Communication developments in the last 20 years

Twenty years ago, what was happening in the world? In no particular order:

  • Tony Blair won a landslide victory in the UK general election
  • Céline Dion was topping the charts with, ‘My Heart Will Go On.’
  • Hong Kong was handed over to China
  • Dolly the sheep was cloned
  • The first Harry Potter book was published

Quite a year, one way and another, and lots to be communicated. How DID we communicate news in those far off days—and how did we make contact with our clients and potential customers on a business level?

Not like that…

Well, for a start, there was no Facebook, which didn’t emerge until February 2004. Today, it’s almost mind-boggling to realise that there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, and a quarter of the world’s population engage with it. It’s a wonderful informal way of interacting with, and building, an audience, and great for encouraging people to visit your website.

We didn’t use Twitter, because it wasn’t created until March 2006. Unbelievably, just 11 years on, Twitter has more than 319 million monthly active users. For your business, it’s an instant way to build connections with a relevant audience, to strengthen your brand, promote new products and services, or simply develop relationships.

We didn’t use image-based Instagram either, to drive customer engagement and sales or impart information in a snappy way to a possible 600 million users. That’s because it wasn’t launched until October 2010. Pinterest was launched at the same time, which enables businesses to create a virtual shop front to promote their products online.

There wasn’t even LinkedIn until 2003, which, although its focus is on job opportunities, serves a valuable function for branding, marketing and sales too, with business pages. Neither were there smart phones—we had to wait for 2007 for those—so our electronic communications were very much desk-based.

…like this

Direct mail, using the postal service! There wasn’t much choice but to use this method in 1997, but it worked—and it still works today. Everyone loves to receive mail, especially if it’s personalised and looks good. You might think it’s an older generation preference, but Royal Mail has carried out a survey which shows that 15-34-year-olds are:

  • 42% more likely to find mail memorable than the UK population as a whole
  • 27% more likely to welcome it
  • 71% more likely to trust it
  • 21% more likely to switch suppliers because of mail

Not for nothing does the Royal Mail’s brochure The Private Life of Mail carry the strapline, Mail in the Home, Heart and Head. The power of Direct Mail must never be underestimated, despite the advancement of all the digital platforms of communication.

Then there was the telephone and face-to-face interaction, which of course will never go out of fashion.

Emails started life in 1965, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They were a way of sharing files and messages for academics. In 1971, American computer programmer Ray Tomlinson, introduced the @ and in 1976, HM the Queen sent her first email. The process was still largely in the domain of academic institutes until 1988, which heralded the arrival of Microsoft Mail. The first commercial Internet Service Providers hit the scene in the early 1990s. Hotmail launched in 1996 and Yahoo Mail in 1997—twenty years ago. Smart marketers realized that email communications were the future and began to make the shift into using email to communicate with customers.

 And our conclusion is:

How lucky we are, in 2017, to have such an abundance of ways to communicate! Each method has its place: each will appeal more to a different demographic, or be more suitable for certain products and services. Things move on with exciting digital developments—but mail through the letterbox will never lose its appeal.

Mailing Expert

How To Run A Successful Direct Mail Campaign

Long live Direct Mail!

No – Direct Mail hasn’t been superseded by email and telephone campaigns or posting on social media. A range of approaches widens your scope ; Direct Mail may reach the audience that other campaigns cannot reach. Sending out personalised mail to your customers or prospective customers and followed up with digital marketing can be a match made in marketing heaven.

Yes – Direct Marketing obviously costs something for design, print and distribution at the very least, so in order for it to be cost-effective it is crucial, absolutely crucial, that each campaign is carefully thought out to gain the maximum benefit for your company.

The 40/40/20 rule?

That old chestnut… it dates back to the 1960s, doesn’t it? Out of date, surely? But stop your inward groaning and take a look. It’s been shown, over time, that it makes sense. It still makes sense. Almost.

The rule says that 40% of the success of your campaign depends on your list selection, 40% on the offer that you communicate and only 20% on the creative aspect, the design of your flyer, postcard or letter. But surely, somewhere in those figures should be timing – it’s vital to send out your mailing at the optimum time. Let’s change those percentages to 30/30/20/20.

30% list selection – we can help

If you’re approaching current customers then, of course, you’ll already have a list – but make sure it’s up-to-date with the correct addresses and names of contact people. It really makes your company look slapdash if you get that wrong.

If you’re looking beyond your regular audience then constructing a database is extraordinarily time-consuming and buying lists online can be dodgy. At Mailing Expert, tell us the profile you have determined for your new prospects and we’ll be able to provide you with a carefully tailored, clean list so you won’t waste time or money approaching the wrong people – or people who don’t even exist!

30% offer – it’s up to you

Quite honestly, once your mailing is opened, your customer or prospect will be thinking, ‘So how does this benefit ME?’ Blabbing on about how great your company is simply won’t do (even though your company IS great!) You could offer a discount, a free gift or service, an ebook to download… It’s up to you to decide a) what you want your prospect to do, having read your communication, so you need a clear call to action, and b) what reward will they get for doing it?

20% creative – we can help

It IS important to get this right. It has to be compelling to engage attention – so we could help with size, design, copywriting, colours, images and top-class printing services. Choose the right medium for your message – should it be a postcard, a flyer, a greetings card or a letter? You don’t want your material to be mistaken for a piece of junk mail so make it look unique and classy.

20% timing – and follow-up

For time-sensitive campaigns, it goes without saying that your recipients must have enough time to receive the mail, make a decision and take advantage of your offer.

In general, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the very best days for your mail to arrive. Monday there is always a pile of stuff. On Friday, most people are winding down for the weekend ahead.

There are other aspects of time to consider too:

  • Industry peak times – people will be too busy to bother with mail so get it there beforehand
  • Seasons – does your product or service appeal to a certain sector at a specific time?
  • Theme weeks – if it’s not ‘Jam Doughnut Week’ it’s ‘Let’s Go To Work In Pyjamas Day’ – so could you target one of these?
  • Exhibitions – every sector has events and exhibitions – so find out when!
  • Current Affairs – what’s happening in the world? Could it be relevant?

The importance of follow-up is never to be underestimated. What’s the point of piquing someone’s interest with a carefully constructed communication then not doing anything else? A wasted opportunity and destruction of the initial interest you spent time and money trying to build.

So there’s the Mailing Expert Rule, hot off the press: 30/30/20/20

 

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Universities and Student Unions – yes, timing IS everything with Direct Mail

…if not everything, it’s certainly a hugely important factor if you want your campaign to be successful and cost-effective, alongside targeting the right people with the right material.

Ignore lead-in times at your peril. We all know that, in the retail sector, preparing for next Christmas begins almost as soon as the decorations are packed away in the store cupboard in early January.  In the world of academia, reaching out to students so that they receive communications at the optimum time is no different and requires careful planning.

Why use direct mail for students?

Students, young people – surely they’ll be far more engaged with digital media or emails?  Certainly it’s a fact that they are swamped with electronic communications 24 hours a day. Therein lies the advantage of direct mailing.

It could mean having a well-designed card to hold in your hands, with your name on it, which doesn’t disappear in a flash, deleted with one click of a button, replaced in a minute by the next post on social media.  It has a shelf life, it gives a sense of ownership and also has a proven record for generating responses.

Direct mailing can also be used, when a student is enrolled, to send a comprehensive pack about the university or college, with booklets and multiple leaflets.

This sort of interaction must not be dismissed as old school. How much easier it is to make a printed communication reflect the brand and image you’d like to convey. How much more memorable than an email. That’s not to say that it’s an either/or decision – either direct or digital – but choosing the right combination of the two to best reach your target audience.

As an educational establishment, how can you use direct mail?

The possibilities are many:

  • Introduce the place of learning to prospective students
  • Inspire curiosity and a desire for more information
  • Send out a full prospectus to those who have expressed an interest
  • Invite people to open days and campus tours
  • Build your brand and keep your name at the forefront of people’s minds
  • Making sure new students know where to go and what’s on for Freshers’ week

It’s a meaningful and powerful way to interact. And of course, it can also be used to keep in contact with past students, for notification of events and to build networks for fundraising.

And what about timing for universities?

Student mailings have to be timed carefully as there is only a small window between receiving the data in August from UCAS, it going through clearing and then getting material sent out before the student is due to leave home for university in September.

There are other elements which must be factored in which will also have a bearing on your mailing.  How much time is needed between you submitting your order to allow  companies like Mailing Expert to design, print and distribute? Not to mention stock deliveries from sponsors which may be required for inclusion.

Most student mailings are planned roughly 4-6 months in advance, but some information is not confirmed until a week before, so all of us  really need to be on our toes, even if it is the middle of the summer when holidays are on our minds.

Success is the result of a solid process underpinning every mailing. We are called Mailing Expert for a very good reason. If you have academic mailing to carry out, please call us.

Mailing Expert