Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282 

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/

 

 

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/

 

 

 

 

 

USPS Informed Delivery Injects Physical Mail in Digital Mailstream

The U.S. Postal Service has implemented Informed Delivery, a program that e-mails consumers’ sneak previews of mailing pieces before that mail even lands in their physical mailboxes. The USPS considers the program an innovative “integration of digital and physical mail,” and AccuList USA definitely is intrigued on behalf of our many direct mail list brokerage and marketing services clients. What are the issues for direct mailers?

Integrating Direct Mail and the Digital Lifestyle

Under the USPS Informed Delivery program, consumers can enroll online for free and get a password-protected account that creates a digital mailbox for the direct mail they will later receive at home. Before the mail is physically delivered, it is scanned so that users can log in and see a grayscale image of common-sized mail pieces, such as a #10 envelope or a folded self-mailer. Mailers can complement that digital touchpoint with a color image added below or in place of the grayscale scan, and can add a click-through URL. Even flat-sized mailings (which aren’t scanned) can participate by supplying two custom images and a URL. Now, there may be some in the direct mail business who are nervous about further digital inroads into traditional mail’s marketing space. But it’s self-defeating to ignore the reality that consumers have made digital platforms a part of their daily lives, many looking at digital mailboxes more often than physical mailboxes. And it’s hard to argue against the potential benefits: the ability to use the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) to reach target audiences in digital and physical mailboxes simultaneously; potential tracking of when and which e-mails are viewed, and actions taken, to improve personalization and targeting;  and finally, a welcome boost to audience engagement for participating marketers. Per USPS data, there’s a 70% open rate for Informed Delivery e-mails, and 88% of users check their Informed Delivery notifications every day or almost every day.

Scripting for Mail With a Digital Cue

However, Informed Delivery will require some marketing adjustments to successfully inject traditional mail directly into the digital mailstream. Marketers who don’t opt for enhancing with color images will need to consider how images and copy work in grayscale, for example. And all mailers will need to re-think how they use outer mail design both to gain click-through/interaction and to build anticipation for the physical piece–and then the physical piece will still need to deliver ROI. Plus, since many folks view their e-mails on mobile devices, marketers need to think about how their mail translates to mobile viewing. Marketers also need to think through how and why an e-mailed preview fits the target audience. Some industries seem especially suited, and the USPS cites retail, financial services, insurance, government, and telecoms as potential beneficiaries, but other markets may gain less from an advance digital touchpoint. Mail marketers who are interested in testing the program have two ways to submit an Informed Delivery campaign to the USPS–via e-mail using an Excel file or via PostalOne!–and should also check with direct mail vendors about interfaces with presort and post-presort software that allow setup of Informed Delivery campaigns at the piece version level or at the piece detail level. For more information, see both the USPS overview of the program and its more detailed interactive campaign guide.