Volume 36, Issue 6, June 2001



International Direct Mail

The Postman Never Rings Twice

by Rene Bergero

In an ideal world, we have an unlimited budget and our boss is blessed with infinite patience, so we can indulge in every promotional activity imaginable, including sponsoring the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament. Most such expenditures are well-beyond the means of all but a handful of companies. Truly cost-effective promotional efforts require a great deal of forethought and a keen awareness of any unique or unusual factors that could hamper or derail the program. Let’s take, for instance, one of the most tried and true promotional activities we use here in the United States: direct mail advertising. You can buy literally millions of business names and addresses, load these into your favorite contact management program, sort them in any number of ways and merge the data with a clever mail piece. You are also fairly certain that the post office will deliver the pieces to the intended recipients. Then you wait patiently for the fractional percentage that responds to these kinds of mailings to reply, and away you go.
Unfortunately, none of the preceding would work in most developing nations. The first problem is getting hold of the business lists. They are very difficult to obtain, and if available, can be very expensive. “But wait,” you say, “I remember reading in another issue of Going Global that most major metropolitan areas have trade missions from countries like Mexico, and if so, maybe I can get hold of some directories or even the Yellow Pages!” This is absolutely right, and in fact, it is a great way to get leads. 

Buyer Beware
Before going any further, let me caution you that at this point a mailing generated from such data will probably yield absolutely nothing. First of all, the addresses could be a problem. In countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua addresses read something like this: “from the Monument forty rods toward the lake, then three blocks down.” I’m not making this up! The only way to ensure your mail gets delivered is to use a courier or have it sent to a post office box. The former is much too expensive, and the latter may not be listed in your source material. Does this mean the end of your direct mail program? No, but you have to be resourceful. 

Utilize Trade Show Lists
This magazine, and others like it, provides a list of industry trade shows, some of which are international. My advice is that you contact the show’s organizer, and see if they would be willing to supply you with a list of all those who attended the previous year’s show. These people usually keep detailed records of who came to the show, and should contain useful business intelligence information far and beyond what can be obtained from directories or Yellow Pages. You may also want to explore the possibility of having the same organizer run, for a fee, the direct mail program itself, including the postage. I would even go so far as having them quote on the mailer’s printing costs, which can be much lower than here in the United States. 

It may take a little extra effort, but direct mail advertising can be a cost-effective means of promoting your products in export markets. 

Do you have questions or concerns about international business matters? E-mail them to rbergero@glass.com.


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