Making Saturation Mailing Work for You

by Robert Moskowitz on March 25, 2013
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Marketers of many stripes have long known that mailing promotional materials directly to a target demographic — either households or businesses — can be a very effective way to generate leads and attract new customers.

The U.S. Postal Service offers a discounted saturation mailing program called Every Door Direct Mail that’s designed to help small enterprises get in on the action. If used correctly, the program may save you money on your direct-mail campaigns.

The Advantages

Every Door Direct Mail provides discounts on postage for sending mail to every address in a specific geographic area. If you use this program:

  • You don’t need a costly USPS mailing permit.
  • You don’t have to buy correct names and addresses or pay to have that information affixed to each piece of mail.
  • You pay less — as little as 16 cents per piece — for postage than you would for first-class mail or for a large direct-mail campaign.
  • Although you can’t target specific recipients by name, you may choose to mail only to residences in the area you’re saturating, or to businesses, or to both.
  • You may select recipients by ZIP code, by carrier route, or even by partial routes to best meet your marketing goals.

The Limitations

On the other hand, because you can’t pick and choose individual names or addresses:

  • Your direct-mail campaign may not be limited to people with specific characteristics (such as age, gender, or income).
  • The USPS does not guarantee delivery. Without an address on each piece of mail, you’re relying on the letter carrier to drop off one in each mailbox. He or she could miss a few, leave two pieces by accident, or (dare we say it?) get lazy and keep all your mailing pieces on the back porch.
  • The program requires pieces of mail to be larger than 6 x 11 inches (but smaller than 12 x 15 inches) and printed on card stock (vs. ordinary paper). Standard post cards are forbidden.
  • Your direct mailing must go to more than 200 but fewer than 5,000 recipients per day.

The program has two options: retail and standard. The standard program costs a little more, because it depends on the weight and size of each mailing piece and requires a permit, but it doesn’t require you to drop off mail at the specific post office branch that serves your intended recipients. (If you use the retail program to mail to folks outside your community, dropping off mail at the corresponding post office may prove time-consuming and expensive.)

Works for Some, Not for All

Every Door Direct Mail is more likely to work better for certain types of businesses than for others. For example, if your company mostly appeals to a certain neighborhood or community — as do dry cleaners, florists, restaurants, grocery stores, general retailers, and home services — you can probably save money by saturating the area with direct mail via this program.

However, if your business caters to clients in far-flung locations — as do professional and financial services and advertising agencies — this program may not work for you. Why pay to put your name in front of large numbers of people who will never become your customers? Direct-mail programs that can target specific individuals are likely to better serve your needs.

How to Run the Numbers

To determine whether Every Door Direct Mail makes sense for your small business, visit the program’s website to calculate the number of addresses that would receive your mailing and the total postage costs of your anticipated campaign. Compare that total with the cost of a more flexible direct-mail campaign — one that requires a USPS mailing permit, somewhat higher postage, and an address (usually from a purchased list of targeted recipients) on each piece mailed.

For example: With Every Door Direct Mail, you might spend 30 cents (for printing and postage) per piece to send a mailer to 5,000 recipients in a specific area, for a total cost of $1,500. A conventional direct-mail campaign might cost you 60 cents (printing, pro rata portion of the permit fee, and postage) to send the same mailer to each of 2,500 targeted addresses, again for a total cost of $1,500.

Although your out-of-pocket costs are equal, you might expect greater response from your targeted recipients. If not, the more cost-effective mailing method will depend on the number of targeted recipients in the area to which you will be mailing.

Generally, if there are relatively few targeted addresses in the area you plan to cover, a conventional direct-mail campaign will usually be cheaper. If there are a great many targeted addresses in that area, you can probably save a bundle with Every Door Direct Mail.

Robert Moskowitz is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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