So… Why’d You Mail This To Me?

I received a piece of direct mail today from Energy Trust of Oregon.

On the front it said “Light up the Savings! Free!”, with a picture of a compact fluorescent light bulb. On the back was the offer — fill out the form and get four CFL bulbs for free. There’s only one problem:

I’m not eligible.

The offer is only for households who “heat with oil, propane, kerosene or wood… If you heat with electricity supplied by PGE or Pacific Power, or natural gas supplied by NW Natural, you are not eligible for this CFL offer.”

Thanks, guys! I’m a NW Natural customer, so the only useful thing I can do with this particular piece of junk mail is burn it for warmth.

Perhaps it’s not possible to separate out electric-heat households from the folks who just buy electricity for other stuff… but couldn’t they at least have bought a list of NW Natural customers and cleaned those households off the mailing list?

Instead they paid to print the piece and mail it — with a real first class stamp, no less — to thousands of households who will look at the offer, find it appealing, and then learn that they don’t qualify.

In addition to the money they wasted on the mailing, they’ve lost some credibility with those households, who are more likely to look askance at the next Energy Trust offer.

It’s a shame… as quasi-public institutions go, Energy Trust is one of the good guys. But this is a case of direct mail gone bad.


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6 thoughts on “So… Why’d You Mail This To Me?

  1. Loved the post, Tim. I recently encountered the email equivalent, and the networking-meeting equivalent, of “or current resident”:

    An insurance agent emailed me to ask if he could help me with my company’s insurance and benefits needs. He got my name right, but missed completely as to my job responsibilities.

    A couple of weeks later I met a guy at a business networking function. We chatted for a few minutes and exchanged business cards. The next day he emailed me to ask for his own show on my station.

    One of the most elementary rules of selling is… at least make sure you’re talking to the right person before you launch into your pitch. I don’t have anything to do with either benefits or programming, and these two jokers couldn’t be bothered to ask a few questions first.

  2. My thoughts were similar to Tims. I first thought “how much energy and money did they waste by not compiling an accurate list.” By sending out many extraneous mailings it seems, to me anyway, that they are undercutting their message of efficiency and thrift.

  3. Phil, on the relationship side of the discussion, it’s equivalent to a close friend of 10 years walking up to me and asking “What’s you name again”, it just make you wonder if this relationship is really what you think it is and shapes your behavior towards this person differently from that point forward.

  4. I agree with your question of why couldn’t they at least have bought a list of NW Natural customers and cleaned those households off the mailing list? Seems that doing a little research on the list could’ve saved alot of trees and money! As a marketer, research is key. How could they miss that?
    – Melody/Generous Marketing

  5. This is a classic example of a company not being fully aware of there target audience. All campaigns being with research, and it’s apparent Energy Trust of Oregon failed in that aspect. It seems that there should have been a way to filter through customers and determine who was eligible and who was not. Clearly, someone messed up. They probably wasted a lot of money and turned off some customers who were excited about the offer only to learn they were ineligible. Moreover, Energy Trust of Oregon is all about renewable energy, and protecting the environment, yet they wasted precious resources (paper, money, transportation) all because of a lack of research. This problem could most certainly have been avoided.