Direct mail is all about timing

Going into the Labor Day weekend–the traditional start of the political campaign season–is often the time campaigns start thinking about kicking their voter persuasion direct mail programs into gear. While there are numerous factors that go into building an effective voter contact mail schedule, this week we want to talk about a couple of concepts that are often misunderstood by campaigns.

Don’t mail your first piece until your budget can sustain continued messaging

One of the biggest mistakes we see campaigns make with their voter contact mail is to spread it out too far. We have campaigns ask about mailing months before the election when their whole mail budget may be only five or six pieces total.

Don’t worry about being in the mailbox first or trying to avoid “clutter.” Worry about being able to finish out the campaign

These days, people are far less excited about what this truck is bringing to their door and mailbox.

These days, people are far less excited about what this truck is bringing to their door and mailbox.

strong. No one has won a campaign solely be being the first in the mailbox–or on TV or radio first for that matter.

If mail is your primary means of communication, don’t start mailing until you reach the point in the campaign where your budget can afford mailing 2-3 times a week through Election Day.

If you mail less frequently than that, you run a serious risk that voters will not recall enough each mailing for your mail to have a meaningful impact.

Frequency matters when it comes to voters remembering and processing your mail (and your TV, radio and digital advertising too, for that matter). That repeated exposure to your mail is what causes it to sink in and have persuasive value.

Think about it like this. Chances are you can’t recall two pieces of bulk mail you received yesterday, never mind last week. Neither can voters when it comes to your mail. Unless you are in their boxes with significant frequency, your mail is a needle in a haystack of bills, bulk mail and coupons. You can’t afford to have weeks or months go cialis generique by between mailings.

We should note that this applies to campaigns that are primarily communicating by mail. If your primary means of communication is television and/or radio, you can ratchet back mail frequency.

Those other media help maintain voter awareness of your campaign when your mail is not in their hands. In those instances, you can spread your mail out a little more, especially if the message in your mail is paired with your electronic communications.

Your mail program needs to adjust to how people treat their mail

Not all that long ago, most people’s routine included getting their mail every day. While they received many of the bills and ads they get now, they were also eager to check the mail for letters, cards and other correspondence they actually looked forward to receiving. A common refrain in many homes as people returned at night was, “Did anything good come in the mail today?”

Today mail recipient behavior has changed because, quite frankly, there is rarely anything good in the mail anymore. 

As the cost of long-distance calling has become a non-factor for most people and the majority of folks gained access to near-instantaneous forms of on-line communication, letters and cards dried up. First class mail volume plummeted. Now almost every trip to get the mail produces just a discouraging stack of bills, solicitations and ads–little of which recipients really want.

With fewer reasons to look forward to the mail, people feel less urgency to collect it. Fewer households are retrieving the mail daily. Many households retreive their mail just 1-3 times a week based on postal service surveys.

This change in behavior has a dramatic impact on your direct mail communication efforts and schedules:

  • As people grab the mail less frequently, there is a larger stack for them to sort through each time they do get it. That means greater competition for the attention of the person going through the mail, as your piece competes with many others in a two or three day stack. Your mail has to work harder, be more attention-getting and more memorable than ever before. The bar for the quality of your mailings has been raised dramatically.


  • If you’re used to mailing every day, many people are likely to see more than one piece of your mail as they go through a multi-day stack. While the concern of receiving more than one piece of mail from a campaign at a time is blown way out of proportion when it happens (we’ll explain in a few weeks how it can actually work to your advantage when it happens), if you want to avoid someone getting more than one piece of mail in each stack they retrieve, you are going to need to spread out your mailings and avoid dropping daily.


So, as you build your mail schedules, make sure you have the mailing frequency you need to remain top-of-mind for your voter, while making sure to account for the brave new world of how people retrieve and sort their personal mail.

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