Maximizing the Effectiveness of Direct Mail

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David Waggoner
Vice President
Premier Communications

Direct mail, properly utilized, can effectively project the impression you seek to establish with prospective students and can be influential in the college selection process. Quality direct mail correspondence can generate interest, encourage students to apply for admission and significantly increase yield. 

Most colleges and universities budget a considerable amount of money to produce professional, 4-color recruitment literature. A great deal of time and effort are devoted to finding just the right words and images to create a great first impression, sustain interest and position the institution in a positive light. Unfortunately, not as much attention is always devoted to other types of correspondence. Don’t make this mistake! Keep these points in mind: 

        personalize your correspondence

        • use high quality materials

        • present a consistent image and message 

Sure, it’s easy to send out a letter addressed to “Dear Prospective Student” since you won’t have to worry about matching the letter to the envelope, but what sort of impression does this create in the mind of the recipient? Colleges and universities invest resources emphasizing individual experiences and personal attention. This impression must be reinforced by a personalized approach to communication. Individualize all direct mail to prospective students and parents. 

It may seem a good idea to reduce the cost of a direct mail series by utilizing a lesser quality letter stock. The quality of the letterhead used in a direct mail series, however, will either reinforce or contradict the impression of high quality you have sought to establish with prospective students. You may save a few cents on each letter by using a less expensive window envelope, but don’t most bills come in this sort of envelope? Is anyone ever happy to get a bill in the mail? Do you really want this sort of subliminal association in the mind of the person you’re recruiting? Pay attention to the quality of materials and print. 

Even if representatives in the Admission Office are on the mark in these areas, their colleagues around campus may be unintentionally sabotaging the efforts. Research tells us that most high school graduates deposit at more than one school. Sending in a tuition deposit is just one step in the decision making process – it’s a placeholder used while prospective students make a final choice about where to enroll. The image of quality constructed over months of communication with a prospective student can be destroyed if the Director of Student Services or the Registrar’s Office sends out poor quality communications in window envelopes that are not personalized. Often, representatives in other offices do not understand the importance high quality communication. 

Representatives in the Admission Office should review every piece of correspondence and coordinate all communication sent to prospective students. They should work collaboratively with other institutional constituencies to discuss branding and image. The focus must be on a consistent message and quality is critical. 

A direct mail campaign that emphasizes quality, personalization and is well coordinated can effectively support recruitment efforts.


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