Why Direct Mail Remains Buoyant in Digital Flood

In the tidal wave of digital marketing options, prospects for our direct mail lists and support services sometimes worry about investing in an “old-fashioned” mail channel soon to be washed away by changing preferences and digital efficiency. So we like to keep providing data to show that direct mail is actually riding atop the digital crest.

Businesses Have Solid Reasons to Direct Mail Today

For example, a recent business.com post by entrepreneur Brian Roberts cites five basic reasons businesses should use “snail mail.” No. 1, thanks to a drop in mail volumes, mailers today enjoy much less competition for audience attention in physical mailboxes compared with spam-jammed e-mail inboxes or ad-laden web platforms. Plus, No. 2, those mailed communications aren’t going to be culled out by high-tech spam filters as is so much of today’s e-mail. No. 3, once delivered, a physical mail piece is a lot likelier to be opened than an e-mail message. As data firm Experian recently reported, 70% to 80% of direct mail recipients say they open their mail, and, per InfoTrends’ most recent data, a third of U.S. consumers report they read direct mail marketing more than e-mail marketing, and another 34% read both with equal frequency.  No. 4, direct mail allows a lot more creative freedom, unlimited by file size, spam filter triggers or flat visuals. Mail can be dimensional, digitally interactive, multi-sensory, immediately gratifying with promotional rewards, and more. Now that personalization is key, direct mail also outdoes digital, with 70% of Americans saying physical mail is “more personal” than e-mail, per Experian. Finally, at  No. 5, mail is great for geo-targeting and driving traffic to physical locations, with in-store-only promotions at retail stores as an example. Plus, it can drive digital traffic; 60% of direct mail recipients visit a website mentioned in direct mail, Experian reports.

Trends Prove Direct Mail’s Continued Business Appeal

A study by the Boston Consulting Group confirms that total spending on direct mail is expected to rise from 11% to 12% by 2020. The simple reason for snail mail’s survival is its continued marketing power. U.S. Postal Service surveys have found that consumers who receive direct mail spend 28% more than those who don’t, for example. As we’ve noted before, the Data & Marketing Association’s 2016 “Response Rate Report” put direct mail response rates at 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest DMA-tracked response rates since 2003, and far higher than the less than 1% of various digital channels. That is what sustains mail’s strong ROI. For a great summary of direct mail trends and stats, see the Experian infographic at https://www.edq.com/resources/data-quality-infographics/how-direct-mail-is-winning-in-the-age-of-the-internet/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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/

 

Marketers Win by Catering to Millennial Direct Mail Fans

Remember when marketing gurus were calling direct mail “dead,” drowned by a wave of digital, mobile, and social technologies? Well, research keeps resurrecting mail from its low-tech tomb. In fact, recent studies find that Millennials–the 22- to 36-year-old, tech-savvy generation supposedly addicted to mobile devices and digital networking–are bigger fans of direct mail than older generations in some ways!  That’s information that printers, mailing services, and a list broker and direct marketing consultant like AccuList USA can use to convince clients who hesitate over direct mail spending.

Millennials Like Direct Mail in General

For example, a recent study by InfoTrends and Prinova found that response rates for direct mail remain high for all demographics, including Millennials, who open direct mail received at the same high rate of 66% as recipients overall. More significantly, Milennials as a group respond faster to mail–within 2.4 months–which is less than the average response time for all respondents. Plus, the InfoTrends research found that a big 63% of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within that three-month period actually made a purchase! Along similar lines, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conducted a survey on direct mail’s political impact on Millennials and found that at least 42% of Millennials prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, that twice as many thoroughly read political mail, and that Millennials are more likely to be prompted to action by mail, with 66% likely to research the candidate and 54% visiting the candidate’s website after receiving mail.

But Millennials Also Prefer Specific Mail Tactics

However, research also shows that all mail pieces are not created equal. Mailings that resonate best with Millennials are targeted and personalized, per research. Luckily, sophisticated targeting and personalization are possible with today’s variable printing, programmatic and automation programs, and database segmentation and analytics. Millennials demand printing quality as well, with one quarter of surveyed 25- to 34-year-olds saying they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality. Mailers going beyond the standard No. 10 envelope–including 3-D dimensional mailers, pop-ups and intricately folded pieces–are playing to this audience that appreciates visual creativity. Plus, engaging copy counts, with 25% of that same surveyed group saying they consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. That doesn’t mean that printed mail can be divorced from Millennials’ digital lifestyle. Data in eMarketer’s survey report “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” shows that Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in stores, and are comfortable with mobile shopping. The Millennial preference for digital/mobile shopping means that integrating print and digital–via QR, AR, or PURL–can significantly boost response, as shown in multiple studies. Research also shows that video is a response-getter for Millennials’ digital promotions. And now mailers have the printing technology to jump on the video bandwagon with audio players and video screens incorporated in direct mail.

For a good overview of recent data on direct mail and Millennials, see this article from The Financial Brand.

For Direct Mail, What’s Old Can Be New (& Effective) Again

AccuList USA offers mailing lists, data services and direct marketing services to direct mailers in many business and nonprofit arenas, and that requires us to keep up with the latest options combining print and digital technologies. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the tried-and-true, pre-digital tactics that still deliver response! Real-life examples noted in recent Target Marketing magazine articles underscore that point.

Envelopes That Grab Attention

Thank Paul Bobnak, director of Who’s Mailing What!, for sifting through mail volumes to spot some successful new takes on old tricks for attention-getting envelopes. In his recent Target Marketing article, he noted the reappearance of four “old-school” tactics. One is an envelope highlighting Yes-No-Maybe stickers, once a favorite of subscription drives. The prospect is given three options on the reply form, with a sticker for each. Bobnak cites a recent mail piece from UPMC, a healthcare system: The Yes-No stickers are visible in an outer envelope window, while the “Maybe” is inside for recipients to self-qualify for follow-up mailer persuasion. Posting an outer envelope quiz is another proven way to intrigue prospects and get them to open a mailing to learn more–a ploy often used for health care and financial services offers. Bobnak shows how a few qualifying envelope questions work well today for the Harvard Health Letter as an example from publication marketing. The interoffice-routing-style envelope is an old trick for catching the attention of office workers and has been a go-to for B2B. Despite e-mail’s workplace dominance, interoffice paper still exists, and Bobnak notes the recent engaging nonprofit marketing use of an interoffice envelope by Sacred Heart Southern Missions, a social ministry. Then there’s the photo lab envelope, seemingly obsolete in this digital photo age. But high-quality printed photos still come in envelopes, Bobnak reminds, and that syncs with the creative services message of Dissolve, a stock footage agency, which recently prospected with a photo lab envelope containing quality photos from its collections.

Letters That Drive Response

Once recipients open the envelope–although use of QR, AR, PURLs, etc., are great new digital tools to boost response–the old-school marketing basics of the letter copy offer still matter. In another recent Target Marketing magazine article, Summer Gould highlighted seven items required for a great direct mail letter. With a few of our own additions, the seven key elements are: a first sentence that hooks the reader; an offer that is attractive (yes, a freebie or discount still entices); a story line that engages and pulls important emotional triggers (such as the well-known marketing motivators of fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, and need for approval); flattery that convinces the reader he or she is special and appreciated, which today requires more personalization than just a greeting name; questions that qualify the prospect or customer (just make sure you expect the answers based on your data); a problem solved by your product or service; and benefits that matter to the prospect or customer. Why the reminder of what seems like marketing common sense? Because it’s unfortunately not always common practice! Dazzling dimensional creative will not make up for an offer misfire.

Combining proven marketing tactics with technology, “snail mail” continues to deliver a response rate ahead of other channels. To see physical examples of what Bobnak describes, go to www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/4-old-school-direct-mail-tactics-still-work/

Subscription Marketing Basics Still Create Winning Formulas

Despite modern publishing’s multi-platform environment (print, web, mobile), many long-time subscription marketing rules retain their relevance. A recent post from Bill Dugan, for niche magazine consulting firm Mequoda, stressed just that point by reminding audience development pros of the fundamentals for price, offer and creative. As a list brokerage with many paid or controlled circulation clients, AccuList USA would, of course, add another important component: quality data

Price, Offer, Creative

As Dugan stresses, the art and science of pricing still counts. In pricing, whether for print, online, tablet or combination packages, subscription marketers actually have an edge over many other products by being able to sell the same product at different prices each time it’s purchased, from a new subscriber to each subsequent renewal. Pricing strategies can include 1) simply the same price at every stage of buying or renewing; 2) giving the more price-sensitive new subscriber an introductory discount and then selling renewals at full price; 3) maximizing response and profitability with a step-up program from a low introductory price through gradual renewal increases to maximum; and 4) rewarding subscribers with a lower monthly price for selecting a longer (annual) term. Next, marketers can build a range of offers. Based on testing, Dugan reports that the best response is earned by a “soft offer,” meaning a trial free issue or more, plus a premium and a bill-me-later for a full subscription. The lowest response offer is the old-fashioned hard offer, requesting up-front credit card payment with no trial or premium,per his testing. And finally, direct marketing success requires wrapping the offer in effective creative. A key to creative response today, whether direct mail or e-mail, is personalization that focuses on the target customers’ needs.

And Market-Tested, Targeted Lists!

Of course, effective personalization requires targeted, quality data! So while Dugan didn’t talk about the paramount importance of data, we remind marketers of the continuing relevance of either the 40-40-20 rule (40% of response success from audience/list, 40% from offer and 20% for creative) or the 60-30-10 formula (60% from targeted audience/list). Bottom line, good audience data is key. To support digital and print publishers, AccuList USA turns to its proprietary research on market-tested data and selection parameters most likely to boost response. That means lists such as those targeting active subscribers to trade or consumer publications; book buyers having specific interests; digital or print edition subscribers; known subscribers at work, home, or waiting room address; or subscribers with Facebook profiles.

For the complete Mequoda article, see http://www.mequoda.com/articles/subscription_websites/subscription-marketing-the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same/

Push Your Event Marketing E-mails Ahead of the Pack

During close to 30 years of direct marketing to help trade shows and conferences boost attendance and sell exhibitor space, clients often have asked for guidance on event industry response for e-mail campaigns. Now we can enhance data pulled from our proprietary research and experience with Eventbrite’s new “2017 Event E-mail Benchmarking Report,” comparing survey responses from over 340 event organizers across the U.S. and U.K. for a range of event types and sizes.

Benchmarks to Emulate

If you’re an event marketer with a fuzzy notion of the basic response measure of click-to-open rate (CTOR), you’re not alone. The benchmark report found that 39% of respondents said they didn’t know their average CTOR. That’s an ignorance that these event pros need to remedy if they hope to catch up with even average e-mail results. The rest of the U.S. event organizers surveyed reported an average CTOR of 12%. That was higher than their U.K. brethren, who only cited a 9% average, but far behind the enviable 17% in the U.S. who reported a CTOR of 21% or higher! Festivals scored the best average e-mail CTOR (14%), while classes and workshops had the lowest (9%).

Copy & Design to Boost Click-to-Open Rates

Event marketers who want to improve CTOR can commit to a number of basic creative tactics. First, they can revisit layouts and make sure they direct recipients to a compelling and clear call-to-action. Then, copy should be relevant, personalized and spam-filter avoidant, running from a great subject line that entices opens to copy that wins clicks. Obviously, mobile-optimization is a must now that the majority of e-mails are opened on mobile devices. Note that the most effective e-mails today also include an engaging image. E-mail research has found that e-mail campaigns with imagery have a 42% higher CTOR than campaigns without images, for example. (Don’t forget to comply with CAN-SPAM opt-out and privacy regulations, of course.)

Target, Test, Automate, Integrate

As data brokers, we must remind that response is even more dependent on the quality of targeted opt-in e-mail data, whether house or rental lists, and use of professional software and database support for list segmentation, updating and permission management as well as results tracking, testing and analysis. Indeed, regardless of carefully crafted e-mail creative, results measurement and analytics are essential to a direct marketing basic: testing of creative, lists and targeting to find what works best. Automation of event updates and confirmation/thank-you e-mails has also proven its value in maximizing click-through rates and conversions/registrations. And, finally, e-mail gains the most reach as part of a consistently branded, multi-channel effort, leveraging social media’s e-mail list building strategies, for example, as well as the proven marketing power of direct mail. (Ask us about our Digital2Direct marketing program that matches postal and opt-in e-mail records to send targeted mail and e-mail to the same recipients.)

For more metrics from the new event e-mail benchmarking survey, get the free report at https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/academy/2017-event-email-benchmarking-report/

Direct Mail Woos Millennial Shoppers by Embracing Their Digital Side

With the millennial generation, roughly those aged 18-35, now outnumbering boomers, most marketers want to keep this big batch of younger purchasers in their crosshairs. Yet direct mailers sometimes report frustration that response does not match assumptions and expectations from mailing lists and creative.  One cause of lower than desired response may be failure to take into account how millennial shopping and buying habits differ from those of other generational groups.

Yes, Millennials Shop Differently (and Digitally)

A recent article by eMarketer, drawing from its “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” survey report, cited three shopping habits that should be of interest to direct marketers. First, millennials tend to prefer digital shopping, even while in stores. Second, millennials are very comfortable with mobile shopping. And third, millennials have a strong presence on social platforms yet also respond well to direct marketing via e-mail. (See more on the report.)

How Direct Mailers Can Woo Millennials

Millennials are not averse to direct mail–but it depends on the direct mail. Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould recently cited five reasons direct mail may flop with millennials–and three come back to the clear digital preferences identified by eMarketer. First of all, a direct mail offer that does not include an online purchase option is missing sales, Gould points out. And, per eMarketer reporting, mailers may be losing sales in a big way considering that 90% of millennials, 93% of Gen Xers and even 84% of boomers said they bought online in a June 2016 Berkeley Research Group survey. Next, since millennials clearly embrace mobile shopping, every aspect of the shopping experience should be mobile-friendly (website, landing pages, shopping cart), Gould advises, and it is certainly key if the direct mail includes mobile-scanned QR codes to connect digitally. Then, since social media matters to millennials and is where they do research before they buy, a direct mailer lacking a social presence is also snubbing millennial shoppers. But not just any social outreach will do; millennials want authentic, informative, humanized interaction.

Friendly, Authentic, Tech Savvy

Regardless of digital messaging, printed content also needs to seem authentic and friendly if the mailer wants millennials to make a connection with the offer and the brand, per Gould. Millennials value companies that make them feel good, she points out, so mailers should review their creative and remove the phony or impersonal. Finally, millennials expect a company to be up-to-date with technology and to integrate marketing, shopping and sales with technology–whether in-store, in direct mail, or on the website. Millennials can relate to direct mail offers–but not if they are tied to a company that lacks the technological savvy to make interaction easy, seamless and personalized. Do millennials’ digital and tech preference mean that direct mailers can only succeed by stuffing technology into print pieces–QR, AR, video, etc.? Not necessarily, answers Gould. As with any marketing effort, just test what makes sense for enhancing audience experience and boosting response.  For Gould’s article, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/how-to-get-millennials-to-respond-to-your-direct-mail/