Though experienced mailers don’t worry about duplicate mail, fund-raisers do. They’re probably more concerned because of public reaction. Volunteer members of boards of directors or auxiliaries of a fund-raising organization often receive more than one mailing. They erroneously feel the department responsible lot mail is squandering hard-earned fund raising dollars.
Duplication Can Be Good
No, I’m not losing my marbles: duplication can be good. The best prospect for a donation is someone who gives to another cause. Even better are people who give to a few causes. The very best prospect is a person who gives to many other causes. Smart direct mail professionals have learned this and mail to as many of these people as possible. It stands to reason that the best prospect is the one who receives the most mail requesting funds.
When mailers use many lists to find new donors, they merge and purge the entries as a computer removes the duplications. Unfortunately, these purges are not perfect. A name may be misspelled on one list, zip code digits transposed on another. Unless the two duplicates are exactly the same, the computer probably will leave them both in. Thus, more duplicates appear in lists of heavy donors than in others.
Look at the results of two lists we tested.
- List A. Response rate-3%; average gift-$10; duplication- 15%.
- List B. Response rate-2%; average gift-$10; duplication- 3%.
For every thousand pieces mailed, $300 (30 x 10) was raised from List A, and only $200 from List B. Yet, duplication within List A was five times higher than in List B. In this case, duplication didn’t count.
You Can Use Your Duplication Profitably
It was a surprise when the industry fund-raising pioneers found out that a second mailing, consisting of the culled duplicates, proved more profitable than going to other outside (or “cold”) lists for unduplicated names.
Why? A duplicate has given to at least two causes, and is usually a much better prospect than a person who might have never given to anything at all.
Many mailers are mailing their duplicates in a second batch a few days (or as far as the list lender will allow) apart from the first mailing. Since they’ve already paid for the rental of these names, they might as well use them again.
This whole scenario can apply to commercial mail too. Some mailers send items to their customers up to 40 times a year! Consecutive mailings arrive on different days. Buying moods may vary.
There is no reason you can’t change your offer (or theme) to these “duplicates” that are mailed twice. Simply a catalog cover or envelope change may be sufficient.
The Logic Behind It All
Some people don’t give, react, or buy by mail at all. They claim they never buy by mail. They are lousy prospects that are almost guaranteed not to open your mailing piece. So why bother? They are a lost cause. The only way not to mail to them is to limit your mailing to customers of someone who sells, seeks, or informs by mail. That is where the action is. This means that the more duplicates you find among other people’s customer list of mail order buyers or donors, the stronger the mail order characteristics. And, the stronger the characteristic, the better chance for a response.
Caution: The Optimum Is Not Mailing All Duplicates
Taking this rationale to the ultimate degree, mailers would seek only duplicates. Not so. Not only is such a list almost impossible to put together, but if you mailed only duplicates, you would reduce the number of new donors or customers. There are just enough of those heavy buyers or givers out there.
Direct mail is like most everything else. Do it in moderation. But don’t throw out good lists just because somebody complained about duplication. Duplication is usually a good sign.