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Senior Living Consultants Answer 8 Important Direct Mail Questions

We recently hosted an informational webinar,
“Amp Up Direct Mail in Today’s Digital Environment.” Direct mail is a critical part of any integrated marketing campaign, but it can be complex, and as technology and digital mediums change, direct mail strategies may also take different directions.

After the presentation, several participants had good questions about this evolving tool. Here’s a recap for those who were unable to listen in:

Q.  How often should you send direct mail out?
A.  Certainly there are a lot of factors at play here. Generally speaking, we like to send something to a lead base 4 to 6 times per year, while we may only contact prospects 3 to 4 times. You’ll want to consider the size of your lead base and market area, along with the activity goals set. If your sales goals are aggressive, you may need to reach your targets more often.

Q.  I received a postcard from the post office about the new barcode. What do I need to do?
A.  You received this information because you have a business reply account. The post office is beginning to implement Intelligent Mail Barcodes. This new barcode will allow marketers to track mailings through the mailing process. However, the post office has recently stated that, in order to receive the presort discount on mailings, you must implement this new barcode by the end of 2012. Please contact the post office with which you have your business reply account by the end of the year and get your new barcode. Also make sure that the mailing house who handles your presorted mail uses the new IMB barcode starting in 2013. They can also be doing this now on your mail.

Q.  How can direct mail be used to talk to Adult Child Influencers (ACIs)?
A.  ACIs are a harder audience to reach, because it is often like searching for a needle in a haystack (yes, I’m from Iowa). Demographically, there are a lot of people who fit the criteria of an Adult Child Influencer, which can require large quantity mailings to reach. This is where the digital environment becomes so important, because ACIs constitute a very large portion of Internet usage. If your marketing strategy and campaigns are integrated to include online components, you will have a much better chance of getting in front of adult children looking for solutions. These digital components can include website callouts, online display ads, landing pages, social media and even a mobile website.

Q.  What is NCOA?
A.  NCOA stands for National Change of Address. This is the national database of anyone who has gone to the post office to fill out the form to change his or her address. The post office requires you to run your mail files through the NCOA file (at least every 90 days); doing so also helps to clean up your list and get your mailing to the proper people. And as we mentioned in the presentation, getting your mail in the right hands is a key step to successful direct mail.

Q.  What calls to action do you find most successful? Does it always need to be an incentive or savings offer?
A.  Definitely not. Depending on the situation, your call to action could be as simple as a visit over coffee and pastries in your café, or perhaps providing a gas card to encourage those leads in more distant markets to come to the community. The most important thing is to develop offers that are consistent with the community message and brand, appropriate for the audience and — most importantly — that create urgency to act now.

Q.  How do we get the best list? It seems like we get a lot of returns.
A.  Using reputable list sources is your best bet. However, no list is perfect, and there will always be some returns due to bad data. Our rule of thumb is that if you’re getting anything higher than a 3 – 5% return, you should go back to your list company and determine a solution. Also, keeping your list clean by running it against NCOA, purging returns, deceased or those requesting removal, will assist in efficient direct mail campaigns.

Q.  Can you explain the recent change in postage rates, and can I mail larger formats now?
A.  Recent changes affected first-class presort and third-class presort, with an increase of about 1¢ per piece. What’s really important to note is making sure you pre-sort your mail file to allow for postal automation, which is how discounts come into play. Even better news is that presorted non-profit postage rates actually went down by about 1¢ so make sure you take advantage of that if you’re marketing a not-for-profit community. Larger formats are still possible, but with current postage rates, anything bigger than a 6” x 11” will mail at the higher “flat rate” postage. But don’t be afraid to mail at the flat rate. Postage may increase, but these larger mailings can be really eye-catching, and the extra cost may be worth it for the right message.

Q.  Do you purchase e-mail addresses?
A.  Yes, we are testing some e-mail blasts with purchased lists. As digital marketing becomes more dominant, our list companies are realizing the need to incorporate e-mail addresses into their database. The senior audience is still the hardest group to purchase e-mail for, but we have had some luck with the adult child influencer audience. One important note is that typically list companies will need to handle the actual distribution of the blast to be sure all e-mail marketing regulations are followed. This means that you only own the e-mail addresses of those recipients who respond to you. That said, it’s a relatively cost-effective medium — just make sure you give e-mail recipients a good reason to contact you.


We hope this helps you in your marketing efforts. Now we open the floor to you. How are you using direct mail and what do you think is working best?

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