Election Year Mailings – Seasonality on Steroids

Published: October 21, 2008

Whether you are planning to mail before or after Election Day, your postal and e-mail campaigns need to be timed differently this year to maximize response rates and avoid needless competition for minds and hearts.

According to direct-marketing guru Ray Jutkins, “Knowing when to mail is the first cousin to knowing how often.” For example, it is prudent to plan multiple mail drops based upon a specific set of well tested “in-home” or “in-office” dates for your seasonal or off-season campaigns. Off-season, your mailings may be tied to public activities or holidays. Whether you are fundraising or offering seasonal gifts, your timing and frequency of mailing can affect your overall campaign results.

If there is a major event such as a Presidential election, or catastrophic news that grabs your customer’s attention, you can bet dollars to donuts that response rates will fall when either event is center stage.

With regard to political mail, caution should be exercised this year because the prevailing winds are blowing the wrong direction for holiday mailers and fundraisers.

Welcome to campaign season where the air is rarified along with the promises. As we drift closer to the election, the candidates will be sending out copious amounts of mail in various forms, along with text messages in key precincts. If you are planning to have your mailings in-home or in-office around Tuesday, November 4th, be prepared for a big disappointment.

This election will be historic. Voter participation is anticipated to be at a record high. The electorate will not be paying close attention to your mailing, unless it concerns a particular candidate or issue. A good rule of thumb would be to reschedule your early November promotions, preferably timing those same campaigns after the election, and before Thanksgiving.

For those who historically mail around the holidays, the third Monday in December is expected to be the largest mailing date this year. If your mailing is time-sensitive, don’t expect timely delivery on or around December 15th.

There is a window of opportunity immediately after the December holidays, namely January, which for some marketers is the 2nd or 3rd most responsive time of the year.

It is generally accepted that postal mail volume is declining. That is not bad news if you know how to take advantage of this historic opportunity. This is especially true for experienced mailers who know how to incite action year-round.

If there is less competition in the mail box because of the economy, your offer will get more attention when the need is greatest, which means long term, response rates are headed back up! In 2009, direct mail may even become more cost effective, as more “socially responsible” mailers employ “Green Marketing” tactics to grow their businesses and profit margins.

If your company participates in one or more cooperative databases, the co-ops are in a unique position to advise you when top prospects are most likely to buy.

Aside from using co-op names, you may want to take a second look at one or more of your most profitable lists. For example, if you decide to mail a proven outside list a second time and within 45 days after the first usage, there’s a good chance that you can glean some additional revenue from those same names, without breaking the bank.

Here are some of the best months to mail for specific offers:

  • If you market financially related products such as credit cards or other banking related services, October, November, and January are among the top months to mail.
  • For circulators who tout subscriptions to paid consumer magazines or newsletters, October is a proven month to mail, along with late December and January.
  • Continuing education mailers can look forward to the first quarter of each year, as among the best months to mail, including August.
  • Front-office mailers tend to do well in the first, second, and fourth quarters. For them, December is not typically a good month, unless they are targeting businesses that operate on a calendar-year budget, unlike the government that operates on mid-year or fiscal year.
  • Aside from commercial mailers, fundraisers are particularly impacted this year because their top months to prospect for new donors include September and October.

In conclusion, every offer or appeal can be tied to seasonality. To identify the best times to mail, along with frequency, consider an annual marketing calendar that incorporates seasonality. It’s important to always mail the top segments of your house file, along with proven outside lists throughout the year, including test lists whose demographics emulate your strongest seasonal and non-seasonal performers.

About Acculist

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Advertising Federation of the Desert (Desert AdFed)
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Direct Marketing Association – (National – List Leaders)
Direct Marketing Association Southern California (Charter member)
International Association Of Exhibitions and Events


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