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Case Study: Selling Breakfast with Multi-Channel Direct Mail

Date: June, 2012 --

Some multi-channel direct marketing projects are enormously complex and expensive to conduct. Others can be remarkably cost-effective at a less than grandiose cost or price. A recent direct mail case study from the award-winning Texas restaurant chain Café Express is a good example of the latter.

The company operates in the cities of Dallas, Austin and Houston and prides itself on its fresh handmade food. It has been very successful in the lunch and dinner categories and has a reputation (also its motto) for "Great Fast Food". This emanates from the skills of its owner, Chef Robert Del Grande. According to the company's website, "Café Express has always been distinguished by its "made from scratch" philosophy. Every day we chop our own vegetables, and we make our own chunky chocolate brownies from scratch."

The company had recently entered the breakfast market, but customer response was still pretty sleepy. In fact, some modest research disclosed that most people didn't associate the chain with breakfast, since its reputation was built on its lunch and dinner menus. That being the case, the solution was clear: market.

The campaign's objectives were obvious: Raise customer awareness about the breakfast offer and generate traffic. The initial target population would be local customers identified from the company's database of email subscribers, online customers and catering clients. 

The campaign adopted a multimedia approach which included direct mail, online and social media. The direct mail approach was relatively simple: Invite the local customers to breakfast. It selected 20,000 local lunch or dinner customers to receive a direct mail offer. Social media outlets were used for word-of-mouth message multiplication, otherwise known by the technical term ‘buzz”.

The 20,000 local customers received personalized direct mail packages which included a redeemable breakfast gift card and a personalized URL link. (We don't know if the company earned last Summer's 3% discount from the USPS by putting a QR code to the PURL on the envelope, but if you’re interested in this summer’s discount be sure to read USPS Mobile Barcode Redux from this month’s newsletter.) Letter copy invited the recipients to use their PURL to activate their gift cards in order to claim the free breakfast. While on the website, people were prompted to complete an online survey which harvested useful demographic and customer habit data. With the survey completed, the activation process was finished and the card became redeemable at any Café Express location in Dallas or Houston. 

With regard to the social media link, customers who visited their PURL were also empowered to inform others of the free breakfast offer by posting on Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook.  Doing so was incentivized by entering those sharing the promotion with their social network into a prize draw for a $100 gift certificate.

By any measure this was a very successful campaign. The total response rate was 24% and, judging from the logins at the PURLs, the 20,000 direct mail packages accounted for 62% of that response. 20% of the respondents activated their gift cards by mentioning this offer on social networking sites. The demographic questions disclosed that the Café Express customer tended to be a woman in her 40s and comfortably well off with a household income exceeding $100,000.

Seems like a fairly straight-forward campaign, but there was, of course, a data challenge. Names and addresses had to be correct and current, and the PURLs had to have the names correct. Internal letter and PURL copy was also personalized or the gift card wouldn’t properly activate. And of course if you didn’t know who the survey respondent was, you wouldn’t have reliable data. Not to mention the fact that getting a woman’s age incorrect can bring dire consequences.

Whether you are looking to append business intelligence to better target within your existing database, need to build a marketing database from scratch, or simply need to correct and validate the postal and/or email data within your file(s), talk to Data Services in advance of your next campaign to ensure your data delivers!