How Direct Mail Retains Its Place in Marketing Tool Chests

Direct mail, perhaps because of its proven workhorse status, keeps a low profile in marketing trend articles, except for the periodic “direct mail isn’t dead” reminder. Yet, despite growing use of digital channels–web, e-mail, social, mobile–AccuList USA and its many mailing list and direct marketing clients join the majority of marketers in continuing to rely on direct mail. Why? Marketing data backs up direct mail’s proven response power and ROI.

Data Proves Mail’s Staying Power

In fact, Target Marketing magazine’s latest study “Marketing Mix Trends 2010-2016” shows that 69% of marketers surveyed either increased or held steady on direct mail spending in 2016. The 6% of marketers decreasing their mail budgets were the smallest group since 2010. A reason for direct mail’s survival as a go-to marketing channel can be seen in the the Data & Marketing Association’s 2016 “Response Rate Report.”  The report showed 2016 direct mail response rates leaping to 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest DMA-tracked response rates since 2003. By comparison, 2015’s reported rates were 3.7% and 1.0%, respectively. More significantly, no other channel in 2016 had response rates over 1%! Direct mail response allows it to compete in ROI despite higher costs, coming in third at 27%, close to social media’s 28% (e-mail leads ROI).

Basic Tactics Keep Winning for Direct Mail

Bottom line, direct mail’s evergreen power lies in delivering on direct marketing basics. To that end, industry pros–agencies, data brokers, printers, mailing houses and creative services–still need to guide clients toward success. Rather than exploring the diverse creative and tech-savvy ways to meet direct mail goals, it is easier to focus on a few big mail “don’ts,” and that’s the tack recently taken by Summer Gould of Target Marketing magazine in “5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail.” Obviously there are more than five missteps out there, but Gould chooses key, highly avoidable pitfalls: a hard-to-read font (yes, point size matters); dishonesty (seeking a sale at the cost of long-term customers and reputation); old, bad data in mailing lists (one of our bugaboos); a missing or unclear call-to-action (a response killer); and a promotional focus on features over benefits (a basic marketing no-no). Direct mail–no matter how loaded with interactive QR codes, variable data printing personalization and multi-channel customer analytics–will miss the mark if it misses on these basics! For more, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/5-things-not-to-do-in-direct-mail/

 

What Data Questions Should Agency Agreements Address?

As a data broker and data services provider, AccuList USA knows first-hand that the era of “big data” has created both greater opportunities and greater complications for marketers in terms of access and use of data. In fact, Advertising Audit and Risk Management (AARM), a North American provider of independent advertising audit and consulting services, recently urged advertisers and marketers to review agency contracts to make sure they address evolving “big data” issues.

Unanswered Data Questions Leave Risky Gaps

Data can drive a precisely targeted marketing strategy by leveraging insights from transactional and customer behavioral data–assuming that the advertiser/marketer has the right to receive and use that data. Based on their experience, AARM cites at least six key, but often unanswered, data questions that advertisers should cover in contracts. Those questions include:

  • Who owns the data?
  • Where is the data stored?
  • For how long?
  • How secure is the data?
  • Is the data kept separate from that of other advertisers?
  • Is your data being used to aid other advertisers?
Everybody Wants to Claim Valuable Data

AARM points out that data ownership is not automatically ceded to an advertiser or marketer despite investment in a media buy generating a data stream. Many within the media chain may try to claim the generated data: Ad agencies, trading desks, publishers, demand-side platforms, and third-party ad servers all may seek unrestricted access, if not ownership, of valuable customer data. That’s why marketers and advertisers need to be sure that legal agreements clearly and consistently spell out data ownership rights, privacy considerations and third-party access rights.

Guarding First-, Second- and Third-Party Data

Ownership and access to third-party data–often sourced from agencies and ad tech providers–is usually clearly spelled out in licensing agreements between stakeholders. But AARM notes that advertisers also need to be careful that second-party data, meaning information gathered indirectly from users via an advertiser’s relationship with another entity (such as an SEO platform or behaviorally targeted digital display ad), is used or shared in a privacy-compliant manner.  Advertisers must guard their first-party data, too, AARM cautions. For example, there are data privacy and security risks for first-party data used in programmatic digital and addressable TV buys, where unregulated, unsupervised use could violate privacy rights.

For AARM’s article, “Big Data. Big Deal. You Bet,” see https://marketingmath.aarmusa.com/2016/12/05/big-data-big-deal-you-bet/