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DELIVERING RESULTS: The Rewards of Saturation Mailing
By John Hull, VP, technical services, Melissa Data
If youre a small, local business looking for an inexpensive way to increase your sales, you might want to consider saturating your market. A saturation mailing is a targeted offer to the true customer base of a business. Its inexpensive both in preparation and postage, and can reach customers very quickly.
But before you begin, make sure you understand the rules. A saturation mailing needs to meet certain requirements set by the United States Postal Service (USPS). For example, the mailing must be directed to more than 90 percent of a carrier route, which is defined as the entirety of addresses to which a single postal carrier delivers. Usually, a carrier route consists of about 450 addresses.
The other main requirement for a saturation mailing is that the mailing has to be sorted in walk sequence, the actual sequence that the carrier walks the route. For efficiency purposes, every day each postal service carrier in the US delivers the mail in a specific order. That route never varies, day in, day out, rain or shine.
When a direct mailing effort is organized in walk-sequence order, it significantly lowers postage costs. The Postal Service offers saturation mailing rates as low as 12 cents per piece for businesses as an incentive to presort the mailing before bringing it to the Post Office. Compare that 12 cents to the First-Class rate of 37 cents, and youll see the large savings. Nonprofits can reap even greater monetary benefits, with postage as low as 8 cents per item.
Perfect for Local Offers
For many small businesses, a saturation mailing can mesh perfectly with customer growth efforts or retention pushes. Those companies that are in the service or delivery business auto repair garages, boutique retailers, pizza places, and restaurants, for example can, without a doubt, profit from saturation mailings.
Indeed, any local business that mails postcards, including auto dealerships, even medical offices, can benefit from experimenting with these mailings. Offers like 50 percent off an entree or $5 off an oil change can be magnets for new customers and can also bring back lapsed ones. Most important, the unique business proposition that your business offers will be reinforced in the minds of vital neighborhood shoppers.
This is where location comes into play. The clients of a small business generally live within two to five miles of the business. A good saturation mailing gives you instant name recognition throughout your neighborhood. Imagine potential customers receiving a new restaurants saturation mailing piece and, later that day, driving by the restaurant. They think, "Oh, yes, I know that place..." The restaurant has kicked it up a notch and is on the mental map of newfound local residents.
Value for Your Dollars
Saturation mailing lists also offer small businesses greater value per name/address purchased than the more costly resident lists. Unquestionably, resident lists can be pulled from a wider range of criteria. For example, many list brokers or managers offer resident lists that can be selected by age of individual listed; total household income; length of residence; mail-order buyers; and many other selects. If those demographic points dovetail well with a companys customers, then a resident-list mailing may make sense.
But for a local small business, the price of a saturation mailing list is minimal and its effectiveness per piece can be substantial. List costs are considerably lower for saturation mailings, so you can send out more pieces. For example, you could send out 10,000 pieces in a saturation mailing for the same price of 1,000 pieces with names on a residents list.
Thats where choosing the right carrier routes, trying those within five miles of the business, will allow the success of the saturation-mailing campaign to take off. And its worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, you are not limited to a Dear Occupant tagline. You can use individual names as part of the address. There is a cost factor to consider, but the added distinctiveness of the piece can be worth it.
An inexpensive list, carefully chosen from local carrier routes with addressee names, has success written all over it. In fact, saturation mailings are so efficient that newspapers are experiencing a noticeable loss of advertising space to direct mailers. Saturation mailings offer an environment without competition, plus a much greater opportunity for branding, since your ad wont be buried deep inside a newspaper.
Find the Right List
Dont be intimidated by the scope of such a project as saturation mailing. Direct mail designers and mailing companies know the steps and can help along the way. Many list brokers have self-serve, online products and services (and specialists to help) that range from free simple queries to instantaneously downloadable saturation mailing lists. Just enter in your ZIP Codes and the lists will be ready in less than a minute.
Simple counts of the addresses of a specific carrier route can be used for planning piece totals; rough costs for mailing can be estimated through reliable mailing houses or printers, or on the USPS Web site. Similarly, these sources are able to advise on the dimension limits for postcards or letters used in saturation mailings (generally, the minimum is 3½ inches high and 5 inches long).
And, finally, were back to location. The location where the saturation mailing is dropped off does matter. To ensure the fastest delivery, the mailing needs to be brought to the carrier route DDU (destination delivery unit). The DDU is the Post Office that actually delivers your mail pieces to those routes.
The rewards of saturation mailings can be many. The key is to be ready to capitalize on the three Ls: Location of the business, Location of the all-important neighborhood customers, and Location of the Post Office. Its really that simple. The rewards will deliver themselves.
John Hull is VP, technical services, Melissa Data.
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