Triggers: When to Mail

For years everyone in the industry has conducted seasonal tests. The professionals know the best times to mail depending on whether they’re mailing a women’s apparel catalog or a solo mailer for software. Most companies that rely on direct mail have elaborate charts that indicate the reduction in response from “prime time” on a monthly basis, and they use those statistics to determine whether to remail the same name again with basically the same offer.

But that’s not the whole story. There are events that occur in a person’s life that trigger responsiveness.

Two obvious triggers are having a baby and moving to a new home. Each of these life events creates a need for a wide variety of new products and services, from a crib to a doormat.

In addition to generating specific needs, these events make a consumer more responsive to direct mail in general. (I’ve written an article entitled “Why New-Move Mailing Lists Work,” which you can read it at, that details the psychological factors that create this mail receptiveness.)

Similar psychological factors create unique mailing cycles. The perfect time to sell someone a Medicare supplement insurance policy, for instance, is just before he or she turns 65, regardless of the month of the year. When the company you work merges or is acquired by another firm, that’s the best time to try to sell you a subscription to a business newsletter or magazine.

If your trigger mailing can answer the question “Why now?” it will be much more successful. If your Medicare supplement mailing says, “Because you’re about to turn 65 and begin participating in Medicare,” it’s going to resonate with the reader. If your mailing talks about “you’re going off to school shortly” or “if you take advantage of this offer before your birthday next month you will save…” you’re on your way to increased response.

It’s because we know that triggers work that many specialized list are created, such as new moves, new credit-card issues, new business filings, birthdays, births, and even new bankruptcy filings. Rather than simply thinking about the “best months to mail” or “hotline names,” ‘start thinking about how you can use triggers to improve your campaign.

David Bancroft Avrick is president of Santa Barbara, CA-based list firm Avrick Direct..

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