2018 Recognition Market: Tech Partnering, Wellness & Non-cash Awards

AccuList USA recently completed proprietary research on hundreds of top performing lists of employee recognition and incentive product buyers to support clients in a business-to-business marketplace that now encompasses close to 90% of companies.

89% of Companies Committed to Recognition Spending

In fact, the 2017 “Trends in Employee Recognition” report from WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, found 89% of surveyed organizations committed to recognition programs, with 65% offering between three and six different programs, from companywide (81%) to individual (69%) to department/team (67%). The top five recognition programs rewarded length of service (85%); above-and-beyond performance (77%); programs to motivate behaviors associated with the business initiatives, such as customer service (51%); peer-to-peer recognition (49%); and retirement (34%).  Certificates and/or plaques remain the most awarded recognition item, at 80% of respondents, followed by cash (55%), gift certificates/cards (45%), company-logo merchandise (40%), and food, such as a lunch or pizza party (39%). For incentive and recognition marketers, targeting can mainly focus on two departments responsible for administering programs: human resources (59%) and compensation (22%).

2018 Trends Include Brand Culture, Tech Partnering, & Wellness

The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2018 Trends Study” offers recognition and incentive marketers more guidance on changing demand trends. For one, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality capabilities will be a “fundamental requirement” for vendors and suppliers looking to partner with incentive professionals in 2018, per IRF. Marketers also will want to push wellness messaging, since more incentive professionals are adding health and wellness components focused on fitness, food, and comfort to their incentive programs this year compared with other features, says the report. And when it comes to merchandise products, incentive buyers in 2018 don’t want more choice as much as more “impactful products,”  such as products with local sourcing or organic roots and products that can be easily personalized and customized. The desire to build a brand-asset culture around intangibles, such as innovation, as well as traditional assets is one factor pushing these non-cash awards in 2018, notes the report. On the other hand, gift cards will continue to gain momentum this year, according to the IRF, which says mid-size firms spend an average of nearly $500,000 annually on gift cards across all programs, while large ones spend over $1 million annually. Finally, although incentive travel makes up a small part of the recognition pie, the incentive travel industry’s net optimism score for the economy is up almost 20 points from 2017 in the IRF report, leading to budget increases despite rising costs. For more on top incentive trends, see http://www.incentivemag.com/News/Industry/IRF-Top-Incentive-Trends-2018/

 

 

New Marketing Trends Bolster Food Gifting Growth

One of AccuList USA’s areas of specialization is providing mailing lists, data services and marketing support for the food and wine gift market, and so we keep an eye on emerging trends in this growth industry. In fact, food gift sales will approach $20 billion in 2018, up 4% over last year, per the “Food Gifting in the U.S.: Consumer and Corporate” report for 2018-2020 by research firm Packaged Facts.

Holiday Sales Dominate, But New Trends Push Overall Growth

Marketing dollars will naturally focus on year-end sales, since, while consumers and businesses are giving food baskets across a wider variety of occasions today, ranging from anniversaries to graduations to birthdays, Christmas is still the food and wine gifting mainstay. More than half of the 130 million consumer food gifters purchasing in the last 12 months bought during the winter holiday season. But how can food gift marketers push sales growth year-round? One key factor will be continued innovation that creates exclusivity and artisanship, avoiding the commoditization that drains profit with discounting, notes the report. To support that kind of brand power, marketing efforts will need to embrace the kind of story telling that creates a sense of authenticity and uniqueness and builds a gourmet brand image. Capturing the high-end boutique buyer can require a softer sales approach that aims at building knowledge and trust, say via featured recipes as an example. Food gift marketers also need to continue expanding gifting occasions beyond holidays, not only for consumers but also for the lucrative corporate market, by pushing work anniversary and thank-you gestures for example. Finally, while the food gifting market is heavily dependent on older, high-income consumers, tapping into millennials will require a more omnichannel approach that takes into account millennial ordering preferences, stresses the Packaged Facts report.

Embracing Omnichannel Marketing Options

An omnichannel wooing of millennials will combine direct mail/catalogs with e-mail, social media and e-commerce strategies. While traditional direct mail continues as a food gifting workhorse, a strong online presence and SEO strategy is especially essential. Luxury biscuit gift company Biscuiteers provides an example of how it matters: The company increased their website traffic from new customers by 90% and SEO revenue by 77% in 6 months by optimizing category landing pages for different types of food gift buyer and season. E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with a good e-mail strategy. For example, the venerable Hickory Farms brand decided to improve the quality of its customer data and create a more agile e-mail campaign process by integrating its marketing and commerce tech to trigger consumer journeys and automated e-mail sends. E-mail inbox placement this year rose to 94%, almost 10% above industry standard, plus e-mail list growth improved. Hickory Farms CMO Judy Ransford explained to CMO magazine that the smarter list management “helps us deliver e-mails at the frequency customers want, and to make sure the content quality is better. This year we’ve seen a huge improvement and not such high attrition rates as a result.” Social media also has become a must-have for food gifting via leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram for consumers and LinkedIn for corporate prospecting. That should increase gift-basket marketer interest in AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct program, which is designed to link targeted direct mail with Facebook ads or e-mails to the same recipients.

Who’s Winning in 2018 Gift Basket Ratings?

By the way, marketers looking for successful food gifting models should check out Top Ten Reviews’ 2018 ratings. We’re happy to note that our client Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Gourmet Choice Gift Basket was awarded best overall value for 2018 in a test of 11 gift baskets from the leading gift basket companies. Top-rated winners delivered on value for the price in terms of food and wine taste; presentation; ease of payment; delivery speed, options and geographic coverage; range of baskets; special options such as kosher, vegan and organic; offers of extras such as add-on wine, tea, books, puzzles, etc; and, of course, quality customer support. To read more, see the review of best gift baskets of 2018.

 

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

Promotional Product Marketers Can Hone Proven Tools

AccuList USA recently completed a proprietary analysis of the top-performing direct mail and e-mail lists for promotional products companies to help buttress the continued success of this evergreen marketing tool.

A Message About Proven Success

Promotional product providers already have some powerful arguments in wooing business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers. For example, per industry surveys, eight in 10 consumers have one to 10 promotional products, 53% use the giveaways at least once a week, and 60% retain the products for up to two years. Before receiving a promotional product, 55% surveyed had done business with the advertiser, but after receiving a promotional product, 85% did business with the advertiser. With promotional products delivering such regular, repeated brand exposure and enhanced outreach, it’s no wonder the U.S. promotional products industry is forecast to generate $24 billion in 2018, growing at 2.5 % annually.

Many Industries Worth Wooing

Plus, while not every industry is a good target for a promotional product pitch, prospective buyers abound. A recent post by Designhill, a graphic design platform, cited some top promotional users they have supported. Real estate promotions lead in distributing branded notepads, keychains, calendars, magnets, door hangers and more, for example. The education sector often offers writing instruments, apparel, water bottles, folders, and frisbees at college fairs, seminars, expos and open houses. In today’s competitive healthcare market, clinics, hospitals, outpatient clinics and surgery centers go beyond branded tote bags to first-aid kits and custom ice packs. Nonprofits are big consumers of tumblers, tote bags, wristbands and lanyards, while banks, credit unions and insurance firms opt to reward both employees and new accounts with everything from travel bags and mugs to fidget spinners. With the midterm elections ahead, don’t forget that political candidates are a big market for flags, stickers, decals, apparel and hats (following in MAGA footsteps). On a global basis, the top 25 promotional products purchasers include seven from the consumer-goods industry, six from the communications industry, and a dozen more from pharmaceutical, technology and automotive industries.

Targeted Data Available for Mail, Digital & Social

The key to success is targeted data. Promotional products are visual sales, which is why direct mail and catalogs using targeted mailing lists have such a role in the industry. Now social media options such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn also allow for visual, targeted promotions, including video. And tools like AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct can link highly targeted direct mail with social media advertising on Facebook, or send direct mail with timely opt-in e-mail to the same recipients. In a digital world, house e-mail databases, enhanced by LinkedIn connections, lead capture forms or event contacts, are very cost-effective marketing tools for promotional products—as long as the e-mail database is accurate, up-to-date and targeted, which is among the data support services that AccuList USA also offers promotional product clients.

 

 

 

How to Boost E-mail Lead Gen for B2B Publishers, Marketers

E-mail is a favorite lead gen channel for business-to-business publishers and marketers that AccuList USA supports with e-mail lists and database services. It’s no surprise that close to 90% of B2B marketers use e-mail to generate new leads when the latest data from the DMA shows e-mail marketing delivers an average $43 return for every $1 spent. But that doesn’t mean B2B e-mails are a guaranteed success. B2B e-mailers may want to benchmark their efforts against a recent infographic from EmailMonks that offers proven ways to help boost those all-important open and click rates. Some of those include:

Personalizing, Segmentation & Preferences

Marketers personalize e-mails because 91% get better open and click rates when they do, and that means going beyond using a first name to targeted, personalized content based on demographics, purchase and browsing history, subscriber interests, etc. Achieving that quality targeted personalization requires good list segmentation; blasting a one-size-fits-all message to the whole e-mail list is a recipe for low response. Segmenting by age, gender, preferences, purchase history and more delivers 14.31% higher opens and 100.95% higher clicks than non-segmented list campaigns, notes the EmailMonks infographic. Executing that personal touch also means permission-based e-mail that respects recipient preferences for how often and when they are contacted, so give subscribers the chance to manage the number and timing of e-mails. But what about before they  subscribe? Data shows that the average B2B recipient is most likely to open a 10 a.m. Saturday e-mail, to click on a 10 a.m. Tuesday e-mail, and to respond to an 8 a.m. Tuesday e-mail. Entrepreneurs and workaholics open, click and respond best to those Saturday morning e-mails!

Winning Subject Lines & CTAs

As the infographic points out, 35% of e-mails are opened based on the subject line alone. What makes up a winning subject line? Brevity is the soul of subject line wit; with 54% of e-mails opened on a mobile device, a subject line of around three words scores higher since most mobile devices can show only four to seven words across the screen. Personalization counts big, too; personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than general ones. And finally, the content counts; it’s less about click-bait attention grabbing than about a topic that matters to the recipient. Once the e-mail is opened, the crafting of a good call-to-action (CTA) will drive more click-throughs. The CTA should be noticeable and  “above-the fold”; in fact most brands prefer to place a CTA in the top third of an e-mail, and 48% match the CTA colors to their brand logos. Oh, and make sure the CTA links to an effective, mobile-optmized landing page, too.

B2B E-mails to Emulate

Looking for specific examples? SuperOffice, a CRM supplier, offers 17 B2B e-mail templates based on actual successful e-mails for B2B marketers to emulate. The templates include welcome e-mails, curated content e-mails, company announcement e-mails, new article e-mails, video e-mails, product update e-mails, reactivation e-mails, gated content e-mails, webinar e-mails, event invitation e-mails, case study e-mails and more. See https://www.superoffice.com/blog/b2b-email-marketing-examples/

 

B2B Event Marketers Miss Out With Slow Lead Follow-up

When business-to-business marketers successfully build event attendance and booth traffic to maximize lead generation, they are disappointed and baffled by a smaller than expected sales harvest. One of the reasons for poor lead conversion, as it turns out, is a simple lack of timely lead follow-up! With better systems and planning, we hope AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketing clients will outdo the benchmarks for post-event lead processing revealed in a recent study by Certain, an event automation provider.

Sluggish Lead Prep, Tech Gaps Delay Follow-up

As reported by Direct Marketing News, Certain found that just 2% of the 150 B2B marketing-decision makers surveyed said they follow up with event leads the same day. A quarter follow up in one to three days, 29% follow up in four to six days, and 27% follow up in seven to 13 days. And another 12% said this process takes two to four weeks, with the slowest-moving 6% saying it takes them more than a month to reach out! Why are almost half of those surveyed taking more than a week to contact prospects? Lead processing is a key problem, with 57% of the study’s participants saying it can take hours to manually get leads “sales ready” for follow-up, and 23% reporting that the prep process takes a few days. Surveyed marketers blamed the sluggish prep time on a variety of reasons: 23% of respondents cited lack of technological tools, 15% blamed lack of organization, 11% claimed the delay was intentional, and 7% admitted to simple procrastination.

Slow Lead Follow-up Has Real Costs

Unfortunately, correcting slow lead processing doesn’t seem to be a priority with many marketers. The Certain study found that despite generally slow lead processing, 72% of respondents are “somewhat” or “completely” satisfied with their lead follow-up time.  That complacency has a cost that marketers are ignoring, we would point out. Most event marketing pros urge a 48-hour follow-up window to try to stay ahead of competitors. In fact, according to a study from InsideSales, 30% to 50% of leads are closed by the vendor who follows up with them first. Slow lead processing also can result in a smaller harvest of contacts post-event. For example, while a quarter of those in Certain’s survey expect to contact 200-999 leads per event, that is balanced by another quarter expecting to reach only 10-49 leads. E-mail is the main form of follow-up, per Certain’s survey of marketers; 52% of respondents rely on this channel first to reach leads. Some professionals do initiate follow-up via phone (23%), social media (18%), or direct mail (7%). No wonder 96% of those polled are focused on adding leads’ e-mail addresses to their databases for future campaigns.

Unhappy With Event Data Collection? Join the Crowd

Even if their lead processing is speedy and they succeed in gathering e-mail contacts, marketers are generally dissatisfied with the quality of their lead data. Clearly, successfully tailoring sales pitches to leads requires more than a name and e-mail address. In Certain’s study, 82% of participants said they wish they captured more information about each individual lead at their events. The method of data collection is one issue. In collecting data at events, the largest group, 42%, said they rely on manual data entry through computers or tablets, followed by 31% who turned to business cards and sign-up sheets, and 27% who relied on electronic scanners.

For more on the Certain’s event leads study, see the DM News article.

 

 

New Tech Energizes Trade Show & Conference Marketing

AccuList USA has long experience in helping trade show and conference marketers with targeted lists and data services. But we also support an expanded event marketing approach that goes beyond promotion to engage audiences at every touchpoint in a multi-channel world, as a recent post for the Trade Show News Network (TSNN) blog promotes. Luckily, that is easier than ever thanks to emerging event technology trends.

Social Amplification & Content Digitization

Any event pro not using social media to the fullest is missing a key tool in building audience per TSNN’s “Top 10 Tech Trends” by Matt Coyne, Technology Engagement Architect at GES EMEA and a 10-year veteran of the events and exhibitions industry. By making it easy for registrants to share their attendance with their own social media networks, marketers can amplify an event and reach new potential attendees that can’t be reached directly.  Social media can also work in tandem with traditional channels, as with our Digital2Direct tool matching postal records to Facebook users for targeted social ads. Just as important as the boost in registrations is the increase in registration-to-attendee conversion driven by social media engagement, Coyne adds. Digitized content is then the engagement tool that creates an interactive event experience, building repeat attendance and luring prospects via social sharing. For example, Coyne cites the growth of devices like “Smart Badges,” which act as a digital briefcase for attendees to collect digitized content. And tools like Facebook Live increase the dissemination and sharing of digital content.

Gamification, AI, and Selected Apps

Digitized content also can be leveraged with gamification to increase event participation, say by awarding points for Smart Badge usage with exhibitor contacts, speaker downloads, session attendance, etc. and then posting competitive results. Event planners can then help boost participation at less popular sites and activities by boosting their points. AI is another way to help expand attendee experiences; an example is the use of chatbot software to answer attendee questions and offer learned guidance. Finally, there are event-specific apps. Although Coyne provocatively declares apps “dead,” he really means that cost-effective use of apps today must be selective. Not every event needs to spend for an app, but a large conference can benefit from an app that enables visitors to track their schedules or from a dedicated lead-capture app.

Facial Recognition: Security & Feedback

Facial recognition software has recently been in the news, and Coyne sees it as a future boon for some trade shows and conferences. Consider how facial recognition at high-security events could decrease the hassle of on-site screening requiring multiple forms of ID, creation of photo IDs, and so on. Plus, facial recognition software that can recognize emotion could also be used inside halls and conference rooms to get real-time feedback from attendees, and thus a chance for planners to react and improve audience experience, Coyne suggests.

For more of Coyne’s tech trends, see the full blog post.

 

These Tech Trends Likely to Drive 2018 Direct Mail Success

Because direct mail data and support services are at the heart of AccuList USA’s expertise, we are always delighted to pass along tips on how to use direct mail more successfully in multi-channel marketing strategy. A blog post by Postalytics, a self-serve direct mail automation tool, recently mined multiple expert sources for the most influential direct mail trends of 2018, ranging from creative to technology to mailing strategy. If you have any lingering doubt over adding interactive technology to traditional snail mail, just take a look at the article’s top mail technology trends for this year.

Automation and Integration: Speedy, Targeted Production

Unsurprisingly, automation purveyor Postalytics puts mail automation software at the top of the list, but they get plenty of industry support. Automation allows marketers to quickly generate high-quality, personalized and trackable letters and postcards by leveraging templates, digital cues and automated workflows, cutting direct mail production cycles from 4-6 weeks down to 1 week. That automation also allows marketers to maximize response by integrating triggered direct mail into any step in the buyer’s journey, online or offline, so that mail delivery taps into the appropriate timing, content and call-to-action.

Linking Offline to Online: AR, QR and PURL

Interactive, mobile-scanned Augmented Reality apps and QR codes, as well as personal urls (PURLs) linked to targeted content-specific landing pages, allow direct mailers to connect offline marketing’s printed paper with online marketing’s digital pages, images, animations and videos. Studies show that combining snail mail with interactive digital is key to greater overall campaign response and ROI.

Enhanced Data Targeting and Personalization

The magic wand of quality, enhanced data can be waved over direct mail to match the right message to the right people at the right time. Good mailing list data allows for targeting based on shopping habits and needs, retargeting and cross-selling, recapturing and reactivating of lost prospects and customers, leveraging of trigger events and personal preferences, and more–provided there is a commitment to quality database hygiene and processing. Customer and prospect data lists need to be up-to-date, de-duped and accurate, and mailings must use cost-effective advanced postal address hygiene and pre-sorting. In addition to cost-effective, high-response targeting, good mailing data allows for sophisticated content personalization far beyond simply inserting a name, the kind of personalization that has become a basic expectation of customers. Marketers can even create personalized coupon codes that deliver a much higher ROI than generic coupon codes; these unique codes make customers feel valued on an individual level.

For 2018 direct mail trends in creative design and mailing strategies, see https://www.postalytics.com/blog/direct-mail-marketing-trends-for-2018/ 

 

 

 

Print Catalogs Still a Key Multichannel Merchant Tool

Despite the growth of e-commerce, printed catalogs retain their important marketing role for AccuList USA’s B2B and B2C catalog clients, and recent data from Multichannel Merchant‘s 2018 State of the Catalog survey highlights that trend.

Print Catalogs Boost Brands, Push Digital Traffic

A big majority of the merchants surveyed (84.2% ) by Multichannel Merchant (MCM) said they continue to use print catalogs as a channel to reach customers. Their commitment to the traditional print catalog comes from its value as a multipurpose marketing tool. For example, branding led the ranking of main print catalog goals, with an 8.86 out of 10 rating. Branding was followed by web and mobile traffic driver and customer retention (both ranked at 8.14), reactivation (7.57), and prospecting and store traffic spur (6.43).  Meanwhile, though measuring catalog effectiveness remains a matter of debate among merchants, a majority (57.1%) do have a formal measurement program, whether via matchbacks, tracking codes, response analysis or segmentation testing.

Frequency, Page Counts & Circulation Hold Steady

Although merchants continue to seek maximum ROI by testing page counts and formats, the majority surveyed by MCM (83.3%) maintained the same page counts in 2017, and 50% also reported the same circulation numbers. Looking ahead to 2018, 50% planned to increase page counts, but respondents split into thirds over increasing, decreasing or maintaining circulation size. As far as frequency, 83.3% said they would hold it steady for 2018.

Digital Catalogs Join Array of Print Formats

Most merchants surveyed (57.1%) rely on both a digital catalog and a standard 8.5X11 print catalog. But many also use a “slim jim” print format (14.3%) or, especially for B2B, annual “big books” (also 14.3%). Some retailers report they send out other types of direct mail pieces, such as small gatefolds or postcards with special offers. Digital page-flipper catalogs are also in use to reach customers between mailings and in areas not mailed (such as Europe). For more on the report, go to http://multichannelmerchant.com/marketing/state-catalog-alive-well/