Is there opportunity lurking in that mailbox?

While I’m a huge believer in social media as a great outreach and engagement tool, I happen to think that your physical mail box, while increasingly lonely these day, might be strategically an opportunity right now. Simply put, your online email and social media feeds are getting jammed, and you mailbox is empty. Empty except for flyers and bills, and that’s my point. When something arrives in the mail that peaks curiosity (like a personal letter, postcard or well designed direct mail piece), you’ll take time to open it, and if it’s good or treasured, you’ll save it.

But the use of strategic addressed direct mail all hinges on an up to date database. So here are my questions to you:

  1. Do you have a database with information beyond a name and email these days? (hint – you should!)
  2. How up to date is that database? And what is your process for ensuring content remains accurate?

I’ll readily admit I cannot give myself a perfect score on either of those questions, but after this week, I have committed to tightening up the database content. Here’s why…

As many of you know my Mom died unexpectedly earlier in May. As part of managing her affairs, I had set a redirect on her mail. So this week despite having been informed of her passing (the very reason for the mail redirect), Canada Post sent her a letter “Welcoming her to her new home.” I kid you not. As I looked around at many of her things that had gravitated to our place in temporary storage, it was tempting to agree with them, but honestly, can you imagine receiving this if the redirect had been for the tragic death of a child?

And literally delivered the same day, was a birthday card from the Retired Teachers of Ontario. Yes, my Mom’s birthday would have been later in July, but you’d think that the organization I had been dealing with about her pension cancellation, might have realized that the birthday card would land hard. I think it’s safe to say, that in both of these cases, someone didn’t get the memo to update the database.

And in a third example that I can only dismiss as costly and wasteful is the continued receipt of a Holland America Cruise brochure. It arrives religiously twice a year, addressed to the lady who we bought our house from over 25 years ago. Dorothy loved to cruise apparently, and wait for it – actually had a heart attack and died while on their cruise. My husband and I often joked over the years as we tossed it into the recycling bin, how it was such a waste, since we were obviously not the target group. Now 25 years of postage and printing later, the final joke may be that we have finally become the target audience!

So where does all this leave us, other then laughing at the spoils of these misguided direct mail pieces?

They all smack of huge missed opportunity. Direct mail done well is effective and saved. Whenever I ask participants in my seminars if they keep postcards or handwritten letters, the response is always – yes. Followed by a tender reflection on just how rare it is to receive something like that these days. So my question is, when you have such an amazing opportunity to connect on a platform where there are few competitors and you can truly stand out and be remembered, why on earth would you risk blowing it? I have now etched these companies in my mind (and likely yours) as examples of database fails. Would you be willing to share some of your own experiences? Leave a comment below…

Here’s a positive spin on all this and a challenge for the week. Look at your database and pick three clients or customers you could write a short, but personal postcard to. Pick five if you’re an over achiever. Pick one if you’re database needs work! Post a card off to them and then see what happens. I’m willing to bet that through one of your personal channels, you will receive a delightful reply, and in doing so will have secured yourself in a meaningful way with that customer or client. I did this very thing a year ago. The feedback was amazing, and I pulled at least one direct piece of business out of it with a former client. Those are results you can’t argue with.

Now just imagine the power of doing that with 20% of your database, and your best customers or clients? There’s a thought I’ll leave you with as you scramble to post/like/and share through all the other noise out there.

Thanks again for joining us each week. It’s an honour to have you here. And thanks to those who regularly share 5-Minute Marketing content – either via this blog or through my e-enewsletter to the “insider group” on Sunday mornings. If you know someone who would benefit receiving these tips weekly, suggest they follow this blog, or sign up for tips delivered to their email in box every week. Just click on the link above and you’ll be all set up!

Until next week, play where others aren’t. The mailbox is a good place to start.

Mary Charleson

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