E-Mail Cuts DM Costs for Drexel University

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Drexel University has drastically cut its cost per inquiry from prospective undergraduates this year largely with e-mail.


What's more, e-mail reportedly salvaged what could have been a disastrous mailing for the private Philadelphia technological school.


Each year, Drexel mails to a list of about 225,000 prospective undergrads. Inquiry rates to the mailings generally run in double-digit ranges.


For example, 10.6 percent of juniors and 17.9 percent of sophomores responded to the school's 2001 print-only mailing by sending in a reply card asking for more information.


In February, the school added e-mail to the mix.


Drexel mailed to 227,258 names overall, 138,227 of which had e-mail addresses attached.


The effort brought 17,562 responses (7.72 percent) via printed business reply card and 13,815 responses (13.1 percent) via e-mail out of 105,458 delivered; 1,523 students responded to both the direct mail and e-mail.


Drexel's cost per printed-piece response, including fulfillment costs, was $3.45 this year. Its cost per e-mail response was 45 cents. In 2000, Drexel's cost per inquiry overall was $12.32. Last year, it was $7.74.


"If we had just done the traditional postal mailing [this year] and not had the forethought to add e-mail, we'd be in trouble right now," said David Eddy, Drexel's director of undergraduate admissions.


One reason for the high e-mail response, Eddy said, is that TargetX, Drexel's Philadelphia-based e-mail service provider, personalized the e-mails with students' first names and their areas of interest.


"They knew right away that we had what they were interested in," he said.


However, Brian Niles, CEO of TargetX, said he thinks the campaign indicates more about how its recipients operate.


"I've talked to other vendors who do these things for colleges, and there is a substantial decline in response rates [to printed matter] overall," Niles said. "But think about who they're reaching. These things go to college-age students who, the first thing they do when they walk in the door is go to their computers and start IMing [instant messaging] and check their e-mail."


Marketers who want to reach college-age students must use e-mail, he said.


But Niles said that this doesn't spell the demise of print pieces for colleges.


"The print stuff is still useful for parents who want to put it on the coffee table and talk about it," he said.


Still, Drexel is steadily moving toward less print and more electronic contact. For example, its viewbook, a thick glossy piece it sends to prospects, has been trimmed from 34 pages to 10. This year, the viewbook has a CD bound in it with added content. Next year's book also will be 10 pages but will include Web links instead of the CD.


The move decreases Drexel's viewbook costs by about $50,000, Eddy said.


"I really believe that in four or five years, these heavy, thick, printed viewbooks are going to virtually disappear," he said. "I still think that kids want a printed piece in their hands, but I think we're going to see quasi-print/Web pieces."


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