Do Direct Mailing Campaigns Work?

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Many practices have been sending out mailers for years. And the focus varies. Sometimes it’s for appointment reminders or to promote trunk shows and sales. However, when pushed on the return, practices all too often lack the data to make a strong case. Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis and see where it really makes the most sense to spend.

The Costs of a Mailing Campaign

Having postcards designed and printed are can be expensive. Generally, this can cost at least $1.50 per printed card. Sure, patient communication tools (PCTs) promote their cheap postcard printing, but even then there will always be a physical cost of producing the letters or postcards.

No matter how cheaply you can get your postcards you will always have to contend with postage costs. A postcard or small letter in the US now costs $.49, while the first gram of first-class postage in Canada goes for a whopping $.85.

Assuming you have a patient base or contact list of 1000, that works out to at least $490 USD or $850 CDN, assuming that you are spending nothing on printing the cards. 

The above costs are for sending out a single mailer. A rule-of-thumb in marketing is that you need multiple reminders and “touchpoints” to convince or remind someone to take the next step. This means you would need multiple mailers for a single campaign to be maximally effective. And that means costs add up!

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But Do They Work?

The simple answer is yes, probably. Recent data shows they can yield ROI (but much less than, say, email). The question is how much, and, “is that the best ROI possible”. A big complication here lies in determining how effective a mailing campaign is — they are notoriously hard to track with decent data! If we’re simply talking about recall, you would have to prepare to compare months up to a year in advance and see how it turns out—what a pain! And there is a demographic issue at play here too. Most people would much prefer calls, texts, and email reminders rather than holding on to a postcard.

When it comes to campaigns surrounding a trunk show or sale, the results are even harder to track. Sure, if you have the expertise you can put a tracking number into the mailer, or insist that people bring in a physical coupon. But physical coupons will definitely add to the printing costs in a serious way.

Alternatively, recall and email campaigns can be accomplished through a PCT such as SolutionReach or DemandForce for a fixed fee of a few hundred dollars a month. Here, recall is very trackable, and you can use email campaigns to get the word out with no additional costs.

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To sum this up, you probably get some mileage from mailers. The real question is if you get back more than you paid into it, and that seems pretty doubtful.

So...Where Do You Get the Best ROI?

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You would never rely on a financial management firm that provides no charts, graphs, or dollar values of any kind. The same goes for your marketing. Your return on investment needs to be backed up by qualified data. You need to see that you are making back more than you are paying, with enough margins to make the effort and time spent worth it.

We’ve been in the optometry marketing arena for a long time―nearly 15 years!—and we’ve seen and tried every approach to optometry marketing under the sun. And, we continue to tweak the strategy based on the data we aggregate. 

Working with thousands of practices just like yours, we know that, hands-down, the most direct way to grow practice revenue is increasing new patient appointments. Sales and promotions are fantastic, but the bigger your patient base, the more mileage you get. 

So, How do you consistently generate new patient appointments? Well, that takes investing in a powerful online presence. You need to show up prominently on Google searches for anyone looking for an eye doctor in your area, and you need to have stellar and growing Google reviews to convince prospective new patients that you’re the one to choose.

So let’s compare costs. Our entry-level SEO package, ODLite, for example, costs $349 per month, and this includes promotion of sales and events through custom email and Facebook campaigns, as well as on your website. A huge additional benefit is the monthly marketing strategy sessions you receive with an optometry marketing expert. Investing in your online presence will put your practice on the map and definitively drive new patient appointments, which are fully quantified and transparently reported. 

Compare $349 per month to the $1490 it would take—assuming a $1.00 printing cost per item— to send out a single mailer with questionable results, no real data, and no ongoing momentum...it doesn’t take a mathematician to see where you get more bang for your buck.

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Want to discuss data-driven marketing strategies fine-tuned to optometry? Talk to Evan. Evan plans and implements effective strategies for practice growth on a daily basis. Maybe it can work for you too?

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