Thursday, April 28, 2016

Coupon Mailers May Not Be the Best Bet

As a resident of an upscale metropolitan area I am a very regular recipient of various coupon "mailers".  These mailers either take the form of a booklet or an envelope containing any number of coupons or special offer cards.  The mailers here are almost all printed with very high quality paper and typically look professional.  Are they a good deal for small business?

On the plus side, people love deals, the coupons usually look attractive, and price points for the mailers are not typically prohibitive.

But there are concerns.  Mailers cater to an upscale audience but it is not subdivided any farther, and the distribution is over a wide area.  Hence it is difficult to align to a carefully defined target customer base.  I am very skeptical of "broad brush" advertising: a lot of money is expended to reach what is a small part of the mailer base, if one is that lucky.

Mailers are also necessarily of use only to business-to-consumer providers.  This is simply not an option for a business selling services to other businesses.

And, it is impossible to truly stand out in the pack.  One's message is lost among all of the other deals, all of which have the same format or card size.

Finally, there's ample data that mailers are one of the least-used advertising channels by the consumer.  Very few consumers distinguish mailers from "junk mail" and discard them.  In my zip code it seems that the mailers all arrive in the same day's mail, and that "junk mail" effect is likely amplified for the unengaged consumer.

Bottom Line: As with any advertising channel, mailers must be considered with care.  Ask the salesperson questions about entry cost, actual readership data,  and return on investment.  Be sure to determine how closely the mailer's base corresponds to your own target customers.  And compare to alternatives.  In the right cases, mailers work very well.

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