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