An Insecure Mailing

Fails: List, Offer, Creative, Timing  

This ADT new customer solicitation fails on several levels:

List: The recipient currently has ADT Home Security at his home for over 5 years.

Offer: The letter touts a Wireless Remote Control at a $99 value that is ABSOLUTELY FREE*. The asterisk on the back references a $99 installation charge. It also does not match the insert.

Creative: No personalization. The opening reads ATTENTION: HOMEOWNERS in both underline and bold blue, an overkill. It refers to homeowners in the plural but is mailed to the owner of only one home at a time.

The sub-head says “You have been selected to receive …” If there was a selection, the letter would have been personalized. The text is passive and in the past tense. A better creative would read, “You are selected to receive.” Or, better yet, ditch the format and use a letter approach that feels personal and believable.

The letter copy wastes space with phrases such as “… as an added benefit …”.  Just describe the benefit.

The use of numbers is inconsistent and there are typos. Sometimes the value or fee is $99.00, sometimes $99. There is generally little value in using cents on something of whole dollar value. There is no value doing it differently on one page.  An example of a typo is "post mark", which should be one word.  (Let's not forget that the envelope uses a postal permit so it doesn't even have a postmark.)

There is a call-out box about smoke dedectors next to the vital box with the call to action.  The monitored smoke dedector is an up-sell and should be left to the inbound telemarketing agent after the customer expresses an interest in the primary service being sold.  As a mention on the letter, the call-out box is a visual distraction from closing the sale and therefore a waste of space.

The insert looks like something out of ValPak, because it was in a recent ValPak mailer.

Timing: This is a low-interest category arriving the in the mail box between the Harry & David and Land’s End Holiday catalogs. At this time of year, people will toss the solo mail and open the catalogs.

It really is a shame when mail like this arrives in home. It means that an independent dealer is wasting precious money. When it comes to timing of direct mail for home security, the best time to reach out is when someone is moving into a new home. One of the most successful ADT salespeople in the local area checks for home closings at the county clerk office daily. He sends a simple postcard to the recently purchased house in that day’s mail. He knows that new home owners have cash flow issues, so he offers no payments for 60 days. This salesman admits the creative is lousy, yet he is successful because of optimal use of List, Offer, and Timing.

Learnings: Dedupe a prospect list against current customers.  Do not mail a non-personalized solo mail package. Communicate with personalization and in an active, persuasive tone. Be consistent with use of numbers. Do not sell multiple items on one letter. Do not mail an offer for a low-interest category during the holiday shopping season.


Hallmark: When you care enough to send the very best offer, but a bit late

Fail: Timing 

This holiday mailer arrived from Hallmark in the mail on Saturday, November 7. It offers some special deals and discounts, but only Nov 7 & 8. That means that by the time it arrived in-house, half of the sale period had passed.

A similar timing error often takes place with e-mail. Many merchants believe that e-mail should arrive on the first morning of a 1 or 2-day special to encourage impulse buying, but that fails to discount the brick & mortar aspect of retail. A customer still needs to drive to a store and therefore must plan time to drive to the store.

Learning: If you are going to communicate a short-term offer or sale at a store, time it so it arrives in home at least a full day before the sale starts. With e-mail, you can be precise with timing but it is not as easy with snail mail.

Also, Hallmark doesn’t get a fail but a C- for offering an opt-out option using black ink over a red background on an inside page.  The text cannot get any more difficult to notice or read


With mail, there are many second chances but only one Last Chance

Fail: Creative & Timing 

A follow-up mailing that arrives in home two weeks after the initial mailing will lift overall response.  The amount of the lift varies depending on the product or service. In mailings I managed, the lift varied from 20% - 100%.  An effective remail assumes the customer saw the first mailing, so it should reinforce the same benefits with a modified message. 

An effective remail approach is shown in this DIRECTV interest follow-up letter.  The same features of the Choice package are highlighted, however the Johnson Box, opening, and some body copy changed from the original. There is also a different phone number, allowing DIRECTV to measure raw inbound response from the mailing.  (They could also consider a speicific URL on the remail, allowing them to measure online response.)

The local radio station also followed-up it's self-mailer with a postcard offering free shoes on Tuesdays – still showing only shoes for women –  but using different pictures.

The Fail goes to Money Magazine for these mailings I received that arrived within days of each other:

Both use the exact same outer envelope, layout and copy, word for word.   Both of them tout “LAST CHANCE” even though one is really the second-to-last chance. The only difference is the respond-by date.  And they actually arrived the same week.

A better use of the Money's money would be for the both letters to use a similar creative template but the first mailer have a core message of “Time is Running out” and the follow-up mailer include the “Last Chance” message. Or better yet, use a low-cost e-mail to communicate the same message timed to arrive around the same time as the mail.

Learnings: If you use a 2-drop mail tactic:
• Time your maildrops so that maildrops arrive two weeks apart, not on top of each other.
• Don’t insult the customer by claiming a final opportunity for your product when it really isn’t.
• Differentiate the creative but maintain the same core messages so that the second letter reinforces the first one.
• If your have an opt-in e-mail list, coordinate the timing of communications so that one channel reinforces the message of the other channel. 


Timing is Important

I modified my original post to add a fourth element of basic best practices for successful mail & e-mail.  Timing is a key element of any marketing communication.  It should arrive at a time that is relevant to the customer. 

With the holiday season approaching, now is the right time for marketers to focus on things relevant to the giving gifts, whether it is a holiday gift for family or friends, or giving the gift of charity for those less fortunate.  Mid-November through late December is not a time to spend limited marketing dollars soliciting customers for low-interest categories such as phone service.  To quote Bob Stone, direct marketing guru and writer of  Successful Direct Marketing Methods, to the best of my recollection, "Once JCPenny has it's first Christmas sale, little else matters."  That sale is typically the second weekend in November.  This year, it could even be this coming weekend.

Likewise, a good time to actively market health products and financial services is January and February.  Consumers are past the holidays, looking at their waistline and their credit card and bank statements.  Many enter a period of self-reflection.  This will be a good time to offer savings tools, higher interest rates on savings and lower interest rates on credit cards.  In recent years, many banks used the first quarter to roll out acquisitions offers with teaser rates and low promotional balance transfer APRs.  (However, the rules changed with Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, so this may not be the case next year.) 

If you have a great tool for managing budgets or a dietary supplement to offer, it would be a Fail to mail or e-mail an offer now.  Likewise, if you sell gift baskets, it would be a Fail to mail a catalog in January.