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/ 

 

 

 

Why You Should De-dupe Your Data

In today’s data-driven marketing, data is not only the most important asset that your company can have but can also make or break your campaign. Having clean data impacts not only marketing activities but also impacts your reputation, operations and decision-making. De-duping is one of the most important aspects of overall data hygiene. Duplicates can be found on many levels of data; they arise at the household level, individual e-mail level or company level. But before you can de-dupe your data, you must make sure you have a clear definition of what a duplicate is. Some businesses de-dupe based on a household address for direct mail campaigns, others on an e-mail basis for e-mail marketing campaigns, and some de-dupe based on the company level. If you are still not convinced that you need to de-dupe, consider the following benefits:

Avoiding Different Offers to the Same Customer

Having direct mail going out to the same household can be costly, and it can also be extremely embarrassing. For example, you send two different direct mail creatives to the same household. As one of the records was a customer, you decided to provide a returning customer 15% off, while the other record was marked as a prospect and only got 10% off. Now the person opening both direct mails will be confused by having two different discounts, and the company also can face a PR nightmare.

Cutting Unnecessary Cost

It goes without saying that having duplicates increases your cost. For example, assume you are doing a direct mail creative which costs you $5 per mailing. Your list contains 10,000 recipients. The total cost of mailings therefore is $50,000. If you decided to de-dupe, you would find out that 10% of your mailing list was duplicated. Therefore, $5,000 was a waste of resources. It would have been much cheaper to de-dupe prior to deploying your campaign.

Good Analytics for Decision-making 

Analytics is important not just from a perspective of understanding how your marketing and sales is performing but also from a decision-making perspective. By having duplicates in your CRM, you are going to be double-counting your list capabilities, miscalculating your true growth rates, and getting the wrong rate of responses. If you are looking to make a decision on future campaigns, basing it on duplicate data will give you the wrong list count, wrong budget and possibly the wrong creative picked (especially if you are basing it on an A/B testing done previously).

Reducing Customer Service Confusions

If there are duplicates in your CRM system, having clients call in, e-mail or come into the store will make it difficult for staff to track down the right individual. For example, Mary Smith is found twice in your CRM with the same phone number. She calls in to your customer support to inquire about her order status. Your customer service rep decides to pull up the customer account by phone number and finds two records. Now she has to put the customer on hold while she checks both accounts to try to locate the last purchase before she can even assist the customer. Not only is it wasting everyone’s time and making customer service inefficient, it also makes the customer have a bad customer service experience.

Preventing Potential Loss of Sales

Finally, the biggest impact that duplicates have on your business is a potential loss of sale. If you have duplicates, you do not have a true view of all prospect or customer activities. Therefore, you could be excluding prospects from a sales call because your lead scoring system indicated that they are not ready. However, if the data from both records was combined, you would have all signals indicating they are ready to be passed on to sales. With duplicates, by the time you figure it out, a customer may have already lost interest and gone with your competitor.

You can easily de-dupe your list by using a de-duping tool that will require less effort to identify duplicates and establish a master record than is required to deal with the consequences of duplicate data. De-duping should be part of your data-cleaning initiative, either prior to any major campaign or on a yearly basis.

If you are interested in data clean-up and use of a de-duping tool, contact guest author Anna Kayfitz, CEO of StrategicDB Corp.

Focus on E-mail Data for 2018 Insurance Marketing Success

Success with e-mail in 2018 insurance marketing boils down to using quality, targeted data–something that AccuList USA is committed to delivering. Data provider V12Data summed it up well in a recent post offering basic insurance e-mail data tips.

Start With Clean, Up-to-Date Data

With an estimated 30% of e-mail subscribers changing their addresses each year, make sure all e-mail lists are up-to-date, with addresses validated and verified, including any e-mail addresses that have been matched and appended to a postal list. Good list hygiene should include removing duplicates; correcting formatting errors; identifying addresses known to be associated with spam traps; and eliminating hard bounces, invalid e-mails/domains, and e-mails associated with complaints.

Profile, Segment and Personalize

There’s no point to all that quality e-mail data if it’s not used to understand and target your audience. That means looking at both actionable internal data, such as customer service records, transactions, credit card purchases or e-mail responses as well as relevant demographic data, either from first-party collection or appended via third-party data aggregators. Consumer demographics could include date of birth, home ownership, occupation, gender, estimated income, age, presence of children, investments and more. Then segment your lists in order to offer the right product to the right audience segment. Plus use data to personalize offers and creative, and that means going beyond a Dear FirstName. Today’s e-mail audience expects and demands personalized offers.

Pay Attention to Buying Cycle and Life Cycle

Smart e-mail campaigns nurture customers and prospects through the buying cycle. Because those who request general information and those who fill out a request for quote form may be at different stages of the buying cycle, they need different messaging. Website signups can be sent a personalized welcome message, while subscribers who have not taken further action can get a follow-up nurturing message about products and services, with a call-to-action promoting a free quote or agent call. When a prospect makes a quote request, e-mail messaging can focus on getting to a policy sale, with more policy information and a specific offer or promotion. Note that life cycle counts as much as buying cycle. Consumers are more likely to buy insurance during major life-event changes, such as marriage, divorce, moving, home purchase, a new baby, retirement, etc.  Leveraging that data in targeting sends the right offer at the right time for maximum response.

Check out AccuList USA’s insurance marketing data expertise and clients on our website.

 

2018 USPS Rate Hikes Challenge Direct Marketers

On January 21, the U.S. Postal Service bumped up its rates for almost all mailings by direct marketers and publishers: Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail), First Class Mail Retail, First Class Mail Discount and Periodicals. Most of the increases are small, but volume mailers among Acculist USA’s direct marketing clients could feel the pinch. What are some of the strategies to offset the effect on marketing budgets?

Look for Savings Opportunities!

Before panicking, mail marketers need to check out the whole USPS rate change grid. A 1% to 2% overall increase will be higher or lower depending on the class, weight, zone, density and special services required, and there are actually some savings to be had. For example, while the First Class stamp is going from $0.49 to $0.50 for a 1-ounce letter, a 2% bump, the USPS did not increase the additional ounce rate, so the percentage change gets smaller as items get larger. Meanwhile, metered letters are increasing from $.46 to $.47 in postage, which offers a significant savings of $0.03 per piece for those using a postage meter or PC postage, points out a recent Mailing Systems Technology post. Although most USPS discounts are tied to doing more work, such as barcoding or sorting, this metered rate savings is automatic for just using a system to print postage that costs as little as $20 per month, the article notes.

Even More Value for Presorting, Package Changes

There are other savings to be had via presorting, adds the Mailing Systems Technology article. For example, last year the USPS increased the weight limit for letter rates from 2 ounces to 3.5 ounces. Now, with the rate for a 3-ounce metered letter at $0.89 and a commercial rate of $0.378, there’s a potential 58% savings from using presort services. Package changes can help the budget, too. Folding a flat (9×12 or 10×13) package into a 6×9 envelope could mean significant savings with the new rates. A three-ounce flat at $1.42 now could cost as little as $0.378 if it can be put in an envelope and automated through in-house software or presort services. Plus, mailers sending Priority Mail items at retail rates using Click-N-Ship or a postage meter can switch to a PC Postage solution using commercial rates to save 10% overall, or 2% to 40% less based on weight and zone.

Importance of Targeted, Quality Data Underscored

As data brokers, AccuList USA stresses that these postal cost changes also should push marketers to use data-driven direct mail in more strategic and creative multi-channel campaigns. To maximize mailing ROI, marketers should cut wasted mail by improving targeting, mailing list selection, and data/address quality, as well as apply response-boosting creative tactics, such as personalization and special printing effects.

 

For rate tables and more advice on the USPS rate hikes, see the Mailing Systems Technology post.

 

 

2018 Offers New and Old Marketing Data Challenges

As a data broker, AccuList USA is committed to helping its data services clients with data gathering, quality, targeting and analytics. Looking ahead to 2018, we see new and old data issues for direct marketers. A recent Forbes magazine interview with Tom Benton, the CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), highlighted six of those data challenges for next year.

Perennial Problems From Quality and Integration

Given the huge amount and types of data streaming into marketers, many are struggling to decide which data sets to use and which to ignore, how to keep data accurate and actionable, and how to integrate new data with existing data. Several practices for 2018 success are suggested: clear business goals and target audiences to narrow the data focus; a clear test case for examining or onboarding data; regular examination of new and legacy data accuracy and value; and systems for integrating new data with existing data, especially given the new types of data streams available–everything from wearable gym trackers to chatbots to grocery checkouts.

New Opportunities Via Technology

The Forbes overview also cites the exciting opportunities coming from new marketing tech tools, such as augmented reality (AR), machine learning and AI. Are you ready to take advantage? The articles offers the example of how 1-800-Flowers improved customer experience by integrating the company’s website with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and natural language processing to understand customer demand and then search the product catalog to deliver customized recommendations. Use of AR today ranges from AMC theater movie posters to Simmons Bedding Co. product demos to labels of Australia’s 19 Crimes wine brand. And consider that digital growth company Urban Airship has developed a machine learning algorithm to analyze mobile customer behavior and help app publishers identify the most loyal users and predict those that are likely to churn to improve retention investment in specific customer segments.

Challenges With Cybersecurity and European Rules

If customers don’t trust that sensitive information will be safeguarded, they’ll stop engaging, hurting not only individual brands but the data-driven community. Massive data security breaches made headlines in 2017. That makes data security a top concern to retain customers and prevent risk in 2018, per Benton. Meanwhile, American marketers who seek to tap European markets need to get ready for the enactment of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), taking effect May of 2018. The regulations will set a new baseline for consumer privacy rights and focus on ensuring that proper consents are obtained for a range of data sets and that other privacy rights are observed, such as the “right to be forgotten.”

For more on 2018 data trends, read the Forbes article.

What’s the Secret to Better E-mail Deliverability? Your Reputation

Deliverability is the first step to e-mail marketing success. If your e-mail never hits the inbox, all those subject line and content tactics to drive up open and click rates are useless. So why do the top e-mail marketers get a 90% deliverability rate, while others languish below 50%? A deciding factor is reputation, as measured by a “sender score,” according to Return Path’s annual “Sender Score Benchmark Report” analysis of 4 trillion e-mail messages.

Sender Reputation Is Key to Inbox Placement

A sender’s reputation score is a number, calculated from 0–100, that mailbox providers use to evaluate whether or not e-mail sent by a particular IP address is likely to be legitimate and wanted. A marketer that sends too much unwanted or spam e-mail is likely to see their reputation drop and their e-mail filtered out of inboxes. Return Path’s analysis finds that e-mail senders with a reputation score above 90 saw an average of 92% of their e-mails reach the intended recipient, but e-mail deliverability drops to 72% for senders scoring between 81-90 and just 45% for senders with a score between 71 and 80. By the way, Gmail and Microsoft were identified as the mailbox providers with the strictest deliverability requirements, and the global inbox placement average is only 80%, or 20% of e-mail wasted. Don’t join the crowd.

Boost Your Sender Score With Good Data

So what are the things to do, and not do, to get and keep a strong reputation score? A recent post by Krista Barrack, for the sendinblue blog, cites six ways you could be damaging your sender score, starting with e-mail list issues. One common error is collecting invalid e-mail addresses in your house list (often caused by typos, especially from mobile users). These create hard bounces to erode your sender score. A second mistake is using purchased e-mail data where people have no opt-in relationship with your brand and so don’t engage or mark your message as spam, hurting your score. That’s why, as responsible data brokers, we don’t sell e-mail data and instead broker list rentals so messages are sent by the list owner with valid recipient opt-ins. A third house list problem is allowing outdated, unmailed addresses to accumulate and become invalid, again leading to score-harming hard bounces. To deal with the problem, set up a program of regular communication and hygiene to prune your list frequently.

Spammer Tactics Tank Reputation

Sender scores not only suffer from poor data quality but also poor content quality. If your e-mail message is not mobile-optimized, is loaded with spam words, is plagued by faulty links, and/or is not relevant or honest, recipients are either not going to open it, will label it as spam or will opt-out. Timing matters, too, and while failure to communicate is marketing folly, the more common sin is embrace of a spammer’s excess frequency. Note that studies show read rates drop with increased weekly frequency–and opt-outs and complaints rise to cut your sender score. Finally, watch for spam traps hiding in your e-mail list. These can get you blacklisted! Spam traps come in two flavors. One type is an e-mail address purposely created by ESPs or blacklist organizers and posted online, which gets in your list via data sources “scraped” or “harvested” from the web without opt-in. (So work with a reputable data broker!) The other type of trap is an ESP-deactivated e-mail address that the ESP recycles months later; if you failed to remove the deactivated address as a hard bounce per best practices, the ESP catches you when you re-send to it.

For more insight on e-mailer reputation, get a copy of the Return Path 2017 Sender Score Benchmark Report.

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/

 

How B2B and B2C Data Silos Spoil Marketing Harvests

Silos can be great for agricultural storage, but they spell trouble when we’re talking about customer data trapped in company departmental and systems silos. As a data services provider in the age of multi-channel “big data,” AccuList USA certainly has client experiences that attest to the value of integrated marketing data and analysis, and the dangers of data silos.

Data Silos Undermine Big and Small Marketers

Research shows the magnitude of the problem. For example, a recent blog post by Veriday, a digital marketing company, noted that more than 80% of marketers say data silos within marketing obscure a seamless view of campaigns and customers. And that doesn’t even consider data trapped outside marketing in IT, sales, etc. In larger, older companies, many data silos result when outdated processes and separate information systems hamper linkages. Yet silos are not just a big-business issue given the average small business today is using 14.3 different systems, as the Veriday post points out. Yes, information can be transferred between silos via import/export or manual efforts, but this risks duplication, errors, delays, inconsistent hygiene and inaccurate updating. Marketers are likely to face poor immediate ROI and wasted future opportunities from an incomplete and inaccurate picture of customers, campaigns and channel results. Smart marketers will invest in solutions, such as third-party support, software for content management and marketing automation, and data warehousing.

Silos Prevent Personalized B2C Marketing Success

In business-to-consumer marketing, data silo risks are growing more acute, stresses a Forbes magazine article by Denise Persson, CMO at Snowflake, a data warehouse firm. She cites Accenture survey results showing that, while the promise of a deal or discount was the top driver of customer loyalty last year, in 2017, 58% of customers find marketing programs that are highly tailored to their needs much more enticing. As customers demand more personalized marketing, marketers can embrace targeted, contextual approaches using search terms, browser history, etc. But, Persson warns, if each marketing channel–website, social media, e-mail, online ads, direct mail–uses a different set of data to develop a different channel strategy, marketers will end up with a fragmented customer picture delivering a fragmented brand experience! Persson urges centralized storage and analysis to allow for a full line of sight into customer activity; real-time data access and analysis; channel attribution visibility; and tailored loyalty programs.

B2B Silos, Separated From B2C, Miss Audience

Another type of silo can impact business-to-business efforts: isolating business-to-business from business-to-consumer data. A blog post by Ajay Gupta, founder of Stirista, a digital marketing agency, points out the myopia of failing to link business and consumer data, especially now that digital media is blurring the line between professional and personal lives. Gupta gives the example of a company that wants to market a personal electronic device by targeting a proven business prospect list with only B2B e-mail addresses. If the company enhances the prospects’ B2B info with B2C data, it could expand its reach by sending out e-mails to B2C addresses, direct mail to home addresses, online display ads via digital cookies, plus targeted social media ads! Linking B2B and B2C data is a great tool for B2B onboarding, argues Gupta. Since data management platforms match B2C e-mails at a higher rate, linking B2B data to B2C e-mail addresses boosts reach. Creating custom audiences on social media can also benefit from a B2B link to B2C. Since most people use their personal e-mail addresses when they create social media accounts, connecting B2B data to personal e-mails will help reach far more B2B prospects on social media, too. Check out Gupta’s complete article.

Data & Content Are Keys to Profitable Audience Building

After long experience supporting publishers and media owners in circulation/audience growth, AccuList USA can affirm that, in the age of big data and exploding digital content, targeted data quality and database management are more essential than ever to profitable audience development.

It’s All in the Data

A recent Marketo blog post backs up that assertion with their advice. Demographics and firmographics are a key starting point, but now media owners also can mine transactional data, behavioral data, and psychographics/interests across channels, the post notes. Smart use of first-, second- and third-party data allows for tailored content, offers and channel targeting. As the Marketo article explains, “For example, you may know that a reader is a part of a cohort that is female, between 18-35 years old, with a household income between $64-96K….But what could you do–in terms of engagement–if you learn through her content consumption patterns that she’s interested in football, responds to sponsored content from travel brands, and mostly responds to content that’s shared on Facebook?”

And Data Management

Yet more data from multiple sources–web, print, mail, e-mail, social media–also presents challenges, and Marketo cites Folio’s recent survey of publishing leaders, which found 71% citing data management as a top priority for creating and monetizing media products. The solution is a single hub for audience data and automated cross-channel processing in real-time, the post advises. With a complete data profile of the audience, the focus can turn to delivering the right message at the right time to the right target. And we would add that an effective database will require strategies and support for data hygiene, database appending, analytics, and segmentation as well as automated triggering of messages across channels. Automation doesn’t apply only to digital messaging, by the way; marketers can capitalize on direct mail’s top response and brand engagement with automated mail triggering based on digital activity.

Commitment to Content

In publication/media marketing even more than other brand marketing, content counts. Faced with ever-growing digital content noise, media owners must work even harder to deliver content that interests and engages the target audience. To that end, a helpful Content Marketing Institute article by Neil Patel recently listed four common mistakes. No. 1 is offering content of more interest to the brand/publisher (and its advertisers/partners) than to the audience. Only audience-centric content builds audience. No. 2 is to focus only on selling in marketing messages, especially if poorly targeted. The long-term value of authenticity and relationship building suffers when the sales pitch is obvious and not personalized. No. 3 is an SEO addiction to the point of stuffing keyword phrases and irrelevant links into content, which can turn off and confuse readers and even earn search engine penalties. And No. 4 is an obsession with content quantity over quality. Simply delivering more content more often than competitors, especially if it is unwanted, sloppy and self-serving, is likely to turn off audiences. For good content marketing examples, go to Patel’s content marketing article.

Study: Brands Fail to Recognize Customers Across Channels

Just 9% of marketers say they can consistently recognize customers across media channels, according to the MediaPost report on a new white paper published by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). The study, conducted by Winterberry Group, is based on interviews with marketers from about 120 organizations.

Marketing to Devices, Not People

Per the MediaPost story, the study did find that companies have improved how they provide the same brand experience across channels, with slightly more than 77% of participants claiming to coordinate the delivery of content across all the media channels extremely well, fairly well or to some extent. But since most companies are marketing to devices not people, the challenge has been recognizing the same customers as they cross devices, for example going from search to catalog, or from mobile to in-store. Companies do realize that there is a problem per the survey, with some 72% of those participating identifying audience recognition as a “moderate” or higher priority.

The Need for Data Management

And when asked what would help to advance their organization’s efforts to better recognize addressable audiences across marketing media, better aggregation and management of data, cited by nearly 48% of marketers, led the top five solutions. Better integration of existing marketing technology followed as a solution for 39.5%; better systems and processes to connect audience profiles was listed by 38.4%; more first party data was the choice of 33.7%; and higher quality first-party data was named by 26.7%. Given those statistics, it’s not surprising that AccuList USA has seen growing interest in its data services, including customer database development, hygiene and analytics.

For more statistics from the study and for a link to download a free white paper copy, go to the MediaPost article at http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/289223/brands-cannot-recognize-their-omnichannel-customer.html