Which of the following unsolicited forms of communication would you prefer to receive from a company with which you once did business: a surprise phone call, an unanticipated e-mail or an unexpected letter or package in the mail?
Whether you realize it or not, the third one is correct.
New research has found that most consumers tolerate twice as much direct mail as phone calls and e-mail. This is outstanding news for the promotional products industry because fitting a stress ball through a phone line or wrapping up a t-shirt in an e-mail just isn’t going to happen. However, slipping a product—no matter how small—into a mailing is sure to increase its acceptance on the recipient’s part.
A study conducted by marketing professors at University of California, Riverside; Boston College; and Southern Methodist University looked at the communications between auto dealerships and their customers for 39 months. It found that, during three-month increments, the ideal level of client communication is three telephone contacts, between three and four e-mail messages and nine to 10 mailings. Exceeding these volumes, the study found, generates an increasingly negative customer response.
The common idea is that businesses need to communicate with customers all the time, but it’s time to rethink this, says Andrea Godfrey, an assistant professor of marketing in the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside, and a co-author of the study.
Contrary to past marketing studies on the same topic, this latest study shows that combining marketing channels can also be detrimental. For example, one telephone call brings the number of ideal e-mails to between five and six. Yet, when there are three to five telephone calls, the ideal number of e-mails drops to two or three.
For direct mail, the study found that one mail contact allows for five e-mail contacts before a customer starts to spend less. Five mailings, however, indicate e-mails are best limited to one.
The research focused on personalized communication with existing customers through various channels. Such communications can remind customers of needed services, announce new products and locations, survey satisfaction or introduce promotions.