If you're doing a postal marketing campaign and you get a 5% response rate, you're doing really well - 19 out of 20 circular letters don't get any response, with a fair proportion of them going in the bin unopened. "Cost of Marketing and Sales".
How about an online campaign, then? Is that going to fare any better? With all the spam traffic that's around, surely an even higher proportion of bulk emails will disappear into the ether, never to be heard of again, won't they?
Our "Of Course" newsletter is being mailed out from the office in England this week, and we have a good list of clients, prospective clients, and "network" people to whom we send. It's not cheap printing and posting newsletters - the cost each is around 1.50, although much of the print cost is in the setup so that the cost per item drops as the run length increases. So where there's a contact who we've not heard from in a while, wouldn't it be sensible all around to ask if he wants a newsletter through an email ... perhaps it would, but are we going to suffer a catastrophic silence if we try?
So, lunchtime yesterday (the weekend here in Saudi Arabia), I tentatively fired off an announcement through a mailing list program (waste not, want not - an adaption of the program I use on the "save the train" site), pointing a random 10% of individuals to a series of links with which they could indicate their - one click - preference.
And I sat back an waited. And what happened?
At first, it was rather like vomitting in front of a mirror. A great wave of material spewed straight back into my inbox with the subject line masticated into DSN: failed ('Of Course' newsletter (1039) - Well House Consul)
. Hmmm - yes - I HAD anticipated that; five years is a lot of history in our database, and people and companies have moved on. How actually refreshing to get those returns - each and every one is a potential 1.50 saving straight away, though some bring a tear to the eye. Memories of a young and brilliant Matt with his guitar, and a somewhat older and more demanding Sheila who you couldn't help admiring even though in the end we had to turn around and say "we can't be your private tech support service" ... a hole is left when those emails bounce.
Then, after the wave, the shocked silence after the waters have passed.
Then - drip. Drip. Drip, drip. Subject: [oc] 2,1729 - email - as a .pdf file
. Just two minutes after the flood, lights started popping on - emails twinking into my mailbox - life that has survived the storm of time. Subject:[oc] 3,1513 - email - link to newsletter
and Subject: [oc] 5,1047 - email - at an updated email address
. Soon, like darkness falling a few little lights had turned into a twinkling sky, and it was all I could be doing to sending people links, adding little notes back on - "Do you remember that course in York", and "are you still using Tcl" and "is your PHP / MySQL project live yet? Some miracles too - folks I had thought would be long since moved on coming back and answering ...
I've no conclusion ... no moral to draw, no figures to quote to conclude this post; after a handful of hours - an afternoon - monitoring and answering. What I can reported it to being heartened - very heartened - by the responses, support and ongoing relationship with you our customers and other contacts.
If you're not familiar with our "Of Course" Magazine, you can find out more about it here. You can also use our mailing response script (though NOT the single click 'yes, you have me right' buttons as we can't identify web visitors by name ... for a copy by post or a copy by email or to sign up a colleague or even to have us contact you to discuss a training requirement
. (written 2006-05-26, updated 2006-06-05)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesG503 - Well House Consultants - Newsletter and publicity 
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Journalism 101 - (2011-02-11) 
Points West to Belfast - (2011-02-01) 
Another toot of the trumpet - (2010-07-16) 
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`Of Course` is back! - (2009-08-31) 
What should a web site cost you? - (2009-06-16) 
Building down expectations - (2009-04-09) 
A Presentation about our company - web and PHP - (2009-02-23) 
Dealing with The Press - (2008-07-06) 
Spam Filters ... are working! - (2008-06-11) 
A time to update pictures - (2008-01-03) 
An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30) 
Too many instructions, too much detail - (2007-02-23) 
Telling a story in different ways - (2007-02-20) 
One Thousand Posts and still going strong - (2006-12-18) 
Of course I'll tell you by email - (2006-10-25) 
New look to website - (2005-10-30) 
Final courses of '05 coming up .... - (2005-10-08) 
Targetted Advertising - (2005-06-05) 
What they are saying about our OF COURSE newsletter - (2005-04-16) 
Posting 1000 letters! - (2004-09-21) 
PHP - onwards and upwards - (2004-09-14)
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