Skip to content

What Are They Trying To Tell Me?

October 20, 2011
I received this beauty in the mail recently. It appears innocent enough, but if we look a little deeper we’ll discover a classic example of a poor mailing list and the impact it can have on one’s marketing budget.
This specific mailer promoted AARP memberships and supplemental insurance plans that help cover benefits Medicare doesn’t. The envelope included an introductory letter, application forms, a reply envelope and the brochure pictured below. The brochure asks the all important question “Turning 65?”
Considering my parents haven’t even reached this important milestone yet, the offer they’ve made, while tempting, is a touch off the mark in terms of relevance. I haven’t even had a chance to go through my mid-life crisis yet so please, let’s not rush things!
I’ve received similar mailings from AARP in the past. Apparently I have had the privilege of making it onto some mail list somewhere that AARP managed to get their hands on, without first checking the quality of the list. If I’m receiving mailings that are three decades premature, it is safe to assume there are others like me out there, many others. The only difference is they’re forwarding their mail directly to the trash can instead of taking the time to give it a second thought. That’s what I get for being a print/marketing/direct mail geek!
So how much money is being wasted with the repeated use of this inaccurate mailing list?
Let’s use some assumptions to assess the damages on a single mailing. If they mailed 500,000 pieces, we’ll assume that 5% of the list or 25,000 recipients fall outside the target age demographic. Since the piece was mailed at presorted standard rates we’ll use a ballpark figure of $0.25 per piece for postage. That’s $6,250 in wasted postage and does not include any of the production costs to create 25,000 “irrelevant” mailers. You’re easily looking at a total cost in excess of $15,000.
Whatever the actual numbers may have been, you can see how quickly the wasteful spending can add up over the course of several campaigns. The takeaway here is to be diligent in your data collection. If you are purchasing a mailing list, do your homework and make sure the list is coming from a reputable source. In the long run it makes sense to spend a little more on the front end to ensure you have a well targeted database. No one wants to intentionally throw money out the window, over and over and over again.