Case Study: Raising Direct Mail Response Rates with DHL Global Mail

The University of Dayton increased its response from prospective applicants by 100% by sending admissions literature in DHL Global Mail-branded envelopes.


A smarter way to send direct mail
For high school seniors, the college admissions process is about standing out in a crowd. The same is true for colleges themselves. They compete fiercely for the attention of prospective applicants as they market their institutions through direct mail. Students are inundated with admissions literature, making it difficult for colleges to set themselves apart.

The challenge of breaking through to direct mail recipients is not unique to colleges. But leave it to an institution of higher learning to implement a smarter solution. Working with DHL Global Mail, the University of Dayton is taking an innovative approach to ensure its mailings get opened. It sends letters in distinctive DHL Global Mail-branded envelopes, featuring the mail services provider’s familiar logo and corporate colors. This strategy has helped the college increase response rates and enrollment—all while cutting unnecessary mailing costs.

Before DHL Global Mail: One more in a mass of mailings
In the past, the University of Dayton sent letters to high school students via U.S. Postal Service Standard Mail. Sundar Kumarasamy, Vice President for Enrollment Management at the Ohio university, tried a variety of concepts in an attempt to differentiate his mailings from all the others. To illustrate the challenge, Kumarasamy cites a YouTube clip of a student piling his college admissions literature onto a scale. The needle nears the 160 lb. mark before the towering stack finally topples.

Kumarasamy sought a way to increase response—and, in turn, campus visits and admissions. He turned to DHL Global Mail for help making his mailings more unique. The university’s mailing partner provided an innovative solution: DHL Global Mail-branded envelopes. Like all domestic mail pieces sent with DHL Global Mail, a USPS Workshare partner, the envelopes are delivered by postal carriers on their regular routes. However, the 6” x 9.5” envelopes—constructed of coated cardstock—look nothing like ordinary mail.

“The branded envelope sends the message, you are important—not bulk mail to us,” Kumarasamy says. “It’s a way to stay authentic and relevant and make a statement about being effective and efficient.”

Raising response while reducing costs
Reaction to the DHL Global Mail-branded envelopes has been extremely positive, Kumarasamy says. For one thing, students are pleasantly surprised by the delivery method. The new approach has also proven successful in more quantifiable ways.
With DHL Global Mail, the University of Dayton knows when its mailings will arrive in homes. This information has allowed the college to create special landing pages on its website to track campaign results. Before the envelope switch, the site saw about 2,000 visitors per day. That number skyrocketed to 4,000 in the first week after the DHL Global Mail-branded envelopes reached students—an incredible 100% increase in traffic. There were 2,500 site visits in the second week after the mailing and 3,000 in the third.

With the branded envelope, Kumarasamy says, the university “is able to garner the attention of prospective students and their families in an effective way. The letters we send in these envelopes have an important message regarding the merits of a University of Dayton education and address the accomplishments of the student. The envelope helps ensure that this message is received and creates greater brand awareness.”

Students who visit the landing pages can enter their personal information to request additional literature. These prospective applicants receive “viewbooks,” colorful books which market the University of Dayton in greater detail. Viewbooks are expensive to produce and mail, so by targeting recipients more precisely in this way, the college can run its mail program more cost-efficiently.

Increased admissions and international growth plans
Besides higher response rates, several other statistics underscore the success of the University of Dayton’s new approach to direct marketing. Campus visits have increased. More importantly, admissions are up. The college far surpassed its enrollment goal of 1,750 students, reaching 2,065 for 2010. That represents a 3% increase over the previous year and the highest enrollment level since 1967. The university hopes that with the use of the DHL Global Mail strategy, it will be able to capitalize on this momentum. In addition, the University of Dayton hopes to attract more international students—particularly from Asia, South America and Russia. It will tackle this challenge with the help of DHL Global Mail-branded envelopes, building on the success of its smarter direct mail strategy.