Aim at moving targets

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It is well known that American movers are a promising marketing segment. When taking on a new address, consumers are more likely to invest in new home goods – not to mention the money they spend changing to service providers in their new neighborhood. But as easy as it is to see the reasons to reach movers, finding them and reaching them with the right offer before the competition can be extremely difficult.

The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) is a nonprofit association that supports the growth of cable. It serves 15 cable companies, including Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable, and reaches across 95 % of the US market. As part of its service to its 5,500-member network, the group offers several programs to increase member visibility to new movers.

"Overall, the cable industry has recognized movers as important targets," says Seth Morrison, CEO of CTAM. "Reaching movers within local market[s] is important. What's hotter is reaching movers between markets."

Recently, CTAM won the bid to advertise with the US Postal Service (USPS) in its National Change of Address (NCOA) program. The project launches in 2008 and secures advertising for CTAM in the NCOA movers' guides, the online address change registration and the post-move welcome kit, which is sent to every new household. This is an important outlet for CTAM to increase member visibility among the moving population.

The USPS grants advertising through a bidding process administered by Imagitas. Only one company per sector, such as cable, moving equipment, insurance or household appliances, is allowed to advertise in guides and kits for each bid cycle.

Morrison was not aware of any company that buys direct mail postal lists to acquire new customers. Instead, cable provider members aim to reach new customers moving into their market through the Cable Movers Hotline, which will be advertised in the USPS NCOA movers' guides and welcome kit.

Launched in 2003, the Cable Movers Hotline lets consumers transfer cable services to a new address online or via telephone. The hotline can generate leads for cable associations across market.

Another company, which holds a winning bid for the NCOA movers' guides, is Budget Truck Rental (wholly owned subsidiary of Avis Budget Group Inc.). It operates through a network of more than 2,700 corporate owned, dealer and franchised locations throughout the continental US. The company doesn't mail directly to new movers through rented lists.

"By the time we know they're a new mover; it's too far downstream," says Eric Schlanger, Budget Truck Rental's VP local marketing. "We need to target when they are going to a realtor. Customers wait to the last minute to rent a truck."

Schlanger says the moving segment isn't a salient one for loyalty programs or regular direct mailings because the average household moves only once every three years. Instead, Budget partners with affiliates, such as real estate companies. It recently partnered with Public Storage, a national network of self-storage facilities. As the storage company's only third party provider of rental trucks, Budget can reach customers looking to move and store items.

In addition to ads the NCOA collateral, the USPS aids mailers in reaching recently relocated consumers with its product NCOALink, which finds matches between names and former addresses. In addition, undeliverable-as-addressed mail is forwarded, based on the rate at which it was shipped and if a mover filed a request.

"NCOALink has strict matching guidelines," explains Audrey Conley, a USPS change-of-address program manager, based in Memphis. "A mailer may not get a customer at their new address. It varies based on the quality of the addresses in their database."

Conley reports that more than 46 million people in the US change addresses annually. NCOALink's average match is about 4%. Conley also notes that a majority of consumers change addresses after they have moved. These statistics highlight the difficulty mailers can face in reaching a new mover at their new address before a purchase decision has been made.

Roger Heuring, group marketing manager at Verizon, says his company faces difficulties in reaching customers who have entered a new zone of coverage. "Going from Verizon to Verizon, the existing customer will call Verizon; however, we have to find out who's moving into our area [in order to get new customers]," he notes.

Verizon works with several outside vendors that model data and pull from a variety of sources, including the Multiple Listing Service. These lists are compiled and scrubbed to get the best selection. Verizon includes special offers when the new neighborhood and coverage area is known for a particular individual.

"We view it at about a 21-day window to reach a customer," Heuring says. "Fourteen days before and 7 days after the move."

Though Heuring is reluctant to share specifics on the success of Verizon's mailing campaigns, he says the company saw between 1.6 % to 4 % response rate.

A combination of tactics has worked best for all of these companies. "The real challenge is that different people make decisions at different times," Morrison says. "Today's world has cell phones and Internet, consumers are free to make choices when they want [and] how they want. We have to be in all segments pre- and post-move. The good marketer is putting eggs in all the baskets."

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