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/ 

 

 

 

Museum Mates Social, Video and Events in New Campaign

AccuList USA’s museum marketing clients are always looking for innovative ways to reach the target audience. A recent article in the Chicago Business Journal spotlights how the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago dove into innovative multi-channel marketing after 20 years without an advertising campaign.

Videos Pack Punch in 6-Second Bouts

Lauren Smallwood, MCA’s director of communications, had a story to tell about exciting changes at the museum: a new restaurant, a new artist’s exhibition, a new “social engagement space,” and a program offering event rental space. The question was how to best leverage that story to entice audience. The museum and its agency decided to harness the proven marketing power of video. They developed a series of visually-arresting 6-second videos that both grab attention and prompt curiosity about, and exploration of, the changes at MCA Chicago.

Social Media Leads Multi-Channel Outreach

The videos are to being disseminated primarily through social media channels, with no plans for more expensive TV airing. However, the social media campaign also is reinforced by digital, print and out-of-home advertising that plays on the look and feel of the high-energy video campaign, titled “Made You Look.” The museum also added two large signs to its facade, with soft yellow lights intended to serve as welcoming beacons for visitors.

Pop-up Events Seek to Entice Interest

Another first for MCA is the use of pop-up events. For example, an April weekend event in storefront space sought to engage visitors in the music, art and pop culture of 1979, a pivotal year in the career of artist Howardena Pindell, whose exhibition at MCA was being simultaneously promoted in the video-led campaign.

To read more and see the videos, go to https://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2018/04/04/museum-of-contemporary-art-short-marketing-message.html

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/

Arts Marketers Need Digital CTAs That Drive Subscriptions

While direct mail continues to be a sturdy workhorse for AccuList USA’s performing arts marketing clients, digital campaigns–via online display ads, e-mail and social media–are required in a multi-channel world. Digital subscription drives offer cost-effectiveness, off-season branding, audience segment targeting, and synergy with direct mail. (Check out our Digital2Direct program to see we help mate mail with e-mail and social media ads.)  But with more competition for attention in the crowded digital space and with less room for persuasion than “snail mail,” digital promotion success is especially dependent on a well-designed and targeted call-to-action, as pointed out in a recent blog post by strategists at MogoARTS, a digital marketing agency for arts and cultural organizations.

Customizing CTA by Audience

An effective call-to-action will differ by targeting, the post points out. With renewals, the targets are lists of current season subscribers, so the CTA messaging can be direct and should highlight an incentive like a discount or savings for renewing early or by a deadline. For acquiring new members or reactivating lapsed subscribers, targeting includes lists of previous season ticket buyers and e-mail opt-in prospects, who need to be shown the benefits of subscription (or reminded). The CTA messaging for lapsed subscribers and multi-ticket buyers should give a reason to come back or upgrade to a subscription by promoting package savings or special benefits, such as free parking or early access to add-ons. CTAs to entice new members will need to spell out subscriber benefits, either across ad units or on a landing page, and showcase varied package options.

Tips on CTA Creative

The blog post also lists some CTA creative suggestions for arts marketers, whether the decision is to leverage programning/events or benefits to drive action. In pushing benefits in digital ads, listing one benefit per banner maximizes message impact and avoids overcrowding with too much text; patrons will see multiple banners over the life of the campaign after all. If the decision is to push programming, then other formats such as video or Facebook/Instagram News Feed Carousel ads may spark greater engagement than a static ad.

General CTA Best Practices

MogoARTS cites three best practices for any CTA: 1) customization for the different audience types, meaning renewing, lapsed or new members; 2) emphasis on the benefits of a subscription package over a single ticket purchase; and 3) highlighting of the savings/special rewards available for subscribing now. For CTA examples, see https://www.mogoartsmarketing.com/blog/subscription-campaign-best-practices-2018

Demographic Trends Drive Growth in Pet-Owner Spending

Direct mail and e-mail lists and data services targeting pet owners are one of AccuList USA’s high-demand markets, and we expect trends in pet ownership to grow that marketing interest–and the competition that makes quality data and targeting even more essential.

Demographics Fuel Pet-Owner Spending

A recent post for The Marketing Insider highlights the demographic trends that are making pet owners such attractive targets: “Americans now own 305 million cats and dogs, an increase of 85 million over the past 10 years. The  50+ demographic is responsible for 60% of that growth. With 50+ population expected to grow twice as rapidly as the 18-49 segment over the next 10 years, brands that include 50+ pet owners in their marketing strategies will improve their odds of maximizing revenue growth,” asserts columnist Mark Bradbury.

Older Pet Owners Offer Big Opportunities

Bradbury makes the point that marketers hoping to cash in on the older pet-owning market will need to adjust their buyer profiles given that 50+ pet owners are mainly empty-nesters (80%), retired (one-in-three), and three times more likely than younger pet owners to be divorced, widowed or separated–leaving more time and disposable income to devote to pet members of the family. Bradbury points to statistical proof that older owners are on a pet-spending splurge: People 50+ spent over $15.6 billion on their pets in the last year, more than all of the other generations combined, according to PetBusinessProfessor.com.

Growing Market Also Draws Big Competition

The opportunity to market pet-pampering products is expanding, but so is the competition for slices of the pet-owner pie. Using marketing tactics of the past may either miss the mark with the older generation of pet owners, or get lost in the crowd vying for their attention. Bradbury suggests several tactics that put the focus squarely on the growing Baby Boomer pet market, including messaging that celebrates a pet-centric Boomer life stage. Multi-channel campaigning is a must for this market as well. In addition to digital marketing via online, social and e-mail, Boomers are also still heavy users, and responders, of direct mail, magazines and television, Bradbury points out. “Synergistic cross-media marketing plans” are required to maximize reach at every stage in the purchase funnel, he advises. Plus, though Boomers like to spend to dote on their pets, they also want to spend wisely and are attracted to savings opportunities. Direct marketers will want to include discounts or loyalty reward programs to win brand fans.

For more of Bradbury’s pet marketing suggestions, see https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/314521/the-inside-track-on-the-booming-pet-market.html

P&C Insurance Embraces Direct Mail Response

Direct mail by property and casualty insurance clients continues as a staple of AccuList USA’s list brokerage and data services business, and so we were pleased to see a Valentine’s Day love note to P&C direct mail from the marketing consultants at IWCO Direct.

P&C Insurance Industry Loves Direct Mail

The IWCO post notes that nearly 400 insurance companies mailed more than 5.7 billion pieces of mail in 2017, according to Comperemedia. The property and casualty insurance category accounted for 53% of that volume, with more than 3 billion pieces of direct mail mailed by 110 companies. Of those direct mail packages, 95% were Marketing Mail (formerly called Standard Mail), mainly for acquisition (89%).

Mailings Reflect Ongoing Promotional Trends

Comperemedia and Competiscan data highlighted trends revealed by those direct mail packages, too.  With 55% of policyholders likely to shop around for insurance as a policy comes up for renewal, smart insurance providers are taking a proactive approach and contacting policyholders in advance to remind them why they should remain with their current P&C insurance provider. Also to woo shoppers, both in acquisition and renewal, insurance promotions are direct about savings messages and competitor pricing comparisons. Finally, the industry’s continued embrace of direct mail does not ignore the digital revolution; in fact, direct mail packages are highlighting the industry’s growing self-service digital functionality for policyholders.

Basic Direct Mail Tactics That Up Response

Leveraging industry trends and success stories, IWCO lists three basic tactics proven to boost response for P&C acquisition and cross-sell mailings: 1) Comparison charts touting coverage benefits over those of top competitors, and an offer to match coverage pricing and benefits upon policy review if appropriate; 2) Promotional cards with a clear call-to-action via website, mobile app, and/or toll-free phone; and 3) An eye-catching personalized tagline. See https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/02/14/pc-insurance-marketing-trends-valentines-day/

2018 Offers New Growth Opportunities for Publishing Marketers

There’s no doubt that AccuList USA’s business and consumer publishing clients face some pivotal audience- and revenue-building challenges in both print and digital marketing, but there are also growth opportunities in 2018. We note three potential positives recently highlighted by Publishing Executive magazine.

Quality Content Over Free Content

Audiences are increasing their demand for quality content, and advertisers are seeking publishers who can deliver that quality. There is a lot of untapped revenue potential for publishers who commit to quality, especially since the free-information era is ending as readers become wary of free but low-value content and increasingly willing to pay for reliable quality. For digital publishers, the downside of a shift to paid quality content can be a shrinkage of circulation, forcing them to balance potential gains in subscription revenue against lower page-views for ads. The Publishing Executive article offers various mitigating tactics: leaky paywalls; metered paywalls; charging only for premium content; allowing only paid subscribers to comment or participate in an online community; early access to certain articles for paid subscribers; access to paywalled content for subscription to a free newsletter, etc.

It’s All About Niches

With consumer access to vast amounts of information spewing into print, online, media and social every day, mass-market-oriented print and digital publications have been struggling, and niche publishers proliferating. Readers want to focus on what’s relevant to their specific interests, and many advertisers want to reach the right pool of people more than just the largest pool of people. The trick for publications is to embrace niche demand without sacrificing too much circulation. The Publishing Executive article offers some suggestions. Digital publications can create a product-within-a-product on the website, for example, with content targeted to a subset of the normal audience and attractive to new sponsors who want to reach that specific audience. For print publications, there are niche-targeted inserts, bonus sections, customized covers, polybagged special reports, or ad packages that combine a full-page ad in the magazine with a more in-depth cover wrap or insert for a special event or audience.

Demand for Brand Safety Grows

Brand advertisers have become concerned about aligning with publishers who tolerate fake news, violence, extremism, or other offensive content. The Association of Magazine Media recognized the danger and the opportunity in 2017 and released an ad campaign (“Better. Believe it.”) to highlight magazines’ quality content and brand safety. This means that respected publishers can court advertising revenue (and circulation) in 2018 by stressing brand quality and safety in their promotions. On that point, Publishing Executive quotes from an Advertising Age piece in which Shelagh Daly Miller of AARP declared: “Only when brands partner with reputable publishers can they have full confidence in where their ads are being placed. That’s a message that should be all over our industry’s media kits. And tattooed onto the foreheads of our ad reps.”

For more on publishing growth opportunities in 2018, read http://www.pubexec.com/post/6-growth-opportunities-publishers-2018/

Social Media Pros Predict Wide Range of Changes in 2018

Both B2B and B2C marketers are planning on investing more in social media marketing in 2018, per surveys. So AccuList USA’s clients may want to take a look at the trends that social media experts are predicting for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest marketing in the year ahead, as recently gathered up by Social Media Examiner.

Video Boom: Moves by LinkedIn and Facebook

Among the more than 33 predictions featured, multiple social media pros stressed the growth and impact of video, as “even simple selfie videos filmed on cell phones are propelling businesses higher than video-less businesses,” to quote one forecaster. B2B marketers will be pleased to know that LinkedIn advertising is expected to roll out video ads for business pages and geofilters for videos, now in test. Facebook, which remains the social media ad leader, is positioning to become a major player in online video. In 2017, Facebook debuted Facebook Watch for select creators (a TV-like option). In 2018, it is forecast that the program will expand to all people and pages on Facebook, and also that Facebook will likely roll out new features for video creators, perhaps including preferential Facebook news feed exposure for original native video, revenue-sharing deals, or even a dedicated video app. With the video boom, metrics will need to get more sophisticated across platforms. Since each platform counts their video views differently (Snapchat at 1 second, Twitter at 2 seconds, Facebook/Instagram at 3 seconds, and YouTube at 30 seconds), watch for marketers to go beyond number of views to data measuring the time spent and the attention held across all screens on all platforms.

Instagram Gains Ground With Marketers

Instagram is forecast to keep surging after fast growth in 2017, with 15 million businesses using Instagram by July 2017 (nearly double the 8 million businesses that used Instagram in March 2017), with 80% of Instagram accounts now following at least one business, and with global advertising set to reach $4 billion for 2017 year-end. One reason is that Instagram has been improving its tools for marketers, including InstaStories promoted within the  “news feed,” the Story Highlights feature that allows pages to host static collections of previously disappearing story posts on profiles, “swipe up” calls-to-action, posts that click through to online stores, and soon the ability to follow hashtags.

Rising Ad Costs Force Smarter Targeting, Metrics

The bad news for marketers is that the popularity of social media will translate into rising ad costs in 2018, with pricing of Facebook and Instagram advertising predicted to rise over the next 12 months. However, that cost trend should actually spur businesses hesitating to invest; marketers who commit to social media ads now will generate awareness, build audience (particularly via e-mail subscribers) and gain a competitive advantage in the increasingly crowded market. Given the rising cost to gain the attention of prospects and acquire customers, more businesses also are urged to hone ad effectiveness beyond generating leads followed with automated e-mail—for example using retargeting, AI and other techniques to ensure prospects see the most relevant messaging for their point in the customer journey. And, as cheap organic reach declines in effectiveness and paid ad costs climb, the importance of ad metrics increases. Whether on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, marketers will need to track the metrics of each ad or promoted post, combining a paid acquisition model with historical data and personalized content if they hope to translate social media marketing into real revenue results in 2018, warn the social media mavens.

For more predictions, see https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2018/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=NewsletterIssue&utm_campaign=New

2018 Digital Marketing Spend to Rise; High Hopes for Social

AccuList USA’s digital marketing clients are already looking ahead to 2018 results, with many planning to increase digital spending. They’re following the trend reported in a recent survey by Ascend2, which found that 93% of firms expect to boost digital marketing budgets in 2018.

Boosted Digital Spend Planned in 2018

The survey, conducted in December 2017, tapped 217 marketing influencers, with 43% working for B2B firms, 35% for B2C firms, and 22% for hybrid firms. The combined 52% planning marginal increases and 41% planning significant boosts in 2018 digital marketing budgets dwarfed the 7% who intend to decrease digital spending. But the more interesting data involves where the marketers foresee the biggest bang for digital bucks in the year ahead.

Social & Content Marketing Dubbed Most Effective

Respondents expected the most effective digital marketing tactics in 2018 to be social media marketing (18%), followed by content marketing (17%). Search engine optimization was seen as most effective by 15%, e-mail marketing was seen as leading by 13%, and paid search and social ads was chosen by only 11%. The lower ranking of e-mail and search ads was not due to execution barriers; both were rated as among the least difficult to implement.

Execution Challenges for Data Management & Technology

In contrast, surveyed marketers reported the greatest execution difficulties for data management (18% rated as most difficult) and marketing technology (also 18%). Content marketing and search engine optimization tied for second place in terms of implementation challenges, with both selected by 16%.

Go to https://research.ascend2.com/2018-digital-marketing/ to download a full copy of the Ascend report.