“Off-White” Paper #12 – Business-to-Government Mailing Myths Unmasked

For several years, many myths and misconceptions have revolved around direct marketing to government. I’m here to dispel the myths and replace them with empirical data based on unparalleled experience, combing mail rooms, watching Federal employees open their mail, and working with hundreds of mailers over the past 15 years. The information presented here will help you both make and save money, so please pay close attention. Myth #1: Government mailrooms limited the number of pieces from a single mailer. Here I can offer a definitive “yes and no”. DoD, particularly military base activities, restrict the number of pieces from a single mailer. The rule (published in the Federal Register in September of 1987) states that “mail arriving in quantities of 50 or more form a single identifiable mailer need not be distributed.” Though this is the basic ruling, field research over the past several years indicates that the threshold is twenty pieces of mail, arriving any time during a given week – or longer. We have seen some letters from military base mail managers indicating that they count, from week to week, the mail from specific vendors (talk about way too much time on your hands!). So my advice is between fifteen and twenty pieces, no closer than six business days apart. If it’s in an envelope, you’ll have an even better chance of getting through. I know of no similar restrictions in civilian agencies. Myth #2: Government managers and decision makers don’t read mail. Absolutely, positively not true. Our research indicates that senior managers in government receive between 65-75 pieces of mail each day (usually in several deliveries, not all at once). They will spend about fifteen seconds with each piece, during which time they’ll make a decision to save, route or toss that piece. The thing that irritates senior managers most is receiving mail that is not germane to what they do. This has always been one of the top complaints we hear from all managers. Most people (federal, private sector, and at home) will complain about all the “junk ” they get in the mail, but the bottom line is direct marketing drives a significant portion of the economy, and remains the largest motivator behind the growth of the Federal credit card sales. Regardless of what people say, nearly everyone reads mail. And enough people respond to make it a very profitable method of communication. In government marketing, direct mail is a critical part of the mix. If it weren’t, several top Schedule vendors would not be licensing data from Amtower & Company. And they are. Myth #3: You have to mail 1st class to the Federal government. Once again, this mis-statement rears its’ ugly head with alarming regularity. First class postage is required in only one ZIP code I have found, the headquarters of the Social Security Administration (ZIP code 21235). And this is for a good reason: the mailroom gets lots of mail from its constituents (older Americans), and the mailroom personnel spend most of their time making certain this mail gets routed properly. So SSA made a decision not to deliver third class mail at this facility. I don’t have a problem with this at all. The most necessary thing you need when mailing to the government is a good (or great) mailing list, complete with whatever routing code the target agency requires. There are several other “urban legends” around government marketing and contracting we will seek to dispel over the coming months. But as far as direct mail goes, the first critical decision is quality mailing lists. For that, Amtower & Company remains an excellent choice. Caveat: the list is only one part of the equation. Copyright 2000, Amtower & Company