Direct mail is a proven tactic for cross-selling products and services. Smart marketers micro-target cross-selling direct mail, using customer data to promote the right add-on products to the right customers at the right time.
But how much cross-selling direct mail is too much? Especially when it’s promoting the same product – over and over and over?
AT&T is investing vast direct marketing resources to sell U-verse to its wireless customers. Here’s a profile of their very aggressive cross-sell direct mail campaign and four lessons for your smart marketing strategy.
Take Our U-Verse – Please!
AT&T is my cell phone carrier and the long-distance provider for my land line. I’m an ideal target for upgrades and additional products, especially U-verse, the company’s bundled package of web, phone, and cable access.
AT&T is sending me direct mail to promote U-verse – a lot of direct mail. I’ve received 14 U-verse direct mail packages from AT&T in the past five months. That’s right – more than one every other week.
As a direct marketer and marketing strategy consultant, I’ve found AT&T’s blitz to be a fascinating direct marketing case study in using formats, teasers, and offers. Here’s a summary of the 14 packages I’ve received since mid-January:
Carriers are in five different sizes:
- 5.5” x 7.5” closed face envelope;
- 6″ x 9″ closed face envelope;
- 7-7/8″ x 11″ white vertical envelope with window;
- Nine 4-1/8” x 9” envelopes in various formats – closed face, single window, double window, right-hand window, left-hand window, orange, blue, and white;
- Two 8” x 12.25” folder packages.
Envelope techniques have included a printed shadow image of the gift card within the envelope, blind embossed dots and “THANKS” across the back, printed pinstriping, a black triangle border, handwriting fonts, and a variety of corner cards: No company identification, a logo icon on the front, a logo icon on the back, “AT&T U-verse”, and “AT&T Customer Care Center.”
Teaser copy has been a gallery of direct mail classics: “Act Now – Limited Time Offer Inside,” “Customer Appreciation Days,” “Congratulations, Jean!,” “Expiration Notice,” “Important Information,” “Your Special Bundle Discount,” and “TIME-SENSITIVE INFORMATION ENCLOSED.”
Letter formats have included a large folded card with “Hi!” in a big blue circle on the front, short notes, a statement, single columns, multiple columns, icons, four-color photos, a voucher that looks like a check, and sometimes a signature from David Banks, AT&T Consumer Marketing. Most letters have a P.S. There is very little personalization to me, with occasional (but not consistent) references to an AT&T store near my home in Cleveland, Ohio.
The largest packages feature vivid, 4-color photography, glue dots, and interior pockets with multiple inserts. One mailing is the “2014 AT&T U-verse Start-Up Kit” with three multi-panel inserts. The other shows a giant bowl of popcorn with a teaser promoting “the best seat in the house” and includes a 20-page brochure.
Offers have been particularly interesting. The main offer is a $79/month bundle, though other monthly rates have been promoted. There’s almost always a gift card as a premium, but the value of the gift card has ranged from $50 to $400.
Is This Smart Marketing?
You have to give AT&T credit for its variety of creative approaches, especially since they’re employing many proven direct mail tactics.
But I question the wisdom of this marketing plan: The frequency of the pitches, the fact that they’re all for the same product to the same customer, and the wide variety of offers. If I’d said yes to the blue package I received on April 2, I’d have gotten a $400 gift card. That same package on May 21 offered me a $300 gift card. The offer is back up to $400 in the latest mailing, making me wonder if somehow I’ve landed in a crazy test cell that receives all U-verse mailings regardless of what’s come before.
Clearly AT&T’s cross-selling marketing strategy is to mail over and over using different offers and creative approaches until the customer finally says yes. They certainly have the resources to continue this aggressive pace. But at what cost to the customer relationship? Over-marketing can be a big mistake. If I weren’t a direct marketer curious about their tactics, I’d probably be mighty annoyed by now — and smart enough to toss every mailing with a return address of P.O. Box 1814, Alpharetta, Georgia.
4 Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy
When you have a big marketing budget, as AT&T does, you can try lots of approaches and mail as often as you want. But most marketers don’t have that luxury. If your budget is more limited, here’s some advice about how to use direct mail for cross-selling:
- Analyze your data to identify which of your current customers have bought additional products. Look for similar people on your database. They’re your best prospects for cross-selling.
- Pick the right product for the right customer. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to upselling and cross-selling products. Data analysis can help you determine which products to target to whom. Test your hypotheses and see if you’re right.
- Create a control package. Test a small number of creative direct mail approaches and offers to determine which approach generates the highest sales at the lowest cost. This should become your “control” package against which you test other options as budget allows.
- Know when to say when. If your customer fails to respond after repeated efforts, give them a break and take them off the mailing list for a while. You can always try again in a few months to see if they’re ready to consider another product or service.