Washingtonpost.com Mailer Delivers the Facts

Choosing not to mess with a winning formula, Washingtonpost.com used components of a campaign that ran in May as part of a direct mail effort to advertisers and ad agencies last month.

“The first campaign made a substantial impact on our business and sales,” said Tim Ruder, vice president of marketing at washingtonpost.com, Arlington, VA. Early response numbers for last month's effort are already “well beyond the industry norm and exceeding our expectations.”

The May campaign was mainly a branding effort to 10,000 agencies and marketers. Last month's effort focused on slightly less than 1,000 of those May recipients. Washingtonpost.com's marketing and sales departments picked the prospects they thought had the most potential to become customers.

“One of the things we learned from our initial effort was that providing real data to people helped them to better understand what we could do for them,” he said. “It made sense to them, and they wanted to listen to our story.”

Demographic information stressed in both efforts included: Washingtonpost.com gets 5.8 million unique visitors a month, and most site visitors come from outside the DC area, are educated, make or influence business purchases and have household incomes of more than $75,000.

Last month's mailer went Sept. 16 to executives at large ad agencies and advertisers, though more agencies were targeted. Vice presidents of marketing and media directors were the primary recipients at agencies. Among the vertical markets targeted were automotive, manufacturing and retail industries, along with some advocacy organizations.

Recipients were a mix of prospects and customers. The aim with prospects obviously was to turn them into customers, but Ruder said the goal for current customers was twofold.

“We are trying to increase the amount of business they are doing with us,” he said. “But the other part is to reinforce our relationship and our message with them. The size of our audience is always growing, and we want to provide them with that updated information.”

Both audiences got the same mailer. Slightly larger than a music CD case, the cover carried the tagline “Connect with your audience.” That theme and similar copy were repeated throughout the piece. Also included was a modem extension cord.

“The cord helps to keep with the theme of staying connected,” Ruder said.

The piece asked recipients to contact the sales representative nearest them. Phone numbers for New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington are provided along with a Web address.

The mailer also mentions a giveaway of an Apple PowerBook or Dell Inspiron notebook computer that ends Nov. 30. Recipients are directed to www.washingtonpost.com/win to register for the contest. Once there, entrants answer three questions based on the demographic information included in the mailer and provide their name, company name, phone number and e-mail address.

A follow-up postcard measuring 13 by 6 3/4 inches went Oct. 2 to the same audience. It stressed the laptop giveaway but also provided the demographic information found in the other mailer as well as contact information for sales reps in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington.

Washingtonpost.com hopes to drop a third mailer before the end of the year. It would be even more focused, Ruder said, though the vertical markets have not been selected.

“We want to continue to narrow our focus and sharpen our message,” he said. “We will develop industry-specific pieces that will not replace our core message but instead use it to help marketers relate their specific needs to our audience.”

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