Directing your direct mail program

Direct mail can be a great way to build your school’s brand awareness in the community.  An effective direct mail campaign can create an impression of your school that communicates your distinctives in a visually compelling way.  It’s an initial impression of your school that is delivered directly in the home of your target audience.  In order for a direct mail campaign to be effective it is important to put the following strategies in practice.

1.  Multiple mailings – Many schools make the mistake of sending out one postcard to a purchased mailing list.  It usually takes several impressions of your school for people to take notice.  An effective direct mail program should send out a minimum of three postcards.  These cards should be sent out in two to three week intervals as this will increase the awareness of your school brand.  In addition, when direct mail is combined with other advertising strategies, the likelihood of a response will increase. 

2.  Compelling message and look – The development of the design and copy is critical to creating a compelling campaign.  The design should convey the quality of your school and the copy should speak to your brand distinctives.  An oversized and full color designed postcard usually works best as it will stand out in the stack of mail that a household receives (6 x 9 or 6 x 10).  Other direct mail designs can and should be considered.  Remember, it’s about creating an initial impression and the design and message must speak to the excellence of your school.

3.  Targeted Audience – By working with a mailing company, you can select targeted demographics for your mailing list.  Some of the target demographics you will want to include are a minimum household income, presence of children that are age appropriate to your school, and zip codes representing your target area.  It is also helpful to identify your current market as a base of direction for selecting your target demographics. 

4.  Timely Mailings – It is critical to plan the timing for your direct mail campaign that will have the most impact.  The fall or the spring is the best time to send out your direct mail campaign.  Ideally, you should have a campaign during both seasons beginning around October 1 (fall campaign) and on February 1 (spring campaign).  However, if you have to make the choice, the Spring is the key time to send out your campaign.  Also, you will want to avoid the summer months as it will appear that you may be desperate for additional students. 

5.  Track Responses – To measure the effectiveness of your direct mail program, it is critical to track all responses.  Every time a parent requests information or shows up on campus, you should ask them how they first heard about your school.  This will help you measure the return on all of your advertising efforts, including your direct mail campaign.

6. Personalized URL’s – To increase the effectiveness of your direct mail campaign, it is ideal to use a personalized URL, or a PURL. Every name on the acquisition mailing list will have a unique personalized URL which will be prominently incorporated into the design and layout of the direct mail campaign. The PURL will attract your audience through the intriguing web address and drive them to their own web site. Once someone points to their PURL, all the activity and interaction is recorded and available to your team in real time. The PURL site allows for automated trigger emails to be sent to the prospect and to the admissions staff as well as instant reports and data analysis. An example of a live PURL is:

If implemented and designed correctly, direct mail can be an important part of your overall marketing strategy.  Keep in mind that the main purpose of this strategy is to generate awareness and interest in your school. 

One school client just recently implemented these steps in their direct mail strategy and received about 50 calls from prospective families to their school and also attracted 10 families to their open house program.  Another school client enrolled a family of three students as a direct result from their postcards.  The Superintendent of the school said the father called the school to set up a visit after receiving the second postcard.  After touring campus, the father enrolled his three daughters at the school. 

Another school used the PURL approach and enrolled at least two new students—with the potential for $15,000 in annual revenue for each student. Now that’s a great return on investment!

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