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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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Exhibitors: You're Wasting Money!

Check your customer list before pre-show mailings.

by Mike Dolan, Scrapbook 911 (June 2, 2008)

(Note: The Dolans own Scrapbook 911, a successful independent store in San Antonio.)

The CHA show is just around the corner. My wife loves this time of year. I hate it, and so does my mailman. Why? Because there is so so so much junk mail from manufacturers and vendors. There are letters, flyers, post cards, and large envelopes.

I know that direct mail is a fantastic, cost-effective means to get the word out; especially when stores are going to be deciding what and how much to buy at the show. The problem is, we get two, four, six, sometimes eight of the same marketing piece. This is where the postal worker gets frustrated, trying to pack all that mail into our mailbox that is about half the size of a shoe box. He does a pretty good job of this, and I am always amazed at how much he can tightly pack into that space. Now this might not be a problem at your store, but our mail is delivered to a central "gang" mailbox located up the street.

I am the one who gets the mail from the mail station. I do this because I want to make sure I see all of the invoices and bills so that they may be paid on a timely basis. I sort the mail between what goes to me, what goes to my wife as correspondence, and what goes to her as marketing materials (which she usually goes through about once a week).

This gets to be a chore when I have six postcards from ABC company about their booth in Anaheim or Chicago. We get six postcards because ABC company has decided to send one to everyone at my store who has gone to a previous show. (We bring a different member of our staff to each show so that we can get another perspective about different products, and it's a nice fringe benefit for our sales staff.)

The end result is that many times, the whole kit and caboodle ends up in the round file. I simply do not have the time to sort out 40 pieces of mail on a daily basis, and so what occurs is if I see more than one mailer, they usually all go away. If I just see one, it typically survives the sorting and goes onto my wife.

This raises the question of why do vendors think that the staff member who no longer works for us wants to know about a booth? Do vendors think that my wife or my manager will feel offended if they do not see their name on the letter? (Trust me, they don't care.)

This has to be very expensive for the vendors. As most letters have the staff members' name followed by the store name, they might think about just mailing a single piece addressed to just the store. The odds of it getting to the right person who is the main buyer are pretty good because the person that sorts the mail is usually the manager or owner.

If vendors insist on spending the $5 or $6 per store for a mailing, which is what it costs to send me eight letters, then just send one letter in the large -size carton that the post office gives away for free for priority mail and put the $4.60 postage on it. I'm sure you would agree that most everyone is curious about what could be inside the mystery priority mail carton, and it will be opened first. I can also tell you that from previous experience with a large financial institution, this is the most cost-effective means as the response rate is about 10 times higher than all those postcards and flyers sent via regular mail. (I managed a project where were sent 5,000 regular mail, 5,000 priority mail and 5,000 overnight Fed Ex. While the overnight Fed Ex got the best response rate, it was also the most expensive).

This leads up to a chance for all of the vendors to change their direct marketing strategies prior to the show in Chicago. We want to know about new companies. We want to know about show specials. We want to know about new products. We don't want to be told multiple times. My mail carrier and I would both be thankful if we just received one letter.

(Note: To read previous "Vinnie" columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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Vinny's Recent Columns...
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