Scheduling Your Direct-Mail Campaign For Maximum Impact: 7 Tips
We were talking to a product manager the other day who has to coordinate 124 product releases every year – that’s more than ten per month!
That seems like a lot, but face it – everyone in marketing is slammed right now. There’s more to do, more to measure, more platforms to work on, and less staff and less time to get everything done to the level required.
And somehow you have to fit a direct-mail campaign into this chaos.
The modern marketing reality barely gives marketers enough time to do everything badly, so there’s a premium on organization. The only way everything can work is if everything is scheduled out to the nth degree.
And yes, that includes direct mail.
The tricky thing about direct mail is that it can have more elements than other types of marketing campaigns, and therefore needs to be scheduled somewhat differently than other types of marketing, but in a way that plays nice with everything else that’s going on.
Here’s how to pull off that incredible feat.
1 – Begin with the marketing plan.
The best way to make sure you allow ample time for execution of a direct-mail campaign is to get it into your marketing plan.
Everyone does marketing plans differently, but if you take a goals-strategies-tactics approach to marketing planning, you need to make the direct-mail campaign one of your strategies, and then the execution of the direct-mail campaign part of your tactics.
Why is this important? Putting direct mail into your strategies and tactics forces you to consider it in the context of the rest of your marketing efforts. If you create a marketing calendar at the same time, you’re similarly forced to consider creation of elements, production time and mailing in the context of other elements of a multi-platform campaign.
You don’t have to attach costs at this point, or have themes or exact dates or anything else. Just a commitment to direct mail and some thought put to a timeline is sufficient.
2 – Get the budget squared away before doing any work.
Marketing budgets are funny things. They’re one of the things budget planners love most to pump up, and they’re one of the first things to be cut when even the whiff of a downturn is detected.
Marketers as a group are aware of this, and love to lock in as many projects as they can to preserve their budget.
For a direct-mail campaign, that means advancing a dollar figure as soon as you can, and making sure there’s money in the budget before putting the campaign on the calendar.
With direct mail, there’s a slightly higher possibility of price increases than in some other types of marketing. Postal rates may go up, rounds of revision may drive out the cost of outsourced creative, and costs of acquiring and building a list may be more than you thought.
As a result, build yourself a cushion when making cost estimates. If you come in under budget you look good, and if you come in over budget, blame it on external resources.
3 – Start creative as early as you can.
No matter how buttoned-down you have your approval processes, creation and revision always takes more time than you expect.
You can mitigate the interminability somewhat by limiting the rounds of revisions and sticking to firm deadlines, but the safest approach is to build in a bigger time cushion than you think you’ll need, and then lie.
Seriously. It’s basically keeping two sets of books – one for outside entities and one for yourself.
So for instance, if your drop-dead deadline for copy review is Oct. 21, tell the reviewers it’s Oct. 7. You know they’ll procrastinate and put it at the bottom of their inbox, so account for that.
This approach has the added benefit of you looking good when you magnanimously tell the person who missed the deadline, “It’s okay. I’ll make some calls and we’ll sneak you in under the wire.”
They never have to know.
4 – Consider your resources.
Obviously you want to put the various steps in your direct-mail campaign on your master marketing calendar, whether it’s something you have on a whiteboard or in a project-management tool like Trello.
However, it’s important to move past bars on a chart and consider who will actually be doing the work on your project, and what other work they’ll be expected to do while doing your work.
As an example, if a new product launch requires video assets, a microsite, and a social campaign in addition to direct mail, and one person is in charge of everything with similar creative deadlines for all, that’s probably not going to come off.
And very often the grand scheme of things suggests that the direct-mail campaign will get pushed to the bottom of the list.
Scheduling is more than just dates on a calendar. It’s workload and people, and you need to manage to that to make sure your direct-mail campaign comes off appropriately.
5 – Sweat the timing.
If you’ve ever taken a college math class, you know: Order of operations is important.
If a direct-mail campaign is part of a larger marketing push, you have to be ultra-picky about what assets you want to hit first, second, and so on.
If the direct-mail piece is an invite to view a site or attend an event, the site needs to be soft-launched and tested for about a week before the direct-mail piece is in people’s hands.
If the direct-mail piece is an event invite, the back-end of redemptions and reservations needs to be stood up at least several days before the piece is slated to reach people.
You need to open windows slightly before things go live and close them after you’re sure there are no other responses forthcoming, which leads to the next point …
6 – Be realistic about response time.
Yes, you are going to get the vast majority of responses within a day or two after a direct-mail piece hits households. No, that does not mean you can close a response window after that time.
If you’re mailing to a wide geographic area, there may be variations in delivery time. Especially if people receive a piece of mail on Saturday, they may not respond until Monday or Tuesday.
And because many people hold onto direct mail for two weeks or more, it may go on the stack to be dealt with at one time, with that one time being 10 days from now.
Direct mail lends itself to stragglers. If the goal of your direct-mail campaign is to get every possible response, you need to leave the response window open a long time.
7 – Allow time and resource for measurement.
We’ve talked in multiple blogs about how to measure direct mail. Doing it right requires looking at multiple measures, and that takes time and resources. You need to plan for that, too.
If direct mail is part of a multiplatform campaign, chances are those other aspects of the campaign will need to be measured the same time as the direct-mail component.
If you’re already measuring the same thing inside the campaign – web traffic, for instance – that’s an efficiency. If you’re measuring something different, like activity related to a QR code, that will need to be put on the calendar so it can be done at the appropriate time.
All marketing benefits from planning, but because of its inherent complexity, direct mail benefits more than some other types of marketing.
Want more tips on how to plan your next direct-mail campaign? Let’s talk.