Three years ago, COMDA International developed a sleek, corporate- looking direct mail piece to promote the wall calendars it customizes for businesses. The direct mail piece was delivered to several hundred thousand small businesses across North America; it ended up garnering an unacceptable response rate. “It cost us millions,” says Scott Ferguson, vice-president of marketing at COMDA. Instead of throwing in the towel, COMDA had the foresight to buckle down and now, by treating direct mail more as a science rather than an art, is garnering conversion rates that are on the upswing. Historically, COMDA has relied on direct mail for customer acquisition.
Its conversion rate doesn’t even have to be sky high
As long as the direct mail pulls in a rate of just under 1%, the medium is cost effective because generally first-time customers become long-term ones. Yet conversion rates had, over the last few years, stagnated. “We realized we needed to become more scientific about our direct mail program,” says Ferguson. The first thing COMDA did was to, like in any scientific approach, experiment. Working with Caledon, Ontario-based direct marketing agency Wiest & Associates, last fall COMDA mailed out eight “test cells”—slightly tweaked variations of its existing direct mail template. The result? “One cell proved light years beyond the others.” That cell had an attractive price point, but was also “the cleanest offer we made,” says Ferguson. “That is a part of what appealed to small business people. They stand over the garbage and sort the mail, and you have a fraction of a second to convince them to land it on their desk rather than in the recycle bin.” This autumn, COMDA will launch in Canada a new direct mail campaign based on its North American testing. “I think we had started shooting past the heads of our customers; we became a little too corporate,” he says. “Our customers are small business entrepreneurs, and it wasn’t to our advantage to come off as too sleek.” He says with the test cell providing significantly higher conversion rates than the traditional one, his marketing team will continue to tweak and experiment with its direct mail pieces, thereby working towards even higher conversion rates. “We will never again do a mailing without some test elements,” says Ferguson. “We’ve tried lots of [other media] to sell our product, but again direct mail has proven to be the right vehicle for us.”
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