According to top Google results, you should send a mail piece to the same audience three times, with 21 days in between each mail drop for the best response rates. Although this is credible advice, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for a successful direct mail program. The optimal direct mail frequency is unique to each brand, product, and market. Testing is the best way to discover how many touchpoints produce the best results for your mail campaigns.
Best Practices for Testing Direct Mail Frequency
When determining how often to send direct mail for your brand, you must first consider your campaign objective, budget, and overall market to build your testing strategy.
Multiple audience touchpoints are a must for brands using direct mail with the objective of customer retention or renewal. An example of this would be a home warranty brand mailing policyholder renewal requests to customers for continued coverage. On the other hand, an e-commerce brand using the mail channel to find scale via mass customer acquisition could enter the mail channel with one touch and then introduce remailing to increase gross sales. The Medicare/insurance market is more crowded and competitive. Therefore, this type of brand may consider launching with a multi-touch approach to stay in front of the prospect and gain cost efficiency by preprinting for all touchpoints at one time.
It’s also common for more expensive products with a higher CPA tolerance to mail at a higher frequency because they can afford the channel’s initial investment. That said, each brand’s goals are different, and it’s important to decide if your focus for the investment is to settle on the optimal ROI, or garner the greatest volume of new sales or customers.
Establishing Test Groups and Budgets
As with any type of testing, you must establish a control group to confirm your results. The control group will receive the bulk of your mail volume based on prior learnings or industry best practices (for first-time mailers). To keep your test results valid, you must only test one variable at a time. When testing for direct mail frequency, test groups will receive the same creative, offer, list source, and targeted digital ads as the control group with the variable being the mailing cadence.
If a marketer is looking to achieve a statistically significant result when testing, it will require a larger budget so that sample sizes are viable. You might be familiar with the saying, “more data = more confidence.” Though that’s true, what this fails to mention is that “more data = more budget!”
Marketers with limited budgets (or those that leverage automated direct mail platforms) will typically rely on “directional results” over statistical significance. The learnings from an initial test can still be applied to expanded campaigns in the future, but it will take you longer to confirm your winners from a test. Ultimately, no strategy is better than the other; it comes down to how quickly you want actionable test learnings.
How Frequency Can Influence Future Testing
Once you’ve settled on direct mail frequency, you can test creative strategy per touchpoint. This will help to determine if you should send the same mail piece three times, or if a different mailer for each touch yields a better response. It’s also a great way to determine which value proposition has the most impact on conversion. For example, if frequency testing determines three touches is best for your campaign, then you can hold your frequency, offer, list source, and digital integrations equal and test a new creative element against your control group.
Similarly, you can test digital integration pairs with frequency. If you know you’re going to be targeting an audience multiple times with mail, adding a digital component (e.g., display ads) to each mail touchpoint may provide a necessary preheat to response when compared to a mail-only group.
What’s more, you can see how frequency affects different list segments. For example, a lapsed customer segment may not require as many touchpoints as a new prospect, given brand familiarity. If you have a datapoint to suggest one frequency strategy is king, challenge that theory by testing the frequency for unique audiences.
Frequency can also play a role outside of the solo-mail or acquisition scope. If you want to drive brand awareness and impression volume, perhaps a multi-touch shared-mail campaign is right for you. If you have a ripe batch of customers up for renewal, consider testing how a multi-touch automated mail campaign can boost retention rates.
The Long and Short of It
Whether you’re a seasoned mailer or just getting started, testing frequency can be integral to the success of a direct mail campaign. You won’t know if your audience enjoys the long game with multiple touches or prefers you keep it short and sweet with one mail piece unless you commit to a thoughtful testing strategy. If you’re looking for an agency partner who can help, here’s three questions you should ask.