Why Mail or Blast Dates Matter Even More This Fall

The campaign to influence hearts and minds has set sail. Thankfully, the ad nauseam political party “debates” and nominations are behind us. The ordained candidates have yet to differentiate their party brands or give us specifics on their vision for America over the next 4 years — or how they feel about saving the USPS. Welcome to a contentious Presidential election season.

Are you planning to repeat a successful holiday campaign this fall? Then fasten your seatbelt and keep your eye on the road. Unlike past months, you can’t simply text your “friends” or use a hands-free device to incite action or garner unwanted attention. Things might even get rough and tumble as direct marketers navigate familiar waters along with a rash of conflicting mail dates, election day distractions, postal service blues, and the prospect for a holiday season where businesses and fundraisers might do incrementally better than what our valued clients measured and reported in 2011.

If war is declared in the 4th quarter of 2012, or we have a major breach in homeland security, you can expect a recession will follow like clockwork, just as we experienced post 9-1-1. After our country was attacked in 2001, we documented a brief “window” for savvy marketers who had the guts to mail when others stayed on the sidelines. Mail boxes were practically empty after that tragic event. Those who utilized postal mail in the 4th quarter of 2001 generated record profits. Does that sound counterintuitive?

Can Postal Mail Dates Really Be Protected?

Some transactional list managers pretend that postal mail dates can be protected. This is a sad commentary on the veracity of folks who function in a fiduciary role with list owners, mailers, and list professionals. That’s why some managers go through the artifice of clearance and “blocking” mail dates. In reality, if there are delays at your printer, computer house, mail house, or other supply chain member, all bets are off. New mail date requests can be rejected at the sole discretion of the list manager.

How Do You Benefit From Mail Date Protection?

Responsible list owners make an effort to avoid situations where competitors may rent and mail comparable data sets at the same time. They may even restrict how many times a segment of their names are rented in a given month, or even take their lists off-the-market in favor of house file mailings at certain times of the year. Seasonality rules!


Compiled lists are resold thousands of times, without regard to clearance or mail date protection. In comparison, transactional lists work better than their compiled cousins because they are mailed less frequently, and don’t need to be modeled.

E-mail is a different story, when it comes to churn. Reputable publishers who host and deploy their lists keep a close eye on blast dates to avoid churn, thereby generating less unsubscribes, which increases delivery rates and the long-term value of their rental lists.

What Can Happen If You Miss a Postal Mail Date?

Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a list manager who catches a mailer using “their names” at an unapproved time. We have documented instances where reputable fundraisers have lost access to name-brand lists if they chose to defer a mailing. When these “offending” clients try to clear new mail dates with the same managers, those list managers often hold a grudge, even if the mailer did not mean to offend. Commercial list managers tend to be more tolerate than their fundraiser-list contemporaries.

The Postal Service Is Taking Longer to Process All Classes of Mail

The natives are restless at the postal service. They are very unhappy with proposed layoffs, forced retirements, and the closure of various stations and branches throughout our country. The mail is slower this fall. As capacity and staff gets further downsized, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that someone may even call a S-T-R-I-K-E.

What Can You Do to Expedite Postal Delivery?

  1. Make sure your data is squeaky clean; otherwise, it may be rejected or delayed.
  2. Truck your mail to the nearest Network Distribution Center (NDC).
  3. Co-mingle your mail with other mailers if you work with the right printer or mail shop. You’ll save money on postage and improve the odds of a timely delivery.

What Can Be Done to Reduce Mailing Costs and Improve Deliverability?

  1. Test various forms of NCOA processing to update your names.
  2. Look at your names before they go in the mail. Not everybody does a great merge-purge, particularly vendors who fail to ask necessary questions.
  3. Honor unsubscribe requests to save money and respect personal privacy.
  4. Remove DMAchoice and private DO-NOT-MAIL names from your prospect file.
  5. Take standard deductions on all lists, even those from cooperative databases.
  6. Avoid selecting names in certain zip codes, SICS, or areas that have not performed well on recent campaigns. Use a zip or SIC “model” to mail smarter.
  7. Consider testing “Undeliverable-As-Addressed” processing to boost mail delivery and reduce your mail costs. It’s more expensive than conventional NCOA processing. The ROI on UAA can be significant. Contact us for details.

Final Facts to Ponder About Your Postal Mailings

When you mail this fall, please remember that past campaign results may not be indicative of what you can realistically expect as performance metrics. This is due to the fact that, aside from the upcoming elections, morale at the postal service is at an historic low, and the economy is a little funky — all of which creates uncertainty. To play it safe, upgrade your list hygiene and add more days to your delivery schedule when you clear your mail dates. This will allow you to increase the probability of being in-home or in-office at the most opportune time to engage with new customers or donors.

Be sure to test new creative and lists against your legacy files and mailing packages. It’s OK to re-test past winners along with former top lists and older segments of highly profitable lists. You may discover your next control package and a new combination of top-performing lists. It’s time to plan for success in 2013. We can help. Call us!