Let’s set the record straight on Direct Mail

by Brian Weidner on January 20, 2012

I wouldn’t have the moxy to tell this directly to a client.  Somehow posting on this blog feels a little safer.  It’s probably similar to how “kids these days” are asking girls out on dates over text message.  It’s a little safer then “back in my day” when we had to use the phone.

So anyway, here goes nothing, (you might want to sit down):  If your organization hasn’t seen results with recruitment direct mail, you have not taken the best approach to the campaign.  Put another way, don’t say “recruitment direct mail doesn’t work”, because the real problem is in how those previous campaigns were executed.

Let’s look for a minute at the basic concept behind a direct mail campaign.  It starts with having a difficult to fill position.  Zero candidates on your radar and for added fun, the hiring manager is applying a good level of pressure.  With the need established, a direct mail campaign will require that you obtain a list of possible candidates. Then something is sent right to their home, to share information about your hiring need and inspire them to come forward.  With direct mail you are putting your recruitment message physically in the hands of a member of your target audience.  There is no better medium to reach passive job candidates!

Ok, so let’s talk about three of the common issues with direct mail and then I’ll share how you might address those issues:

1.  Low response rate

When a candidate receives your direct mail piece, they will want to throw it away as soon as they get a feel for what is being offered.  This is natural because we are conditioned to say “no” to any sales effort.  Most recruitment direct mail is not appealing and can be easily thrown away before the recruitment message is ever read.  (This is a problem.)  If you can tell a letter is junk mail without opening it, why bother?  As a result, your campaign must be unique and artistic.  At Career Tree Network, we design recruitment direct mail with a goal to make it “refrigerator worthy”.  If we can design something that is worthy of refrigerator artwork, we have already won half the battle.

2.  Poor mailing list

The most common way to build a mailing list, in our niche, is to purchase a state list of licensed professionals for the specific hiring need.  The key (if possible) is purchasing the full list of licensed professionals, including those who have opted-out of the list and have a hidden mailing address.  (The opt-out list are people who have told the state not to share their mailing address with third parties…they are not unreachable, but are just a little harder to find.)  In this case, you now have a full list of the professionals legally permitted to perform your hiring need.  (sounds good, right?)  We then to a zip code radius and use some fancy Excel techniques to narrow the results.  If you use a poor mailing list, you are guaranteed to have poor results. At Career Tree Network, we build our mailing lists by hand.  For the opt-outs, we manually research address information to ensure that we build the best list possible.  If we can’t find a mailing address, we will look for a phone number and also attempt to contact them on social media websites.  It takes time, but the manual research here really helps to reach people.

3.  Lack of follow-up

People are busy.  They have certain interests and ambitions and then don’t take time to pursue those.  Personally, I enjoy playing chess.  I never play chess but if someone called and invited me to play…I would agree to a game.  There are many more examples about things that we have on our radar…but not on top of the priority list.  When a direct mail campaign is sent, it should serve as merely the door opener for your organization to build a relationship with the potential candidate.  It’s the first effort and the follow-up campaign then closes the deal.  A follow-up campaign should take place via phone, email, and social media.  It could also involve a second direct mail effort, such as a personalized letter.  The follow-up campaign gives people an extra opportunity to come forward.

A quick summary:

In my opinion, direct mail can be an effective recruitment channel (when used properly).  At the very foundation we are able to bring our recruitment message directly in the hands our a member of our target audience.  The key is managing a campaign effectively so that you are able to obtain the desired result.  At Career Tree Network, we do not have a 100% success rate…but on the other hand, we solely work with a very small group of satisfied repeat clients that keep us very busy.

Even if we never work together on a campaign, I do hope that you reconsider direct mail as a viable recruitment strategy.

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