Why don’t you propose door drop testing?

by Graham Dodd on 25/08/2015

In recent months, there has been a proliferation of door drop articles appearing on LinkedIn.

Now, I’m all for promoting the door drop medium as I believe it’s still an undervalued and under used medium, but such articles should, in my opinion, be based upon something other than what commonly appears to be personal or company prejudices and opinion about industry issues.

Such articles inevitably embellish the value of their own companies, who provide good, reliable services, but be careful guys.

Knocking the competition can be a dangerous game.

Making claims that possibly cannot be substantiated, can make you look rather foolish in the eyes of industry users and readers if asked to substantiate them.

Let me give you a few questionable, bland claims : distribution is best completed on Thursdays & Fridays, backchecking is worthless, most solus companies offer tracking facilities, receiving unaddressed promotional material with the mail devalues the leaflets, “nesting” is an issue.

My views on those comments?

Decades ago, when grocery multiple leaflets were distributed in their millions via weekly free newspapers in the second half of virtually every week of the year, there was focus group research which clearly showed housewives waiting for the newspapers to arrive before they completed their weekly shop, but those days are long gone; on any number of fronts.

Given that the lion’s share of our clients’ material is now delivered by Royal Mail door to door (alongside the mail), generally in the first half of the week, it seems to work extremely well for most users, so I strongly challenge the two comments which suggest otherwise.

I would agree however that nesting is an issue that Royal Mail do need to address, because I do think it is becoming an increasing issue for clients.

It’s the same challenge that the free newspaper industry faced/faces over insertion and never really seemed to tackle effectively – for years my weekly title has arrived on time and when it does carry a leaflet, its always inserted, so I have to thumb through to page 18 to even see it, but to be fair, my almost weekly Royal Mail delivery is always nested.

Insertion/nesting can be a massive turn off for some clients, who subsequently commonly insist upon solus distribution.

I don’t think “most” solus companies do offer tracking facilities and even if they did, would the tracking just cover the vans, or does it cover the individual distributors as well?

I personally think that van tracking has limited value and conversations with clients over the years would suggest I’m not alone, whereas distributor tracking has greater potential value (although the client may need to be prepared to pay an additional rate for the service), but its not fool proof.

I’ve sat in close down meetings talking about distribution queries, only to be told the tracking signal in rural areas can be patchy, or that it bounces in city centres where there are many high rise flats, which commonly draws a wistful look from a client.

Distributor tracking is of value, but for me it does not replace backchecking and I strongly disagree that backchecking is worthless.

That comment originated from a company that has an in-house system which “monitors” the quality of the drop, but its one I’ve always been a little sceptical about, though the service they have provided to us over the years is pretty good to be fair.

But on completion of a drop, what evidence of distribution can you supply the client?

Yes backchecking can produce variable results, but its all about understanding the difference between recall and delivery.

The late Arthur Thompson, founder of Stepcheck which over the years has been a service which made many clients fully understand the nuances of the medium, often described the Stepcheck service as an “imperfect measure of an imprecise medium”.

A perfect summing up in my opinion.

Another facet of the articles has been the frequency of distribution.

Valid issue, but the suggestion of just repeating drops on a regular (weekly) basis lacked more than a few legs in my opinion.

All of the articles I have read appear to have a theme; what “we” offer is great in comparison to our competitors.

What the articles don’t ever appear to offer or propose is any form of testing, though that may come in future articles?

When proposing testing frequency, why not suggest different timings on individual campaigns and why not include testing different creative treatments?

When proposing to test distribution opportunities, a couple of options could be : solus distribution (tracked or not) against Royal Mail D2D (which potentially covers off timing, delivery alongside the mail and nesting) and tracked solus distribution versus non tracked?

But within all of this, the authors need to also consider charges and how they convert to cost per lead/sale/acquisition for clients who measure door drop success that way.

Its not beyond the realms of possibilities based upon an unknown set of variables such as volume, weight of item and the need for distributor tracking, that Royal Mail D2D could be up to 25% cheaper that solus distributors.

That does of course assume in the first place the client is paying a reasonable market rate for solus distribution and not silly rates; if not the gap may not be so great!

Even if all the authors’ doubts about Royal Mail are true, the reality is that the service may not have to work as hard as solus distribution to produce a comparable (or better) cost result.

And if the client agrees to testing as I would suggest (sales pitch!), they will find out based upon fact rather than opinion or perception.

And let’s not forget one other key planning consideration; coverage.

Royal Mail D2D offers 27+ million households in one week if that is what you are seeking, whereas the authors’ coverage areas are far more limited and quite probably take longer to complete.

I accept that the authors’ business arenas may predominantly be smaller users, only distributing at local or regional level, where their points may have more credence.

But applying those principles for larger, more wide scale users is commonly very wide of the mark – in my opinion!

This article was written by...

– who has written 86 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

Graham Dodd is the founder of The Letterbox Consultancy - he has over 40 years of experience in the door drop industry and remains at the forefront of innovation in the business.

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