Beat the Postal Rate Increase: Add Email to Your Acquisition Mix

Catalogers have a long, successful history using direct mail for new customer acquisition. Specifically by buying postal lists from a variety of sources and sending their catalogs with the hope of sparking a sale. It’s an extremely effective strategy, but also an expensive one. And, it’s about to get more expensive if the postal rate hike takes effect, as many experts believe it will.

Smart catalogers certainly aren’t going to stop using direct mail for acquisition. But, the smartest will certainly be adding email to the mix. Rates for email list rental have held steady over the last few years, making them a bargain by comparison.

Are you skeptical that email can work for you? We at Return Path certainly admit to being bullish on email in general – we built our business around it. But I’d like to suggest a few tactics to consider that will specifically help turn email list rental into an extremely effective acquisition tool:

  1. Don’t try to sell (yet): You can’t expect an email to work the same way as a multi-page, glossy catalog does. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. Instead, use email to get people to raise their hand to receive your catalog. This “free” offering will be well-received by email recipients. But, wait, aren’t I still sending a catalog. Yes! But now, you are sending to a smaller, but self-selected group of hand-raisers. You’ll be more efficient with your direct mail spending.
  2. Send a series of emails: Would you send one catalog and then, if a sale isn’t made, stop sending? No, of course not. Depending on the list you’ll send at least a few issues before you cut that name off the list. So why would you send one email and then quit? Instead, consider a series of emails to the same names. This could be aimed at getting them to sign up for the catalog (see #1), but could also include some selling. Since you’ve given yourself more time, you can try getting prospects to make a small purchase, to get them hooked. Of course, you want to use incentives (free shipping, discounts, and so forth) the same way you do with catalog prospecting.
  3. Test, test, test: It’s always a mystery to us when direct marketing pros – the kings and queens of testing! – lose their heads when it comes to email. Test everything. This medium can be extremely effective for you if you apply the same rigor that you do to your direct mail efforts. Test your offer, creative and lists. When you hit on a winning formula, keep using it, but then test some more to optimize.

These are just three simple ideas to help you start thinking about how email can help your acquisition efforts and take the bite out of the postal rate hike. Whatever your plans, we recommend you get started now. Those postal bills will be here before you know it.

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