Targeting mailing: How to reach the right audience

Whether consumers or businesses, know who you're mailing to

Even the smallest enterprise can profile and target its customers – whoever that may be. A prime example is St James Norland Parish Church, which won the database category in the Direct Marketing Awards back in 1995.

Faced with closure, the Friends of the Church worked with agency Craik Jones and some classic database marketing was used to save the day.

The agency compiled a database of local people segmented by wealth (house value), location and by each individual’s use of the church. Key groups included those who lived on the church square, patrons, previous donors, local celebrities – such as Elton John – couples married in the church and so on.

The data was segmented to such an extent that the data was driving the personalisation of the letters.

Business to business mailings

Mailing to business customers does have its own pitfalls. The biggest problem is that company information changes so rapidly. Twenty per cent of companies move each year and individuals move within a company at a rate of about 18% annually.

It can also be hard to find the decision makers. More than one person may be responsible for purchasing and you need to be sure you are contacting the people that are making the recommendations as well as those that are signing the cheques.

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Also, invest some time in finding out about the companies on your database. Is the address you hold the headquarters or a franchise? How many people work there and what sort of business do they do?

Response rates

The number of people who have ever responded to direct mail has risen as this form of advertising has become more acceptable, and some companies see response rates in excess of 10%. However, response rates are usually lower – a rate of 2-3% is often considered good.

If you want to improve your rate of response, it is important to measure it.

Assess which mailings work best by comparing which list was used, what service, product or price was offered and which incentive was featured.

Experiment with trial mailings to small numbers to see which works best. And make sure you update your database as new information comes in.

It may sound obvious, but make sure you can handle the response. It’s no good sending a mailing and then not being able to process the orders. Ensure you have enough staff to handle enquiries (postal or telephone), that they are fully briefed on the nature of the mailing and can tackle any queries that arise. And check that you have enough stock to satisfy the potential demand.

There are a number of key factors that can affect response rates. These include:

  • The most heavily mailed social group, ABs, are also the most likely to respond – according to the Royal Mail, 91% of ABC1s open all their post, an 50% of ABC1s responded to direct mail in the 12 months to December 2009.
  • Women are far more influenced by direct mailing than men; according to a survey published by the Mail Media Centre last April, 49% of women had responded to direct mail in the preceding 12 months (although men are more likely to respond if the mail contains something they like, such as a CD or DVD).

If you want to improve your rate of response, it is important to measure it.


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