Marketing With Online Video? If Not, You’re Behind the Curve

In supporting our digital marketing clients, AccuList USA has seen rapid growth in online video use, and a recent Forbes magazine article by John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co., cited video as one of six essential trends to include in 2018’s digital marketing budget. Why? Researchers forecast that by 2020 online video will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic. Already over 500 million people are watching video on Facebook every day. If you want a crack at that audience, you’ll need to join the video world.

Low-Cost Video Ads Boost Engagement and Sales

Video ads are not just good at promoting brand awareness and engagement; they deliver sales. Video creation service Animoto’s most recent survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers reinforces online video’s clout: 64% of consumers say they purchase after watching branded social videos. No wonder more businesses are jumping on the video ad bandwagon and investing in paid/sponsored video as well as paying to “socialize” or promote videos. Helping the video boom is the relatively low production cost; in fact, 92% of marketers told Animoto they make videos with assets they already have. Meanwhile, a nationwide pricing survey of videographers and photographers found that the average small business marketing video cost less than $1,000 in 2015 and a medium-sized product demo video was around $2,000.  Cost is not a barrier; coming up with engaging, targeted content is the challenge.

Marketers Focus on Multiple Platforms, Mobile Viewing

So what platform will best deliver the target audience? Animoto’s survey shows where consumers engage with branded videos daily: 49% on Facebook, 32% on YouTube, 24% on Instagram, 22% on Snapchat, and 22% on Twitter. Most brands hedge their bets by using multiple platforms, paying to capture eyes on YouTube and Facebook, for example. The more important goal, regardless of platform, is to optimize for mobile viewing since 84% of online video viewers watch on mobile devices–which is why 81% of marketers are optimizing their social videos for mobile viewership, per Animoto. Timing counts, too. Animoto’s survey found 33% of video consumers watch during the lunch hour, 43% during the afternoon, 56% during the evening, 38% before bed, and 16% in the middle of the night.

Square, Live and Soundless Creatives Gain Traction

Square video, as opposed to horizontal video, is growing in popularity, with 39% of surveyed marketers creating square and/or vertical videos now. Why? Square videos take up 78% more space in the Facebook News Feed, and get more engagement, than horizontal videos, according to Animoto. Live streaming video is also growing in popularity. According to IT/networking giant Cisco, live Internet video will account for 13% of  total online video traffic by 2020. But before you spend time and dollars crafting a great video sound track, note that video editing software firm Camtasia reports that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound.

For a summary of Animoto’s social video marketing findings, go to https://animoto.com/blog/business/state-of-social-video-marketing-infographic/

 

Nonprofits’ Crucial Year-End Fundraising Drives Have Begun

AccuList USA works with big and small nonprofits on their key year-end fundraising campaigns. With a third of annual giving occurring in December, over half of nonprofits starting year-end plans in October, and direct mail the leading fundraising channel, October often sees final tweaks to direct marketing plans (and mailing lists).

Planning for Year-End Fundraising Success

For example, nonprofit marketers may want to check their current plans against the four-step master plan recently offered by fundraising consultant Gail Perry on her blog. Step 1: Set goals for each donor segment, and don’t forget lucrative leading-donor annual gifts, lapsed donors and board members. Step 2: Select channels for a multi-pronged appeal, integrating direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, social media, website, and video creative–and design a consistent message for all. Step 3: Gather resources and set a budget. Step 4: Set a timeline and calendar. Read the complete article by Perry for details and tips.

How Small Nonprofits Can Punch Above Their Weight

Of course, smaller fundraisers often bemoan budget limitations at this point. A guest post by Damian O’Broin for the Institute of Fundraising offers a bracing response. Greatness is not a function of size, it’s a function of attitude, he argues, citing donor surveys. The things that matter most to donors don’t depend on big budgets and lots of staff but on good, donor-centric fundraising practices: thanking promptly and properly; showing progress and impact; getting to know supporters and responding to their needs; empowering supporters; and asking consistently. “Because what we found from these surveys is that the best way to improve donor commitment is with great donor service. Responding to e-mails. Dealing effectively with queries when your donors call you. Thanking donors promptly–and just as importantly–making donors feel thanked,” he says. Even modest direct marketing campaigns, assuming they are well targeted, can use these practices to boost response.

 

Always Be Testing: Even the Best Mail Control Gets Tired

AccuList USA’s successful direct mail marketers seek to optimize response by constantly testing creative (as well as lists), because they know that even the best control package can lose its punch and need refurbishing or replacing.

Understanding the Sources of Control Success and Fatigue

Since direct mail testing can be expensive, especially multivariate testing where each variable tested needs a large enough mailed group for statistically valid results, it is important to think through why response to a proven control can flag and what changes are worth testing. A recent Target Marketing magazine article, by direct marketing consultant Gary Hennerberg, addresses the issue by reminding marketers of basics: The control has succeeded better than other mailing packages because, using the right list, the marketer has matched the offer’s emotional hot buttons and unique selling proposition to the prospects’ awareness of both their problem and the marketer’s solution at the time. But that alignment between prospect and promotion is not static.

As Brand Awareness Grows, Control Effectiveness Can Shrink

After mailing the same direct mail control package over and over (or using the same digital message), the majority of targeted prospects have either seen your pitch or been educated by other media, so your message may no longer fit with their knowledge and needs. “If you don’t stay on top of this changing awareness and understanding, your direct mail control package, or messaging in other channels, fatigues, and you’ll wonder why,” Hennerberg warns. He suggests that marketers commit to a program 1) assessing prospect awareness of the problem solved by the marketed product or service; 2) creating multiple creative approaches that align with different prospect awareness levels; and 3) testing creatives (headlines, leads, formats, etc.) against each other and the control to find the sweet spot. An important caveat: If a mail package seems to go over the heads of the current market, consider re-testing in future when the time may be ripe in terms of prospect interest.

For a basic overview of direct mail testing, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/direct-mail-ab-test/

 

 

Seeking E-mail Response, Marketers Face Text vs. HTML Choice

There’s an ongoing debate in e-mail marketing over which format option will optimize results: simple text-based e-mails or fancier html versions. For our e-mail list and marketing clients, AccuList USA offers some surprise findings on that point: Marketo reports that a recent analysis of e-mail effectiveness shows text-based e-mails perform significantly better than their more creative HTML counterparts. Although both formats have the same open rate, text-based e-mails have 21% higher unique click-to-open rates on the offer link and 17% higher unique click-through rates on the offer link, according to the Marketo study.

So should marketers dump their rich html creatives? Not so fast.

Text E-mail Is Personal & CTA-Focused, But…

Why did the text-based versions win more response? The Marketo study found that text-based e-mails’ fewer visual distractions focus response on the call-to-action link. In HTML versions, nearly 16% of clicks went to other links (such as logos) instead of the main call-to-action link, per Marketo. Other research shows that text e-mails are also viewed as more personal by recipients, who see the visually rich html e-mails as clearly commercial. Finally, text-based versions have a better chance of delivery since the messages are less likely to be caught in spam filters or to have mobile viewing issues. But there are clear disadvantages, too. The key drawback of plain text formats, with no html, is that there is no tracking of open rates or clicks. Plus, URLs included in the message must be fully typed out, which can create visual clutter. Text-based e-mails without any html design elements will lack engaging visual impact for branding or product promotion, will have less ability to break information into easy-to-read/scan sections or columns, and will have few tools, such as buttons and color, for directing CTA attention.

Marketers Still Like HTML Tracking & Branding

Despite general response findings, html e-mails continue to be used because of advantages that make them the right choice for campaigns relying on branding, richer messaging and detailed metrics. For example, html allows incorporation of branded images and logos that may yield higher conversion rates for some verticals. An html e-mail also can package more information in digestible, easy-to-read bites. It can direct action via color, clickable text and buttons. Most important, html offers tracking of opens and clicks for marketing metrics.

For a more extensive discussion of the marketing merits of text versus html e-mail formats, check out this helpful digitaldoughnut article: https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/december/choosing-between-plain-text-html-email

 

 

How Acquisition Mailing Won With Price, Premium, Benefits Copy

While many of our direct mail clients recently have focused on the secret to millennial response, AccuList USA’s direct mail consulting keeps a close eye on mail tactics that work well with older and general audiences, too. A case in point is a recent Target Marketing magazine case study sharing the Mayo Clinic Health Letter’s expertise in testing toward maximum acquisition response for its control. With its huge 2 million to 5 million mail pieces per quarter, Mayo has a lot of room for testing and 17 years of success to back up its results!

Pricing & Premiums Lift Response

Targeting an older audience (age 70 and up), the Mayo Clinic mailer has long used an oversized kraft outer envelope with a simple teaser that appeals to the older market preference for courtesy: “Please favor us with a reply within 10 days.” Successfully tested changes include shifting the envelope size from 11″x 14″ to a 10″ x 14″ to save money, but other inside-package tweaks have delivered the response boosts.  For example, the letter now leads with pricing, a “tough times” stress on the per issue $1.97 over an annual savings. A spot-glued lift note with a testimonial segues into a personalized, boxed reference to that testimonial on the first page of the letter.  But one of the most significant response-getters has been the addition of a premium in the form of existing internal special reports–on weight loss or arthritis, for example–offered for free.

Long, Easy-Read Letter Targets Seniors

The control has also increased its lift by moving to an eight-page letter, up from the original four-page pitch. The results are proof that longer copy can outdo short copy when it comes to self-help offers and older markets. For one, the long-form letter allows marketers to pack in more benefits. Second, it allows for a larger type size. For example, the Mayo letter has shifted to a 14-point type as a boon to aging eyesight and a way to distinguish its approach as more personal and less corporate. And the package includes a full page on “The Mayo Clinic Story” of pioneering research and patient care to build brand awareness and value validation.

A 3-in-1 Response Device Packs a Punch

The mailer’s reply card page has three-in-one power: reply form, premium stuffer and a BRE, in yellow to stand out in the package. Other smart tweaks include a “No-Risk Certificate” reply card numbered to show exclusivity. Plus, to keep recipients from losing focus while searching for a pen and laboring over a form, the bill-me-only reply uses involvement stickers. To download the complete case study, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/resource/acquisition-mail-case-study-editorial-premiums-benefit-filled-copy/

 

 

 

 

 

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/