Money Talks: Campaign Season Mail Slows Ad Deliveries

October 6, 2008
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Terry Nicholson

The tickets are set, and we’re now smack in the middle of another heated presidential campaign season. But the presidential campaign is only one of the hundreds of races going on around the country, and if you’re an HVAC company that relies on direct mail to drive your business, your appeals may be coming up short this campaign season.

With the candidates going at full speed now, the media and the public are bombarded with everything from promises about lower taxes and improved health care, to the local promises of cleaning up that dirty alley down the street to planting flowers in every median. Who knows what promises the campaign hoopla is going to bring, but you know where every promise is going to wind up - in your customers’ mailboxes.

That’s right; mailboxes across the country are going to be stretched to the breaking point in the coming weeks with direct mail, promises, and pleas from elections national and local. This overstuffing could impact your business if you’re not careful.

Sophisticated HVAC companies that use bulk mail to deliver their messages have direct mail down to a science. If you’re one of these companies, when you drop off your mail at the post office, you know it will take X days to reach the homeowner and another X days before the phone starts ringing. You can plan it to the day - usually.

That was when things were predictable. Normally when the mail is predictable, it follows this schedule:

• First class mail arrives in one to three days.

• Standard mail arrives in two to nine days. (This is usually your bulk mail.)

• Periodicals arrive in one to seven days.

Unfortunately, with all the stress political campaigns put on mailboxes and postal carriers, things aren’t as predictable. Put it this way; if your direct mail is impacted during the holiday season, it’s going to be impacted now.

Bulk mail usually arrives in that two- to nine-day window, but first-class mail takes the priority. In an off-the-record discussion with a postal carrier who will remain anonymous, I confirmed my suspicion. He stated that when he gets a stack of bulk mail, he knows how long he has to get it delivered, and if his bag is too heavy one day, he’ll leave it for later. During the busy times of the year, it might be delayed for a few days in a row. After all, as he stated, “It’s only junk mail anyway, right?”

I guarantee that it’s more than junk mail to your company, and that’s why you’re starting to see more and more large retailers that use direct mail trying to get on the postman’s good side by saying, “Please deliver between the 15th and the 22nd.” The promotion I just received from a national electronics retailer said that very thing.

My point is that your direct mail may not arrive in the timeframe that you’re predicting and your phone may not be ringing in that timeframe either. If it doesn’t happen to you this campaign season, it’ll hit you at some point.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Here are five bulk mail strategies you can institute so you know what’s happening with your mail next time you make a drop:

1. Ask the postmaster whether they have any anticipated delays. If they anticipate a delay, you may want to allow more lead time for your mail.

2. Bump your mail up to first-class status. It’s more expensive, but you’ll be sure that your pieces are delivered with the fastest and highest priority delivery.

3. Get your postage certified. When you drop off your pieces, ask for a certification; the postal carrier will give you certification that they received your stack of bulk mail. That may not tell you when it is delivered, but you’ll know that it’s in the hands of your postal carrier. It’s another option for holding your direct mail company accountable.

4. Add yourself to the mailing list. That way, you’ll know exactly when pieces start arriving so you can get ready for the calls.

5. The golden rule of direct mail is to plan ahead. Be sure to give your printing and direct mail company as much time as possible to get your pieces out.

If you find there is a lag in your direct mail due to the campaigns this season, take some of these actions to quickly make the most of your mailing. People are going to be “voting” with their dollars this season too, and you want to get as many of those votes as possible.

Know your direct mail and know your direct mail lead time. That’s how you make money every day. I’m Terry Nicholson, and I approve this message.

Publication date: 10/06/2008

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