Postcards Highlight Trucking Firm's Standards

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Improving the bottom line was only one goal of a trucking company's business-to-business direct mail effort that dropped in October.


Saia Inc., Duluth, GA, a less-than-truckload carrier serving the South and West, also sought an image makeover as it targeted 15,000 companies in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution operations.


They received 9-by-6-inch postcards Oct. 1, Oct. 8 and Oct. 15 noting on the back Saia's Customer Service Indicators, which is how it measures performance.


"Being an 80-year-old company, people would think we don't change with the times," said Sally Buchholz, Saia's vice president of marketing and customer service. "We need them to know that we implement new processes when we need to.


"We've also integrated companies on the West Coast that were sister companies which now have our name. We wanted to be thought of as leading edge, keeping with the trends, and we needed something that would stand out and get noticed in the industry."


The words "Xtreme Performance" appear on the front of the pieces at the top with the company's logo in the bottom-right corner. The first postcard uses the image of a skier with "When you set the standards ..." at the top and "... you develop a taste for excellence" continued on the back.


The second piece features a rock climber and says "We know the ropes ..." The statement continues on the back with "... and it shows when it counts." The third postcard contains a photo of a windsurfer under the words "Even if there were no competition ..." Continuing on the back is "... we'd work to break our own records."


"It doesn't look like what other trucking companies are doing," Buchholz said. "The mailers talk about the Customer Service Indicators because we've done research in recent years and asked customers, 'What do you need to know regarding who to use?' They said they must know about our on-time delivery percentage, on-time pickup and how often freight arrives intact, the time needed to settle a claim for damaged freight, invoicing accuracy and turnaround time on signature verification."


Firms targeted are in what were described as medium and small cities where the company has one or no sales representatives. No major metropolitan areas were targeted in the 21 states the company serves. About 60 percent of the targets were prospects. Names were purchased from a trade publication that covers the trucking industry.


Targeting house file names was also crucial.


"Some of our customers only use us for some of their business," she said. "The thinking is that the Customer Service Indicators could get them to increase their business with us."


The house file was described as containing about 65,000 repeat customers.


"By picking the smaller markets, we had a smaller pool since we excluded the majority of our customers who are in larger markets," Buchholz said. "We also narrowed it down by selecting companies that had not used us in the last three months."


A toll-free number was the only response mechanism.


"The reason we did it that way is we were using it to set up appointments and we wanted a live person for them to talk to," Buchholz said. "She did very little. The woman taking the calls funneled all leads to sales reps. She asked if they had any special needs along with obtaining contact information. There was no pressure. Our goal is to get our rep in front of them face to face."


The company said it would have no results until next month.


A typical shipment can generate $150.


"Maybe one-half or one-third of [the prospects] will give us a test shipment or two," she said. "And I'd like to see more than one-third of our old customers remember us and use us again. Long-term, we'd like new and reactivated accounts to generate at least one or two shipments each month. Retention is the big deal."


Per-piece cost for the postcards was 45 cents, bringing the total to $1.35 per recipient. That includes creative, printing and list acquisition expenses. Postage was about 25 cents per card, totaling 75 cents per target, bringing the grand total per-target cost to $2.10.


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