Planning for Summer and Fall Campaigns
Published: June 4, 2008
No matter whether you prospect via e-mail or direct mail in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, planning for success is always a given. That includes confidently rolling-out “vetted lists,” and testing those files that emulate your top performers, along with getting your mail in-home or in-office in front of the right people at the right time to maximize results.
For most direct marketers, seasonality impacts response. Years of careful study have shown that certain categories of products have specific months throughout the year in which prospecting opportunities can be maximized. Some are obvious, for example, experienced mailers send Fundraising and Christmas offers in the fall.
If you are a B2B mailer, you may prospect year round. Certain months tied to a fiscal or calendar year in specific B2B or B2I segments are known to perform better than others.
Apparel mailers prospect heavily in the spring and fall, whereas gift mailers go on the hunt from September through early December. If the holidays are your best time to mail, and you try a test mailing during the summer time, you may generate ½ of the response rate on proven lists. If you have discovered that the response rates on specific files are exceedingly high, it behooves you to mail with increased frequency throughout the year.
Typically, the fourth quarter is the best time for consumer catalogs. There are some notable exceptions including travel and outdoor related offers. They tend to prospect at higher levels during the spring and early summer.
Contrary to popular belief, the best way to test seasonality is not testing hotline names generated during a specific month or quarter, rather, monthly change of address or new mover names are the best, because they are of comparable quality each month.
If you sell products for parents or children, or to hobbyists, one of the best months to mail is July. Entertainment and Home Improvement offers are also known to perform well in the early summer months.
If you target academics or school administrators, make sure that your catalog arrives in the classroom before the beginning of the school year. Aside from mailing to teachers by name or title, consider when school district officials are finalizing their budgets. Their fiscal year ends can also be opportune to get in front of those who either influence or make decisions for your products. For those institutions or districts with year-round programs, the mailing patterns may be different.
As a general rule, Fundraisers should avoid campaigns in June and July, since they are among the least responsive months for donor acquisition. On the other hand, September through November can be among the best months to get their mail in-home.
For business and finance offers, November is among the least responsive months, second only to August. For those who sell books, August is one of the worst months to mail, as is October and November.
For mailers who are big risk-takers, even earlier mailings (not only tests) can be put in the mail with holiday offers as early as July. When testing off-season, Customer lists are de rigueur. This strategy should not be employed without caution and solid historical data, otherwise it is more likely to do nothing or possibly even kill lists that could do well later in the season.
In conclusion, it is imprudent to test new lists or out-of-category lists during the off-months. Some of your better prospect lists will work effectively during off-season. If historical returns are maximized in October, then test new lists that same month. Don’t eliminate prospecting. Simply focus on your tried and true lists, and those that emulate your winners. There’s always room to test new list selections, or optimize your files.
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