In the era of online revolution, when your Internet presence is now considered more important than your physical location, we might ask ourselves a question: Is there still place for an old-school, snail mail marketing outreach campaign?
Of course it depends on the audience, product and the industry, but in general is it still a smart thing to do? There are numerous articles that will say it is still viable and will give you examples and reasons to do it. But of course there are articles who will say the opposite as well. At Windward we like test things and then we try to share our own findings.
So today, I want to share some results of our own snail mail campaign at Windward Studios. I will try to go into as much detail as possible while trying to be concise and not make a novel out of this blog post.
Finding the Perfect Snail Mail Object
Windward Studios is a software development company that provides reporting and document generation solutions that make our customers happy. Thus, our target audience consists of various levels of decision makers within companies who have a problem and need our solution. Those usually are CTOs, project managers, senior developers, CEOs etc.
For this campaign, chances were good that our audience was in the 40-60 age range based on their seniority level, so we decided to send them something that would touch them emotionally, bring some flash backs, or simply ignite curiosity, all while being highly relevant to the computer industry.
Our CEO, Dave Thielen, proposed an excellent item: an 8-inch floppy disc. This dinosaur memory storage device was indeed a perfect item to send, taking into a consideration that a lot of other pieces of equipment of that time were the size of a refrigerator.
The first step in the preparation process was to research the availability of 8-inch floppies and estimate the cost of each. It was fairly easy to find a good amount of them for about 50 cents each. (During the whole campaign we had to restock our floppy inventory a few times, and prices would vary, since the source and quantity available every time was different.)
After we analyzed the cost and available inventory of floppies, we calculated the total weekly cost of the campaign based on the number of people we wanted to contact and the cost of shipping each individual floppy.
Our campaign was not the same in terms of magnitude and process, so I want to break it down into two phases.
Campaign Phase I
We started shipping in the beginning of January 2015. We would send 25 floppies out each week at that time.
Initially we did not set up a process for weekly mailings and list building. As a result, mailings were inconsistent and the amount of people who were involved in the preparation process varied from 2-5. The total hours spent each week were around 8-15 based on list quality and scheduling issues.
How did we build our list? Initially it was a re-verified list bought earlier from one of the many list providing companies you find all over today. Our delivery rate was only about 65% and the leads were not of a great quality.
Phase I Summary
- Length: 2.5 months
- Contacts/week: 25
- Prep/week: 8-15 hrs
- Staff: 2-5
- Delivery rate: 65%
- Process: NONE
Campaign Phase II
Phase II Summary
- Length: 4 months
- Prep/week: 8 hrs
- Staff: 3
- Delivery rate: 85%
- Process: YES
After analyzing all of the issues from phase one, we developed a process with a set schedule for mailings and preparations. We also brought a dedicated sales person who would consistently call 100 contacts per week. This allowed us to manage all of the email campaigns and moreover helped our dedicated Sales person to touch the contact who received a floppy from us the same day they received it.
Secondly, we eliminated the issue of bad lists from phase 1. We still purchased a list but from a very different source. The importance of our partnership with a new list provider is mentioned here in more detail. This eliminated hours of list scraping from phase 1 and helped achieve the synergy in the process mentioned above. We now were sending quadruple the amount of floppies, but were spending the same amount of time in human hours as in phase I.
Another interesting fact about the transition to phase 2 is that we ran out of suppliers who had a decent supply of 8 inch floppies and our own inventory was almost depleted. We were so serious about this campaign that we found an overseas manufacturer who would create a mold for us and manufacture fake floppies from scratch. Unfortunately, the quality of the mock-up they sent us was not satisfactory, so we ended up not signing a contract. Luckily, we managed to find another supplier of floppies who had decent stock level and we were able to proceed with the campaign.
So what were the campaign results?
Delivery rate was about 65% vs 85% for phases I and II respectively.
Such an increase in delivery rate is due to the quality of the leads we received from our new list supplier. The overall impact of an 8-inch floppy arriving at your front desk is priceless. Some of the reactions people had after our sales person contacted them were:
These were by far the warmest leads we ever managed to get from a cold list. Our Sales team had fabulous conversations and it was very easy to get the information we needed. On average, a weekly mailing to 100 contacts generated anywhere from 25-30 conversations, of which anywhere from 5-10 of them were with what we would consider “quality” leads (leads that might possibly have a reporting or docgen process in the near future).
Close to the middle of Phase 2, the Floppies campaign generated its first (and so far only) sale, which brought in around $16,000.
What were the costs?
After taking into account all of the fixed costs; like per-envelope mailing price, labels and price of floppies and variable costs of how many hours a week each member of the team had to spend to prepare the mailers, we averaged $2880/month for Phase I and $4000/month for phase II. We did not include the full time dedicated sales person salary in these calculations.
What We Learned and Some Predictions
After 6 and a half months of weekly mailings, 1850 of contacts reached, and around $25,000 spent, our director of marketing decided that the costs outweighed the benefits at that moment and the floppies campaign was put on hold. The costs were steadily aggregating week over week, but there was no immediate revenue generated to justify those costs. It was a tough call to make, since all other aspects of the campaign were out of this world as mentioned above.
Our product is very time-sensitive. Reporting software, whether as a component or an all-in-one solution, is not usually one of the key concerns or needs for most companies. The need to purchase comes from an internal push and is accompanied by a set budget. Thus the chances that our floppies will arrive at a perfect moment, where the need and the budget for reporting are present, are very slim.
That is why I believe this campaign is a marathon-style approach and will yield more revenue for the company as the time passes.
But the short term expenses took their toll. Nevertheless, in the long run, the impact of this campaign will set our company up for a great opportunity in terms of reengaging those previously cold contacts from the list we bought and will help our sales team to knock it out of the park.
P.S. If you are interested to here if my speculations were right or wrong, please subscribe to receive our company blog via email. I will write two more posts updating the results of this campaign from a long-run perspective of 6 months and 12 months after the campaign.
Author: Roman Matskiv
Roman Matskiv is a marketing enthusiast currently working on getting Windward into the Fortune 500 list. Originally from Ukraine, he came to United States in 2007 to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder. In his free time, Roman can be found running through canyons in the Utah desert, trying to catch the biggest fish in Colorado, or casually hammering on his keyboard and mouse trying to beat his opponents online.
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