Make Your Direct Mail Matter to Mailbox CEOs in Rural America

By Steve Mitzel, Chief Executive Officer

“Keep, toss, keep…toss. Keep, keep…eh, toss.”

Sound familiar? It’s the thoughts of most people when they bring their mail in from their mailbox, isn’t it? I suppose for a lot of people it’s always “toss” but for many, it’s more of a conscious decision.

My life as the CEO of Mspark is similar in that it’s about making thoughtful decisions that benefit the company and our clients. Keeping what works, tossing aside what doesn’t, and trying new things. Much like the person standing at their mailbox. How often do we as executives, marketers, or whatever role we have in our various industries stop and think about the person standing at the mailbox making CEO-like decisions on our pitches to them? How often do we consider their role as CEO of their mailbox and of their household? Or who they even are for that matter?

So, realizing there are mailbox CEOs everywhere, I think it would be helpful if I could introduce you to one who’s not unlike many others in the geography Mspark serves – in rural areas of our country. And I’d like to show you how to give her a hand in her role as CEO.

Who is the typical person influenced by direct mail in rural areas? According to statistics, she’s between the ages of 45 and 54 and most likely female – we’ll call her Elaine. Elaine is most likely married and owns her own home, is budget-conscious, practical, and may own pets. She has children who are teenagers or young adults and may even be caring for a grandchild or two. She hangs on to McDonald’s or other fast food coupons that enable her to treat her family to breakfast, lunch, or dinner in town. You have seen her before if you have visited a Cracker Barrel restaurant in a small town. When I’m traveling and pick up a few items at a grocery store in a rural area, Elaine is the lady in line in front of me handing the clerk a stack of coupons. Elaine is not an anomaly – there are millions of mailbox CEOs just like her – even millennials. Want proof? 89% of millennials pick up mail at the first opportunity, 88% of gen-x, and 83% of boomers. 54% of marketing mail is read every year – 21% is at least scanned. Broken down by generation, 69% of millennials read their marketing mail, 66% of gen-x, and 67% of boomers.

Elaine is the CEO of HER mailbox, but I’ve noticed that as time goes on, some in marketing, advertising, and executive leadership are falling into the trap of forgetting about her. So often I keep hearing that print is dead, which of course is…crap.

Perfect example of this common misperception – the other day I was speaking to our Marketing Research Manager, Rachel – who spends all day every day studying who reads our ads, how often, and how the rural consumer lives their lives. She shared with me a story about an encounter she had a few months ago at the mailbox at her apartment community. It was a day she happened to receive our Mspark package and she was going through the ads looking for coupons. The man next to her was going through his mail throwing things away and looked at her, laughed, and asked her “does anyone ever actually read this stuff?” He couldn’t have asked the question to a better-prepared person to answer his question. Rachel explained to him that she worked for the company that sends the ads and, to answer his question about anyone “ever” reading the ads, she informed him that, according to recent numbers from the DMA, response rates for a mailing to a house list for direct mail was 5.1%, which is 750% higher than marketing email and paid search…and over 1000% higher than social media. She then explained that the 5.1% response rate is much higher than it’s been since the DMA started reporting the numbers – which means that companies are getting a lot better at making sure the right ads are getting to the right people, a testament to quality analytics and data. According to Rachel, he was stunned and by the end of the conversation was considering direct mail for his business.

So, what do I want to leave you with here? I hope that if you ever had any bias against direct mail, whether that’s believing it’s dead or thinking no one ever reads it, that I’ve helped bust those myths. Next, I would challenge you to think about what a 5.1% response rate would do for your business. If you were to precision-target, down to carrier route, a geography and receive 5.1% of these people respond to your ads, what would that mean for your business? And finally, if you had the data and analytics to know a CEO like Elaine well enough to know what to send Elaine in the mail, wouldn’t you take advantage of it? Get to know these mailbox CEOs and I promise you that you’ll get better response and better return on your investment in the long run.

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