Small Changes and Planning Can Make Your Expires Work

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Sure, times are tough, money is tight and uncertainty is the mood of the moment. While a mailer's first reaction might be to cut, cut, cut, it is also time for some reflection. Are you making the best possible use of your expires?

There's no doubt that there may be good reason to cut volume on outside files during these challenging times. But there may be an opportunity for you closer to home. Testing expires is an inexpensive way to add subscribers without breaking the bank.

Using a few simple guidelines, you may be able to more than make up for the subscriptions you give up with reduced outside list mail volume.

*Separate your expire groups by source.

*Develop recency ranges that best dovetail with your mail dates.

*Start with your control package.

*Refine the control to target folks who already know you.

*Test new creative approaches with and without dedicated language.

Modifying the Existing Control
Over the last few years Archaeology magazine has developed two separate and highly successful approaches to mailing expires effectively.

The control package had been successful for several years and survived numerous creative attempts to beat it. For mailing to expires, the letter was simplified, with the tone changed to acknowledge the prior relationship. The revised letter began with 'Dear Former Archaeology Subscriber.' The letter went from four pages to two. They also added the tag line "We Want You Back" on the otherwise unchanged outer envelope. The result was a noticeable bump in both gross and net response—well worth the extra effort.

Developing a Voucher to Save on Printing Costs
While tests for a very simple voucher package to outside lists had done poorly, the same package mailed to expires did very well. Here again, the magazine built on these early results by tailoring the voucher package to former subscribers and incorporating the same "We Want You Back" tagline on the outer envelope—with no changes whatsoever on the inside of the package. That one simple change resulted in a 23% lift at net response.

Once you have the creative approach that delivers the best results, you can begin to go deeper into your expire pool. Because they mail three times each year, the magazine adjusted the recency pull for the first two years worth of expires to line up better with the timing of the direct mail campaigns. Beyond two years, Archaeology decided they could spread things out to six-month intervals. With the simpler voucher packages and the strong results that they have seen, Archaeology has been able to effectively mail DTP-sourced expires back 42 months and agent-sourced back 24 months.

"After our initial success with mailing expires we began to see some falloff in response and became afraid of package fatigue," said Kevin Mullen, publications fulfillment manager at Archaeology. "The small changes and modifications have proven successful in maintaining our response rates. Including expires in our direct mail campaigns has become a de facto part of our renewal series."

Next on the table is testing deeper into the expire pool with a newly developed Zip penetration model. For the last two campaigns, Archaeology has tested a zip penetration model that has shown strong linear lift. They are now cautiously rolling out applying zip selects to some large universe outside files along with the older expires—both those sourced directly to the publisher and those sourced from subscription agents.

James Chiavelli is vice president, list brokerage at List Services Corp.

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