Postman’s knock

When was the last time you received something in the post that made you smile or got a positive reaction from you, think about it carefully. Now ask yourself when was the last time you sent something in the post in order to provoke a positive reaction.


I’m talking of course about direct mail and you can knock it as much as you want to but it still works, even more so if you produce something that screams to be opened. Yes I know it got plastered with the term ‘junk mail’ back in the day due to the repetitiveness and the sheer volume of it. The medium was swamped and the biggest culprits back in the 90’s and early new millennia were, dare I say it again, the banks, building societies, credit card companies and the utilities. They mailed millions and in turn earned billions for the Royal Mail who were offering huge postage discounts much of which was being swallowed up by the mailing houses. How do I know this, because I worked for one of the largest direct mail production companies in Europe back in the mid to late 80’s and it was like working for the Mafia.

Factories boasting dozens of automated phillipsburg mailing machines, 8 and 10 station monsters operating 24 hours a day seven days a week. Back then it was all about volume and revenue and of course the direct mail house owners driving around in their flashy cars and dining in fancy restaurants. Everyone involved, it seemed, were on backhanders ( and I know who they were) and really didn’t care about what they were mailing, it was, instead all about the numbers and that my friends is junk mail. They were responsible, in part, for their own downfall coupled of course with the greed of the Royal Mail. With the introduction and commercialisation of the internet it seemed there was now a real alternative so direct mail was abandoned by many in their droves.

Now of course internet or online or digital (call it what you will) is swamping the market. You can’t open your inbox, or FB, or Linkedin without being drenched in a deluge of thoughtless, boring, heartless advertising and it has now increased to such a rate that some are returning to the previous beast because response rates are dropping yet again.

The Royal Mail has been going since the mid 16th century, nothing much has changed, you write something on paper or card, enclose it in an envelope, affix a stamp and post it. The reaction by it’s recipient is to do with content and how appropriate it is to them (other factors also apply). Do I think that FB will still be here in 450 years, well of course not so why not utilise a trustworthy service correctly and do something creative with it. There is a real resurgence in direct mail right now because if designed correctly it is still one of the most measureable methods of communicated advertising that ever existed. It all depends on what you do with it.

Of course you can use direct mail to procure new clients and that has certain rules that need to be applied in order to get the response that you are seeking. There is another significantly important form of direct mail that many businesses fail to recognise the importance of and that is where you actually write to your existing customer base. I mean when was the last time you wrote to a customer to say thank you? I don’t mean some dull email that will probably go into their spam box, I mean wrote a letter to acknowledge the value of their custom, nothing more than that. Of course in a nice attractive envelope, well addressed and with a postage stamp affixed, not some bloody awful postal impression. If your customer base is small enough why not even consider hand signing the letters. Or if your customer base is huge (lucky you but they are always being pestered by your competitors) skimming off the top 100 or 1000 customers and doing that for them. You think that sounds nuts? then you are nuts!

Back in 1983 I was working for a direct marketing business that handled the Franklin Mint account. What, you never heard of Franklin Mint Oy Vay!!!!! OK well google them, preferably on someone else’s lap top or your search will be recorded and you will be bombarded with collectable emails and inane boxes on your FB page. Anyway as I was saying, Franklin Mint mailed offers about their collectables in the millions. All ok if you wanted to collect one of a limited edition copy of Buffalo Bill’s hunting knife. Once a year they would send the most beautiful mailing of their highest value items to around 2,500 of their biggest spenders, I mean these customers were filthy rich. They warranted special attention and so once a year my small flat in SE London was invaded by 2,500 brochures, 2,500 letters, 2,500 envelopes and 2,500 postage stamps. That’s right, I would sit and physically write out the recipients name on the front of the brochure, hand write their name on the letter and hand write the address on the envelope and get this, it had to be in a certain shade of blue, bottled ink, italic pen and of course it follows, in italics……. crazy eh. Thank goodness my sister was always on hand for what once a year was three days of writers cramp plus enclosing and affixing, well someone had to do it. The point is of course that the responses were incredible, around 35% as opposed to the usual accepted 2-3%.

Now I am not saying that you have to go that far, but just a little effort goes a long way and if you want something that screams out loud ‘open me’ then that little effort will pay dividends. Another reason for doing it right is since Royal Mail in yet another stupid move abandoned early morning postal deliveries, we get ours in the afternoon, you are writing to an audience that are seeing their post at the end of the day rather than at breakfast time as we all used to, yes thank you Royal Mail.

So there are tricks to getting the mailing right and I have witnessed many that work and many that do not. Whether you onliners like it or not and I will bare knuckle you to make this point, offline still works. Sometimes the advertiser should heed this and combine the two in harmony rather than set one against the other. Don’t forget folks I am here to advise if you are brave enough….. a) to try something different. b) to take advice from someone that knows and c) to be prepared to foot the bill for lunch when we celebrate success….  By the way the Franklin Mint writing weekends paid so well that we got two weeks in Benidorm out of it……result !!!!!!!!! well it was fun back in the day ..

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