If you’re planning a special event, like a trade show, convention, or annual dinner, you must spread the word in advance so people can mark the date on their calendars. There are several ways to get the word out, including a most obvious one that is sometimes overlooked.  

The next two holidays on the Jewish calendar celebrate – and publicize – two of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.

Chanukah, currently underway, is the epitome of pirsumei nissa, publicizing a miracle. You might wonder why a miracle would need publicity. If it’s so wondrous, why shouldn’t it be etched in our collective memories forever?

Our Sages knew that the effects of a miracle soon wear off and that the only way to ensure that the lessons learned from them are preserved for posterity is by an annual commemoration. The fact that we eagerly anticipate, and joyously observe Chanukah 2150 years after the great miracle happened there is because it was publicized.

What was the Sages preferred venue for publicizing a miracle?

The answer comes from the next holiday, Purim.

Mordechai and Esther dispatched letters to the 127 nations in their kingdom, informing the Jews that they were adding a new holiday to the Jewish calendar. In those days, there were no alternate methods of communication, such as phones and email. Today, some 2,367 years after the Purim letters were sent out, and despite technological advances that enable lightning-fast forms of communication, mail is still alive and kicking. That too, is somewhat miraculous, considering the US Postal Service’s many financial woes, which is now forcing them to cut services.

How can we be certain that mail is still king, or at least prince? From looking at our prospective crop of presidential candidates!

I just finished reading a piece called: The Secret Weapon of Modern Political Campaigns, by Sasha Issenberg. The secret weapon is not what the candidates might be thinking about firing off into Iran. It’s what they plan on lobbing into your mailbox.

While, on the surface, mail may seem poorly suited for our accelerated times, says Issenberg, it remains the one way to guarantee reaching every voter, because mailing addresses are more accessible than phone numbers or email addresses. “Campaigns have timed their mail programs under the assumption that voters check their mailboxes daily,” writes Issenberg, who adds that the managers of high-budget, sophisticated campaign machines are wringing their hands at the prospects of the loss of Saturday mail delivery.

Why is mail so important to them? Don’t people just throw unsolicited campaign fliers into the trash?

No! “Mail also remains the preferred vehicle for campaigns looking to reach niche audiences on sensitive topics, or hot-button issues,” says Issenberg.

This is a crucial point applicable to many of us who deal every day with niche audiences. The mail is the only way in which a campaign can select a target audience likely to be responsive to your message.

If you give the matter more thought, mail can’t fail. Checking the mail is part of our daily schedule, even if only to prevent our kids from grabbing it first. How much attention each piece receives is, of course, a question of relevance, but every piece gets at least a glance.  

Dustin Lefebvre, a print and direct marketing specialist, puts it more elegantly. “Print delivers a uniquely engaging and tangible experience. It’s a quietly insistent communication that integrates well into any campaign.” He lists the following advantages:

  • Stand out among the crowd. According to a 2010 Epsilon survey, consumers 18-34 prefer to receive marketing information offline, from mail and newspapers.
  • Target the right people. What Issenberg said about voters, holds true for consumers. Lefebvre says direct mail is a powerful form of one-on-one communication and even has the ability to re-establish and reactivate relationships with dormant customers.
  • Track your results. Direct mail is directly measurable. It facilitates a process of continuous improvement through testing and it stays responsible to the numbers. The end result is an engaged and happy consumer.

An objection I sometimes hear to using direct mail is that it entails renting lists and many of the addresses are not current, thus lowering the odds of success. It is a given that when you rent a list, some 25% of it will be off, but that also means that 75% of it is accurate! It’s a good percentage play. What baseball player wouldn’t like to bat .750?

This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Make your own miracle. Give direct mail a chance.

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