Mail Dates vs. In-home Dates
Some catalogers prefer mailings that are based on in-home dates, while others use mail dates. There appears to be some confusion about which strategy to employ and why. Compounding this dilemma is the fact that some catalogers tend to use the terms “in-home dates” and “mail dates” interchangeably. But significant differences exist between the two.
This month I’ll explore the pros and cons of each. I’ll also try to provide guidance regarding which mailing strategy is right for your catalog-distribution plan.
Mail dates are defined as the day the mailing is to begin. The mailing generally takes place during a five-day period (if in a mail pool drop-ship program) beginning on the specified date.
An in-home date occurs when most of the catalogs being mailed hit in-home within a three-day window. Your printer will stagger the distribution by day so that about 90 percent of the total mailing reaches all customers and prospects within three days of one another. For example, a customer in California will get a catalog within three days of someone in New York.
When in-home dates are used, the printer determines the actual release date of the mail. But when mail dates are used, the cataloger specifies the dates.
Whichever method you prefer (in-home vs. mail dates), consistently use one method or the other.
Next, I’ll review how a printer’s mail-distribution plan works when mail dates and in-home dates are used.
When mail dates are used: Take the example of a Maine-based catalog printer that may begin its pool shipments on a Monday and run through Friday or Saturday of that week. So catalogs may leave for Boston on Monday but trucks don’t depart for California until Friday, which means catalogs ultimately would be delivered during a longer period of time. The Boston and California mail probably would arrive in-home about 10 days apart.