Increase Route Density With This Direct Mail Approach


The leanest lawn care companies have the most dense routes. Dense routes make you more profitable by capitalizing on your ideal customer, reducing wear-and-tear on your vehicles and equipment, reducing driving time, and allows you to get to more properties in less time. Getting more lawn care customers in general might be a good solution to growing your profitability, but getting more customers in the neighborhoods where you’re already working is the best way to achieve maximum profitability.

Marketing through digital means such as Google or Facebook are great ways to increase your clients, but nothing compares to the specific route targeting you can get from saturation or targeted mail. And no, we’re not talking about Every Door Direct mail

Targeted Saturation Mail, Not EDDM

When most people in the industry think of mail, they think of EDDM. A simple postcard that looks just like the ones your competition sends out, blanketing carrier routes with less than stellar redemption rates (around 1%). However, there are other direct mail methods out there with more than quadruple the response rate, such as a saturation or a targeted piece.Saturation allows us to blanket zip codes, and even drill down to carrier routes (neighborhoods) while also avoiding apartments and active/current customers. With EDDM, you don’t have that kind of control. You can pick your carrier routes, but you will still be spending money on irrelevant deliveries.

Skip EDDM and try a saturation mailing. Here’s how it works.

Pick Your Target Area

First, you want to start off by picking your targeted area (preferably by zip code). This is going to be the widest target we start with. Targeting by zip codes is the easiest to do in just about any medium and it’s one of the most narrow targeting methods with digital marketing.

But with saturation mail, we can get more granular.

direct mailPick Your Top Carrier Routes and Rank Them

The post office divides zip codes even further with “carrier routes”. These routes have unique codes just like zip codes. A carrier route code will feature the first two numbers of the zip code followed by their own sequence of numbers.

In the Naperville, IL zip code of 60540, you will have multiple carrier routes: 40C001, 40C004, 40C010, and so on.

There are a lot of carrier routes in a zip code so it’s helpful to narrow this down by only picking your top routes.

That might look something like this:

direct mailIt might be hard to determine what the most profitable routes are just by looking at a map, but you can assess that from two perspectives.

The first is where your existing customers are. This will give you route density in areas you’re already in. These people already envy your active customers for their lawn. Let’s send them a strong offer so they can have that too! The second one is where you want to have more customers. This could be higher income neighborhoods, neighborhoods where you’re trying to gain market share, or neighborhoods close to ones you already have high route density.

This is why it’s always good to pull the data for these routes into a spreadsheet like this:

direct mailThere are many data companies that your direct mail company has likely partnered with that can pull information on carrier routes like this that include:

  • How many homes are in that route
  • Whether it’s a single or multi-family home
  • What the average income of those homes are, and more

This is where the most value in saturation comes. From here, we can pick our top carrier routes (just like we did with the maps), but we can even see what opportunities lie in other carrier routes with household income and the number of single family homes.

Suppress Existing Customers From the Mailing

What you don’t want to do is hit your existing customers’ mailboxes within these routes. This is where making sure you have a CSV file of your customer list from your CRM is going to come in handy. From here, you can add your existing customer list to the targeting criteria as a suppression. When the printer receives the mailing file, all of your existing customers will be removed from the total target.

In other words, they might receive two files, one with 11,000 names in it and another with 1,000 names (your customers). When the addresses are printed, only 10,000 will mail out. As mentioned earlier, you don’t necessarily want to only suppress your existing customers – you might want to suppress multi-family homes and exclude carrier routes with low household incomes from your mailing as well.

All of this is possible with a saturation mailing.

Give Them a Reason to Call You

A lot of direct mail pitfalls don’t usually come from the audience or the mailing. They come from the content of the mail.

If your piece isn’t engaging, it isn’t going to get people to call you. You have to assume you’re not the only lawn care company sending mail to this potential customer. If they are a potential customer to you, then they are to someone else as well. Make sure your direct mail piece is physically different than the ones your competitors are sending out. If it stands out, it will get noticed, and if it gets noticed, it will get read.

Now that we have the customer’s attention, always be sure to include an offer on your postcard — and make it strong. Something like “1 free treatment with an annual lawn care program” or “15% off if they prepay for the season”. What we have found works well are giveaways – something like a chance to win a free year of lawn maintenance. Even if they don’t sign up for services, you can still capture the lead information with that enticing giveaway. Just make sure there is no purchase necessary. You don’t want to get yourself into a “lottery” situation if you don’t have a lottery license.

Track Your Results

Finally, I can’t stress this enough… track your results! Direct mail isn’t as easily trackable as digital marketing, but there are plenty of ways that you can.

You should always know if a particular marketing method worked and what the ROI of that effort was.

With direct mail, you can set up call tracking numbers on the postcards, send people to a specific landing page using a QR code printed on the piece, ask people how they heard about you, and have them reference the specific deal on the postcard. Our favorite is sending recipients to a landing page to register for the giveaway. Your direct mail partner should be able to create a promotional landing page for you that can track form submissions.

Direct mail can get a bad name for low response rates and low traceability, especially with EDDM. When you think through your options, offers, and get creative with tracking its performance, direct mail can have response rates over 5%. We always advise speaking with a direct mail professional to understand what your options and targeting capabilities are.

Wilson is the Vice President of Inside the Box Marketing, a direct mail marketing company for the service and hospitality industries.

(All images courtesy of author.)