When is the best time to mail?

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Timing is an important part of every direct marketing effort. However, it is also not prone to a sweeping generalization. Certainly it makes sense for your message to reach your audience at the right time to influence their actions – promoting down jackets in July may be challenging (or brilliant). The right timing depends upon what is right for your audience and what stage they are in the awareness-consideration-purchase-loyalty spectrum. For this post, I’ll touch on three schools of thought: Mail Early, Mail Late and Mail Often.

Mail Early
Mailing relatively early in the show cycle, say six to 10 weeks or more in advance of the event would be the right time if your target audience needs time to plan ahead to respond to your call-to-action. Examples could include promoting large expenditure items, discounts on orders placed at the show or a new product line introduction. If extra time is needed, then mail early to give your audience the opportunity to research your firm, your products or services or to contact you in advance of the event to schedule appointments.

Mail Late
Mailing relatively late in the show cycle, say 3 to 6 weeks in advance of the event would be the right time if your audience does not need time to plan ahead to respond to your call-to-action. Examples could include bring this card for free gift or visit our booth at four o’clock Tuesday to meet a celebrity. If advance planning is not important, then mail late to give your audience a more recent impression as they prepare to depart for the event.

Mail Often
Throughout my career, I’ve also heard ‘experts’ say that it takes anywhere from three to seven impressions for someone to remember a marketing message. While the ‘expert’ advice has it merits, it still does not apply to all campaigns. I have received tremendous responses from single targeted messages, such as a new product announcement or store opening. I’ve also had sales reps tell me of receiving phone calls from elusive business prospects several months after a monthly mailing campaign series had ended – even saying the prospects had saved the postcards in their desk drawers.

Further, in my big-box retailing days, direct mail showed up on brand awareness research studies as a significant source for customers’ brand recall. While branding is typically not a primary reason to do direct mail, the ‘halo effect’ for branding is very real – and at a disproportionately small fraction of what we were spending on TV, radio, print, free standing newspaper inserts, online ads and social media.

Direct mail still works and is an important part of an integrated media marketing approach and should be included in year-round campaigns.

So, what does this all mean?

Timing matters; frequency matters, and there is a halo effect on branding from direct marketing campaigns.

What should you do? When in doubt, I go back to basics. Direct marketing: test, measure and learn what works for you and your business: try by mailing early, late and often and learn what works for you. Close the marketing loop by applying what you learn to your next campaigns to continually improve your return on your marketing spend.