How To Own Your Local Consumer Market With Saturation Mailings

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By Bob Martel, president, JMB Marketing Group
If you do business locally, or want to enter a new market area quickly, you don’t want to overlook the value of a saturation mailing within a radius of your business, or across a specific ZIP Code™. The USPS® is standing by, waiting to help you deliver a cost-effective message to your new prospects!
Imagine having a sales person that never calls in sick and consistently delivers your company’s best sales pitch to everyone within a three mile radius of your business. Marketing Nirvana if you do business locally, right? Imagine that you can hire this sales person for about 20 cents per sales call, with a guarantee that he or she will “knock on every door you specify,” with the exact same offer presented in the same way, to every prospect.
What is old is indeed new again, especially for small businesses trying to expand in their local market. Long before CRM became the acronym for customer relationship management, it had a different meaning: carrier route marketing, which also describes what is more commonly known as “saturation mailing.”
Ever wonder what that “R003” or “C007” means on the mail that lands in your mailbox? These numbers identify the carrier route in which you live, in the order that mail is delivered along the route. According to the USPS, approximately 20 percent of the 52 billion flats delivered in a year are saturation mailings, in automatic walk sequence order. Local mailings are certainly not new, but this direct marketing strategy may be new for you! Ignore it at your peril, because your competitors may be hijacking all of your prospects using this common sense marketing method.
If you are familiar with the classic Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Conwell, you will appreciate the strategies presented in this article. There are, quite literally, acres and acres of diamonds under your feet, or more accurately, within five to 10 miles of your business. It has never been easier or more cost effective to blanket a radius with an introductory offer, or target specific neighborhoods based on the profile of your current customers and best prospects. The tools are a click away, and with a shameless plug for this newsletter, I recommend you start by using the free lookups at the Melissa Data Website.
There is a wealth of free information about your local market that can help you develop and refine a smart, local direct mail program. Keep in mind, that while saturation mailings offer certain advantages, you have to follow the rules for “walk sequencing” and for pieces delivered along a carrier route.
Here are a few points to ponder as you develop a carrier route or saturation mailing:
Saturation mailing lists are available by a single ZIP Code, a group of ZIP codes, or by specific carrier routes. They are very inexpensive lists, so consider buying the data for a given radius, a ZIP Code, or an area, and then selecting carrier routes based on your campaign.
• The US Postal Service® has an excellent educational tool to help you develop smart mailing strategies for your business. Postal Explorer will help you harness the power of mail in growing your business. Start your journey at and click on Business Mail 101 or by downloading the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®).
• Involve your local mail house, direct marketing consultant or list broker in your mailing strategy. Make sure they are well versed in their mailing advice so you are able to take advantage of the best postal rates for your specific campaign goals. A saturation mailing can save you, on average, about 50 percent in mailing costs. Verify this for your campaign with your mailing experts. While I prefer First-Class Mail® for one-to-one communications, saturation mailings can include the prospects name. None of us like receiving mail addressed to “Occupant,” but mail to “Mrs. Jane Smith or Current Resident,” works!
• On-line mapping tools make it possible for you to see where your customers live and allow you to develop a neighborhood marketing campaign based on carrier route information. For example, using the free LookUps at you can see average income and average home value for specific carrier routes which may factor into your marketing message and offer. At the Melissa Data Website, you can see carrier route maps for any ZIP Code, as well as demographic data. You can print carrier route maps in PDF format directly from the LookUps Web site. Check it out. Go to if you need a professionally printed map!
• It is not always prudent to mail an introductory offer to prospects and customers alike. I suggest you consider treating these two groups differently, with a unique message and offer. Using data processing tools such as Melissa Data’s MatchUp software to suppress your customer list from the saturation mailing list, allows you reach both existing customers and new prospects, without sending any duplicate mail pieces.
Regardless of whether you are contemplating a saturation mailing or not, I recommend buying the list for your market area, suppressing current customers, and mapping both groups so you can see where your customers and best prospects reside. This market intelligence can help you prioritize your spending, select specific neighborhoods for targeted efforts, and also decide which customers you want to approach for a testimonial!
Saturation mailings may not always be appropriate, so plan carefully. Keep in mind that sometimes a First Class stamp is the best way to get your sales message delivered, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Read Melissa Data’s white paper on the subject here:
If you really want to get creative about reaching your local market with a saturation mailing, or to reach specific prospects along a carrier route, you can stretch your postal dollars with a joint mailing from another local merchant. For example: a roofing company, a pizza parlor, and a retailer could share the cost of printing and mailing an oversized postcard with three strong offers to the homeowner. This is only recommended if all parties enjoy the same great reputation in their local market.
Of course, your mailing strategy is only one piece of the business growth game plan. Your marketing message, your offer, and how you treat your new customer when they respond are the true differentiators that lead to lasting customer relationships.
A final note: I have shone a flashlight on some great tools to help you get started with a saturation mailing program, or for targeting prospects right in your own backyard. Melissa Data’s Website is a tremendous resource as I have already mentioned. If you are looking for some smart marketing methods for your saturation or carrier route direct marketing, yours truly has seven tips you’ll value. Send me an email at the address below with “Carrier Route Marketing Tips” in the subject line.
—Source: Bob Martel is a marketing consultant, direct marketing copywriter, and author of the book “How to Create All of the Business You Can Handle.” Subscribe to his monthly newsletter: Marketing With Ease. Reach him at (508) 481-8383 or by email at to request your free copy of 34 Reasons to Write A Sales Letter to Your Best Customers.