What Response Should You Expect From Print And Mail Advertising? (written November, 1996)

There is a lot of miss-leading and unreasonable ideas regarding print and mail advertising that I would like to point out to help you understand what print and mail advertising “actually” is. Just like all advertising, print and mail is not an “exact science” therefore, it is impossible for anyone to “quote” an “average” for you.  This so-called “Industry Average” we hear from time to time is a load of bunk and if anyone mentions “industry Average” to you, I suggest you run for the hills. This “2% myth” idea is also a load of bunk. When & how did anyone test and come up with this 2% idea? Are we to believe that if I mail out an offer that requires an individual to spend $200, I will get the same average as someone who is asking for only a couple of stamps?  What is a true average then? What is this 2% Myth? If you wish to determine what you can expect from print and mail advertising, then please read on…..

First things first – print & mail advertising has a “semi-bad” reputation partially because you, the advertiser, have no idea what to expect, and partially because of unscrupulous dealers, who are just blatantly trying to rip you off. You should never allow yourself to be ripped off.  It is so easy to determine whether or not someone is going to print and mail your ads, thus avoiding being ripped off.  Aren’t there such things called as receipts?  Every large mailer uses the Postal Service, and the Postal Service requires everyone to fill out forms to do large volume permit mailings, whether it be for first or third class mail. Here’s my point:  If someone does a print and mail campaign for you, you have every right to ask for the receipts directly from the Post Office and for the receipts for the printing of your flyer. Yes, these receipts can be fudged, but you know what? If somebody fudges a receipt from the Post Office, that is a federal offense in which people go to jail for each and every day.  So if a print and mailer wants to lie to you and make you believe he is doing mailings and he can’t provide receipts, it would be pretty obvious he is not doing what he claims.  Now on the other hand, if he does try and trick you by sending you fudged Postal receipts, all you have to do is contact the Post Office that the receipt allegedly originated from and ask them for verification. If it is a fudged receipt, that print and mailer is in big trouble. If you don’t wish to be ripped off, why don’t you ask for a sample mailing to be sent via bulk third class mail first before you send any money. Here’s what should happen: You ask for a sample mailing and a few weeks later you should get one via permit bulk mail. Then if you don’t order anything, you should get another mailing a month or so later – and if you still don’t order anything, you should get another mailing a month or so after that – and your name should not be handwritten on an envelope – it should have the “professionally typed” look.  Why?  Well if a print and mail advertiser is telling you he is mailing 20,000 pieces a month, do you think it is reasonable that he is handwriting all the names out?  Is that cost effective? The whole point of this first paragraph is to show you how easy it is to catch crooked print and mailers and to prevent yourself from be taken. Now on to the meat of getting response……

Now that we know for sure your print and mailer is actually mailing out your flyers, what should you expect to get in return? Well the only way we will know for sure is for you to do a mailing yourself of 1,000 pieces. YES! Go and do it yourself. That is how you learn what this business is about. Do a mailing of 1,000 pieces yourself and then you will have some data to work with. Don’t take someone’s word for it that you will get some sort of response. Do it yourself and calculate it out. This is very important to determine what you probably will get with print and mail advertising. Let’s say for argument’s sake, you mail out 1,000 pieces and you get a 2.5% response. Will you get that with a print and mail advertising promotion? Certainly not!! Why? You just mailed out your piece by itself and got a 2.5% return – are you trying to compare mailing that same flyer out with 10 other offers and then making the comparison to get the same percentage of return?  That sounds mighty crazy to me. Doesn’t it to you also?  I don’t know what you will get with a print and mail advertising promotion, but I will say that you should be satisfied with at least 1/10th of what you got when you mailed it out by itself. 1/10th you say – that is crazy!!! No I’m sorry, it’s not crazy. Just figure it out for yourself. When you did a mailing of 1,000 pieces, didn’t it cost you $320 for postage? Didn’t it cost you at least $50 for the mailing list?  Didn’t it cost you at least $35 for the envelopes?  Didn’t it cost you at least $40 for the printing of your flyer?  It sounds like to me, you spent at least $445 and you have to spend another 3-5 hours licking, stuffing, sealing, and labeling this 1,000 piece mailing. Right? Now let’s compare this to a print and mail advertising campaign: To mail out a double sided flyer in my mailings, it would cost $101 per 2500 pieces mailed, which breaks down to about $40 per thousand.  Now with your mailing which you actually did – you did not take anybody’s opinion on it – you got 25 responses. So based on this, you should be willing to accept 1/10th or 2.5 responses per thousand pieces, a Print and Mailer does for you. 2.5 you say!!! That is horrible!!! Is it really horrible? You got 25 responses for the $445 you spent, which breaks down to $17.80 per response. With print and mail advertising, you got 2.5 responses for the $40 you spent, which breaks down to $16 per response – that sounds cheaper to me. How’s about you? You know what else? You did no licking, stuffing, labeling, or sealing – I’m trying to show you that you did no work!! You see why you should accept 1/10th the response now? Don’t You?

Now the second part of the equation is to get enough out in the mail for a “true sample survey”. You did a mailing yourself and you have a good idea of what to expect, so now you have to get enough out in the mails through print and mail advertisers to actualize the response you should be getting. “I estimate”, you should do a minimum of 20,000 pieces to actualize your true response. If you do a small mailing of 2500, no problem, do another mailing a week later of 2500, and a week after that of 2500 until you get 20,000 pieces out in the mail. That is the only way you will get the response you deserve to get based on your own actual mailing of 1,000 pieces. I hope I cleared up some things for you regarding print and mail advertising. It’s a great way for you to promote and keep your costs and your efforts to a minimum. Happy trails!!!!

Now to recap: #1) Be sure you got an honest print & mailer – it’s easy to check them out!! #2) Actually do a mailing yourself of at least 1,000 pieces – don’t try any shortcuts. 100 is not a good sample. Do 1,000 pieces and track it. #3) Do a minimum of 20,000 pieces with a print & mailer. You’ll always succeed with your promotions this way!! Happy Mailings!!

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.