Business Reply Cards

Business Reply Cards (BRC’s) are a great way to encourage a response from your prospects. The easier it is for someone to respond to you, the more likely they will do so.

Fortunately, the Post Office makes it pretty easy and painless to mail them with postcards. A regular postcard is 4.25 by 6 inches. Without increasing the postage rate at all, we can attach another card to it that can be sent back to you at no cost to your prospect.

Your prospect will usually fill out some information on the back of the reply card and then mail it back to you without having to pay postage. You will have to pay the postage on the replies that come back your way to the tune of 30.9 cents per piece for one of our regular postcards. While that is a little more than regular postage to send each card out, keep in mind that these are prospects that have replied to you and are showing interest in your product or service.

Furthermore, you will have an annual permit fee of $185.00. You will need to set up this permit with your local post office prior to doing your first BRC mailing.

As you can see, there are costs involved, but it is simply the cost of getting more responses from your prospects. In this day and age, your prospects can also use the internet to easily request more info and respond to your postcard mailing and you should keep this in mind. However, BRC’s can still be a valuable tool in your marketing tool box, especially when trying to reach demographics that are not heavy internet users.

You can also opt for a Courtesy Reply Card that simply has a box that says “Place Stamp Here” in the top-right corner. You can still mail these out attached to your postcard (with no extra postage costs). In this case, you won’t be on the hook for the reply mail postage or the annual permit. In the quest for getting the best bang for your buck, this may turn out to be your best option.

August 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

Saturation Mailings

If your business would benefit from reaching every household in an area, a saturation mailing may be just the ticket for you.

You may have heard the mailing lists for these mailings referred to as “carrier route” or “resident/occupant” lists – the bottom line is they are lists of every address in an area.  They are organized by each mail carrier’s route and even ordered in the sequence that the mail carrier walks his route.

This makes it very easy for USPS to handle and deliver the mail.  Hence, they give us extra discounts on postage to do saturation mailings such as this.

The major benefit of these types of mailings is the cost savings from these extra discounts on postage.  To mail a 6” x 8” postcard, Standard Mail, your postage will normally average between 25 and 27 cents per piece.  If you do a saturation mailing with the same size card, Standard Mail, the postage can get below 16 cents per piece.  When you multiply that saving by several thousand cards in a mailing, you could be looking at quite a pretty penny!

This works great for businesses such as grocery stores and pizzerias.  However, if your products or services appeal to a narrower segment of the population the money you’ll save on postage may be negated by a low response rate.  So you need to weigh this into the equation when considering this type of mailing.

One more option to consider is doing a simplified address mailing.  You can only exercise this option if you are mailing to a rural area.  If this happens to be your case we can generate lists that will saturate any mail carrier’s route you wish.  The cards won’t have a regular street address on them – they will be addressed like this:

  1. Postal Customer
  2. Rural Route 55
  3. Somecity FL 30303

With a simplified address mailing we can get the same postage rates as regular saturation mailings.

In any saturation or simplified address mailing please keep in mind:

  • You cannot get the same discount if you mail First Class.  USPS only gives these special discounts for Standard Mail.  This means….
  • Your mail could take longer to be delivered if you’re used to mailing First Class.
  • You won’t get the undelivered cards returned to you with and Standard Mail.
  • You will be saturating everyone in an area.  Narrowing down your target market may be impractical or impossible.

So if you’re mailing with PostcardMania and you think a saturation mailing may work well for you, speak with your Sales and Marketing Consultant or your Mailing Services Representative and they’ll get you on the right track.

July 12, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Address Errors

If you provide a list for your mailing, you may notice you end up mailing less cards than you expected.

There are several things that may cause this.  You may have duplicate names and addresses in your list that we remove.  We may remove some people that have moved out of the area where you do business.  Or, most commonly, we simply removed addresses that aren’t valid.

We use CASS certified software to check the addresses in your list.  CASS stands for “Coding and Accuracy Support System.”  It is the system USPS uses to check addresses and our software is certified to perform these checks.

The Post Office keeps a record of all valid, deliverable addresses in the country.  Our list processing software keeps a database of these valid addresses and is updated regularly.  Each address in your mailing list is checked against that database and if a match cannot be found, the address is flagged as invalid.  If the street name is misspelled, if a portion of the address is missing, if the address is entered improperly in any way, it may be flagged as an address error.

As a matter of routine, we remove all address errors.  If the address is not recognized, we cannot claim the discounted postage rates for a card mailed to this address.  So you will pay a higher postage rate for a card that is less likely to be delivered.  Normally this is not wise.

There are, however, instances where it is sensible to mail to the address errors – so long as you have a valid city, state and zip.  (If the city, state and zip are incorrect there is exactly zero possibility the card will be delivered.)  If you are mailing to airports, hospitals or schools, for example, it may be worthwhile to mail your address errors.

Here’s the thing: if the city, state and zip are all correct the card will get into the hands of a mail clerk in the area where it needs to be delivered.  If that mail clerk and the mail carrier recognize the street address it may get delivered.  If the mail carrier sees “Clearwater Municipal Airport” in place of a street address, he/she will most likely know where to deliver it.  A street address with a slight misspelling may also get delivered, but it is certainly less likely than if the address is correct and valid.

If you mail with PostcardMania, we’ll normally remove the address errors from your list.  And we’ll note on your postage invoice how many of them we removed.  If you’d prefer to leave them in the list and mail them, you can let your Mailing Services Representative know and we’ll do exactly that for all addresses that have a valid city, state and zip.

July 6, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Mail Tracking

Have you ever wondered when your mail was hitting mailboxes?  Have you ever wondered if your mail was hitting mail boxes?

If your answer is “yes,” you should consider mail tracking.

When we print the addresses on your postcards, we print a barcode along with it that contains all the address info.  The Post Office gives us additional discounts when we do this because it allows them to sort mail on machines rather than by hand.  In addition to the address info, we can also put codes in the barcode that tell the Post Office’s sorting machines to provide tracking information back to us.

When tracking, we add the tracking code to every 20th mail piece that mails out.  When the card is scanned by the Post Office’s sorting machines they record all the information in the barcode, including the address and a unique serial number that each card has encoded in the barcode.

Each day the US Post Office sends us a file with all the scan results they’ve collected over the prior 24 hours.  We feed that information into a scan database and our customized in-house mail tracking system looks for the identifiers that indicate your mail was scanned just prior to delivery.  At this point we know if your piece was delivered or not and if so, the date of delivery for your mail pieces.

This is a great way to know the average amount of time the mail takes from our post office to the recipient’s mail boxes as well as when you should expect phone calls. When you purchase tracking with us we’ll send you tracking reports as your cards are delivered.  The reports will include how many were tracked, how many have been delivered and what that translates into in terms of percentage of the total mailing has been delivered to mail boxes.

Talk to your Sales & Marketing Consultant or Mailing Services Rep if you’d like to track your cards when you do your next mailing with us.

June 28, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

List Maintenance

Anyone who has done a lot of direct mail marketing will be acutely aware of how much postage they spend.  It is generally the most costly portion of any campaign.  So any measures you can take to reduce those costs should be carefully considered.

All of our Sales & Marketing Consultants will tell you to be repetitive with your mailings.  You need to keep yourself in front of people so they’ll think of you next time they need your services.  That would usually mean you’re using the same mailing list over and over again.

If you send your cards out First Class, you’ll know how many returns you receive back whenever you do a mailing.  The postal system is imperfect and even when we check all the addresses in your list using our USPS-approved address validation system (which we always do), you will still receive some number of returns.

The question becomes what do you do with those returns?

You can leave them in the list and keep mailing to them or you can remove them from the list.  If you keep mailing to them, chances are they’ll keep coming back returned to you and you’ll be paying postage on pieces that are just being sent back to you.  If you don’t plan on using your list many times you may choose this option.  However, if you’re going to continue using the list for some time, it makes dollars and cents to remove those undeliverable addresses from your mailing list.

If you choose to remove returns, make sure you take note of the reason the Post Office gives for returning the card.  These reasons will usually be noted on the card, sometimes on a yellow sticker.  If it is simply vacant you may want to keep the address in your list in the hopes someone will soon move into that address. Especially when mailing to the “Current Resident” or “Current Business”. However if it simply says “undeliverable as addressed” you’re usually better off removing it.

You have a few options when removing returns from your list:

  1. Have someone in your office go through the returned cards and delete each record from the mailing list one by one.  How much do you save by doing this?  If you pay the person doing the list deletions $10 per hour and it takes them an hour to delete 300 addresses and you planned on mailing to that list another six times, you paid $10 to save approximately $360 in postage (if mailing 4×6 postcards). Well worth it!!
  2. You can buy a barcode scanner that will upload the address on the postcard into a file on your computer simply by scanning the barcode.  Google search for a barcode scanner and be sure to get one that can read an Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB).  You’ll probably spend a few hundred dollars on a scanner.  But then the same 300 pieces will only take 15-20 minutes to scan.  You can then send us the file and we’ll purge those addresses from your mailing list.  And you can do this with every list you ever use.
  3. You can ship us the returned cards that you want removed and we’ll scan the pieces and remove them from your mailing list for a small fee.

In any case you’ll save quite a pretty penny on postage when you send out subsequent mailings using that mailing list.

June 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

Targeting Beyond Demographics (Part 3 of 3)

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve gone over how to build your in-house list, then how to use that database to determine what demographics you should select when purchasing an outside list for lead generation. Many factors can be considered: age, gender, zip code, annual salary, profession, and number of children are some of the more common qualifiers – though it may take a while to figure out what combination works for your specific product. Don’t worry about political correctness when considering to whom you should mail. It is perfectly acceptable to test certain lists that may be considered “stereotypical”. (For example, if you own an authentic Cuban restaurant, it’s perfectly okay to mail to a list of authentically Cuban people!) Many times, these lists will work well – but you never know until you test them.

Let’s skip forward to the part where you’ve tested the lists that you purchased. You’ve done some repeat mailing, and the demographic lists that match your database are not quite performing up to the level that you would like.

In most cases, demographic lists more than get the job done. For some products or services, though – home woodworking tools, for instance – you may not be confident that you can adequately narrow your list by the normal qualifiers.

Continuing the home woodworking tools example, you can make certain assertions based on your past customer data – but in the end, all it has really told you is that your customers are mostly men, 25-55 and are spread out across all different annual income ranges. According to nationwide demographics, you’ve narrowed your list down to 61,227,184 contacts (using the 2008 census data). You definitely need a way to narrow it down more.

At this point you may want to consider using a privately “managed” list. These lists are going to cost more per name, but will give you a much better way of pinpointing possible customers. For example, you could order the subscriber list for Fine Woodworking Magazine. Although they are around double the cost – say, 10¢ per name instead of the average 5¢ on a demographics list – you are guaranteed that all of the names you get are for people interested in woodworking, and therefore are much more likely to be interested in your product.

If you are interested in checking what managed lists are available, matching interest in your product or service, just give one of my Marketing Consultants a call at 1-866-889-0322. They’ll help you find one that fits perfectly. It’s going to cost you a bit more than a demographics list, but you will likely find that the response and your return on investment are considerably higher!

April 21, 2010 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

How Well do You Know your Customers? (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, I went over the importance of maintaining your database of past customers, and getting the most out of using that as a mailing list. There is another brilliant use of your in-house list: demographic analysis, or figuring out who is buying from you and what they all have in common.

By analyzing the commonalities of your customers you can learn who your best customers are and really start targeting with precision.

So far, you should have collected at least a mailing address and a phone number from your past customers. That data is easy to get, because it’s not too personal – but some other, more personal information is very useful in helping you determine what your customers have in common. You wouldn’t even think of asking a customer how much money they make in a year, how many kids they have, or what age they are, but you need to know this information! It seems like a tedious and futile task to get all of this information, and for a long time it was. Only the biggest corporations could pull off the amount of work and expense associated with matching customers with their personal data.

Fortunately, that is no longer the case! There is a program that has taken the entire US population and segmented into very specific categories, including discretionary spending, what credit cards are used, where they travel, what they drive, what magazines they read, their home value, household income, number of children in household, and much more! My VP Marketing found out what segment he fell into and was bowled over by how accurate the description of him was! It was perfect, except that he doesn’t read car magazines!

We can take your current customer base and run it through this program to determine which of the 70 segments most of your clients fall into. At this point, you’ll be ready to start generating even more leads that match the same criteria as your best customers! Plus, once you know about specifically who you’re targeting, you can craft your message to really push the right buttons.

You simply purchase only those segments from the areas that the bulk of your customers fall. It narrows the list down to those most likely to buy. So rather than blanket a zip code where you have anybody and everybody, just target the folks most likely to respond to your offer, product, or service.

If you sell a business-to-business product or service, there is a way of narrowing down your best market as well. You can take your list and match up the business description code or SIC code to each business, and also append their gross volume and number of employees. Then, purchase a targeted list of businesses that are similar to those that have already purchased. We do this regularly here at PostcardMania.

It’s just another way that we are helping you make your marketing budget go further in these times, where every dollar counts. If you’re interested in the details, give us a call at 1-866-889-0322 and one of our Marketing Consultants will show you exactly how it works… so stop guessing and get the exact demographics of your target market!

April 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm 1 comment

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