Partially Addressed Mail is not a silver bullet for advertisers

by Neal Dodd on 18/05/2020

Every now and then we receive a door drop enquiry where the most appropriate response is to tell the client that door drop is not the best solution for their brief.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being honest enough to admit that to a client and the same should be true for advertising on social media, out of home, banner ads, radio etc.

Partially Addressed Mail is a relatively new product and it will be worth testing for many clients. It will work well for some. It won’t for others.

Will it outperform door drop? Depends on the client and the brief.

Will it outperform fully addressed mail? Depends on the client and the brief.

Should you be using it? Depends on who you are and what your brief is!

Companies in the market are understandably out there selling PAM but some are blatantly positioning this as right for clients before they know anything about their aims and objectives.

I know, because I’ve sat and listened to clients who have seen their shiny new tool fail to deliver as promised – including one retailer that cancelled the last stage of their test activity because the first two phases badly underperformed.

So, here’s my take on the value of PAM and where it fits into the market.

What is Partially Addressed Mail?

The market for buying lists of names and addresses to target with direct mail as a cold acquisition tool has fallen through the floor since GDPR. Companies can’t get their hands on that data as much or at all.

Royal Mail launched PAM and in many respects, it offers companies a replacement mail product. But make no mistake, it is different.

This product enables you to mail your item to all residents of a postcode unit (excluding your existing customers, if you so wish) with an item that includes a full address but a generic prefix e.g. The Occupier, The Homeowner etc.

Initial reasons for targeting a specific postcode unit may include having an existing customer living there, matching an audience profile within Mosaic or similar and being within a key area i.e. distance from store.

Costs come in cheaper than fully addressed mail but significantly higher than door drop (approx. 4 times the cost).

There are a handful of case studies in the market, but examples of clients using this successfully are thin on the ground.

What do you need to know that PAM advocates may not have told you?

Two big considerations:

  1. Audience profiling for this product is at postcode level, which means you’re using a propensity model to establish the likelihood of a property matching the criteria you have requested. This is different than buying individual names and addresses based on previous behaviour and for many, it means that the distribution is less targeted than their historical cold direct mail.
  1. Door drop (particularly SMART-Drop) follows the same planning approach – identifying postcode units that match a Mosaic profile, fall within a target area etc. The only difference is that the item has an address on it, and that you select individual postcode units rather than clusters of 100-150 homes.

Of course, distribution companies who can’t offer you SMART-Drop may tell you that the next step from postcode sector door drop distribution is Partially Addressed Mail.

So how should I be using Partially Addressed Mail?

In my opinion, if there is no other criteria behind your selection of postcodes than the audience profile and location then the only real benefit is that the item carries an address, but that is unlikely to justify 4 x the cost.

There needs to be more reasoning than that.

Here’s my view as to when PAM is worth considering:

  • If there is another reason why one postcode unit is of more value to you as a business compared with another postcode unit. For example, a branded supermarket delivery van that visits a street every week is likely to be seen by neighbours on a regular basis. It could be argued that this means the people sharing a postcode unit with the supermarket’s existing customer is of greater value than a postcode/street where the supermarket does not have a customer.
  • If you really need to avoid existing customers with your acquisition message. Consider utility and telecoms companies who may be keen to target specific battleground postcode units with a particularly strong discount but cannot afford for that to be seen by existing customers.
  • If the audience profile planning shows that the postcode is isolated and door drop is not viable. Particularly in rural areas, you may find that door drop isn’t suitable if you’re trying to reach small numbers of households.

If PAM is being proposed as a replacement to fully addressed mail or as a replacement to door drop, without any discussion around these points, I would question why.

The product has great potential to be of value for a range of sectors and used correctly, it could be a great addition to advertising channels in the market.

A number of our clients are using door drop AND Partially Addressed Mail, together, on the same media plan.

But that is ultimately the crux; PAM is a new product that will sit alongside other media on the shelf and responsible providers will guide you as to which of those media are appropriate for your business and your brief.

If you’re currently thinking about a Partially Addressed Mail test then by all means get in touch to talk it through, and whether a door drop / SMART-Drop test alongside it may also be worth considering.

This article was written by...

– who has written 117 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

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