A Letter from Georgia

By MARK RIFFEY, for the Flathead Beacon.

We almost didn’t open it, thinking it was junk mail.

Why would the University of Georgia send us mail way out here in Montana?

We aren’t alumni. Our kids don’t go there, nor do we have prospective students considering the school.

The letter was addressed to “The Riffey Family” (printed, not hand-addressed), which may have subconsciously given it a chance it normally wouldn’t have received.

The postage applied was pre-sorted metering like that from a postage machine. It looked like any other junk mail with the exception of the “family” thing.

The letter made it home from the Post Office only because I thought it might be something related to my wife’s doctoral studies, even though she had never mentioned UGA to me.

Months ago, we had to put Blondie (our 11 year old Golden Retriever mix) to sleep.

She was suffering from painful arthritis and surgery to repair torn tendons hadn’t helped her escape a life that had become much like walking on broken glass. The vet hadn’t even charged us for the euthanasia, probably because we’d spent so much on Blondie’s care with them.

The letter was about Blondie. It came from the development (fundraising) office at the University of Georgia Veterinary School.

A letter that almost didn’t make it home. A letter that almost didn’t get opened.

A letter said that our vet, Dr. Mark Lawson from Glacier Animal Hospital, had made a donation to the vet school in Blondie’s memory.

Think hard about your mail
Imagine if we hadn’t known that our vet had made that donation…all because the envelope carrying that notification letter looked “too junky”.

Think hard about your message, *regardless* of what delivers it.

I found out about our vet’s gift because of pure dumb luck (and no, that isn’t the vet’s fault). Are you willing to bet your business on luck?

It does no good to spend time and money sending mail if it never makes it home from the post office.

The temptation to see nothing but costs is huge when the pile grows to 100, 1000 or 5000 letters.

Mail isn’t just about cost of paper, printing, postage and the speed / economy of slapping on pre-printed labels. It’s easy to get lost in those things because its 14 cents to print a double sided letter, 5 cents to fold and stuff it, and another 5 cents to apply a label to the envelope (vs. paying to have it hand-written) and so on.

You have to keep in mind that if the message isn’t delivered, the ROI is ZERO.

When the costs start to mount and the effectiveness of past efforts is low (because of all the things I’ve already mentioned), it’s easy to forget that the pile’s job is to connect with a customer/prospect and start a conversation.

Forgetting that often results in barcoded, computer-printed labels on white envelopes with metered postage going out the door, creating the kind of mail that goes right into the trash, with occasional exceptions.

That isn’t why you did all that work and spent all that money.

The message, no matter how important, well-tested, carefully crafted, on-target and critical to the potential reader is *worthless* if it doesn’t get delivered.

Everything ON the envelope requires thought because someone HAS to decide to open it. If they don’t, that’s wasted time, money and opportunity.

Everything IN the envelope requires thought. You might have one shot to make an impression and/or provoke an action.

If you don’t send mail to people, keep in mind that the same considerations apply to anything else you put in front of customers and prospects. If it looks like junk, it might get treated that way.

It doesn’t matter if you use email, Facebook, Twitter, billboards, mail, TV or radio. The right message has to get in front of the right people at pretty close to the right time if it’s going to work.

Would you take your dogs anywhere else? What a nice gesture.


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