Does it make sense to send a second or third mailing to the same target audience?

Intuitively, repeat mailings make sense.  It’s just logical to expect that if you mail to the same person a second or third time, you will increase your exposure to that prospect and you will improve your chances for a response.

But is this the most effective way to conduct your direct mail program?

Maybe, but not necessarily.

Experience shows that second mailings typically produce a fraction of the response from the original mailing.  And a third mailing produces an even smaller fraction.

For example, if your first mailing generated a 2% response rate, your second mailing might produce a 1% followed by a third mailing response rate of 0.5%.

(Some marketers have been know to describe these results as a cumulative 3.5% (2+1+.5= 3.5) – which I think is extremely misleading.   It doesn’t take into account that you mailed three times.  A more accurate analysis would reflect an average of the three response rates (3.5 divided by 3 = 1.17%). )

Clearly what happens here is that you grab all the hot leads with the first mailing.  The follow-up mailings merely pick up those you missed the first time or those who were not ready at the time.

So yes, a follow-up mailing will produce more responses, but at a diminishing response rate.

A different strategy would be to continually mail to fresh names with each mailing and therefore (again hypothetically) generate a response rate of 2%, 2%, 2% and so on.

Of course, this strategy requires a relatively large target audience.  As an example, if you had a target audience of 50,000 contacts (assuming the same profile from the same source), you could produce five mailings of 10,000 each – and probably maintain a consistent response rate across the board.

When repeat mailings make sense

Repeat mailings can be a good strategy under the right conditions, however.

If you are using the mail to keep your name in front of a small, pre-qualified target audience, you could create a series of letters, postcards or other mailers that go out on a scheduled basis as part of a brand-building campaign.

In this scenario, your mailings would be part of a multi-touch strategy that may also include telephone, email and maybe even a personal visit.

Typically, these repeat mailings would have a common theme but may include different messages, creative or offers.  Mailings would be scheduled about every two weeks.

But a word of caution:  make sure everyone understands that this is more of a brand-building exercise with less emphasis on the response rate.

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."