make you our customer for life.

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