2019 Trends Open Doors for More Direct Mail Success

Direct mail lists and data services are core to AccuList USA’s business success, so each year we research which trends our direct mail marketing clients will want to embrace for maximum response–and which trends are fading in effectiveness.

Digital Ad Tune-outs Offer Mail Opportunities

Digital issues can create direct mail opportunities, points out direct mail agency Inkit, noting that customers are tuning out digital advertising, whether e-mails, banners or social media promos. In fact, eMarketer estimates that 30% of all Internet users will use ad blockers in 2019. One way to offset the drop in digital ad effectiveness is to beef up direct mail campaigns. Note that ANA-DMA research shows that 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail and 64% would rather scan for useful information in the mail than e-mail. Plus, 41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers report enjoying catalogs. That engagement translates into higher response rates for mail than for any other media, per the 2018 ANA-DMA Response Rate Report, with 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists.

Snail Mail Can Join the 2019 Video Boom

While digital ads are being ignored, digital video is booming; Inkit reports that Cisco projects video will encompass more than 85% of all Internet traffic in the U.S. by 2020! Direct mail doesn’t have to be left out. Thanks to print technology–QR, AR, Video-in-Print and Near Field Communication (NFC)–paper promotions can jump on the video bandwagon and further boost their own mail response.

2019 Demands Personalized, Cross-Channel Campaigns

Customers in 2019 will expect marketers to personalize offers and deliver a seamless experience across channels, Inkit asserts, requiring integration of online, e-mail, direct mail, social media, mobile, and in-store campaigns. In fact, retailing research recently found that close to 90% of retailers say integrated cross-channel or omnichannel marketing is key to success. AI is one way marketers are getting a handle on messaging across channels and at different points in the buyer journey, which can help decide timing and targeting of direct mail. Meanwhile, for mail, variable data content printing and enhanced database targeting and segmenting can deliver the personalized relevant messaging that will be a basic of 2019 marketing.

Take Variable Data Printing to the Next Level in 2019

Yet when it comes to printing and personalization, there are some popular direct mail practices that need to be ditched this year, advises direct marketing agency Darwill. For example, using a 4-color master shell on which variable content is laser-printed in black and white has become old-hat given that new inkjet presses can create endless 4-color versions for a more targeted and engaging campaign. Along the same lines, the custom maps laser-printed in black and white can be replaced by full-color variable maps that are more personalized, eye-catching, and likely to drive leads.

Use Envelopes to Intrigue Outside; Put Tailored Offers Inside

This year, instead of revealing all details of a promotional offer on the outside envelope to drive opens, Darwill advises that a promotional pitch that is visible but not fully revealed on the envelope is likely to work better–a sneak peek at a personalized offer. Then once the recipient opens the envelope, he or she better not find one-size-fits-all content! Luckily, with today’s full-color inkjet technology, a letter or a coupon can now be varied based on a recipient’s past shopping patterns or demographics.

 

 

 

Despite Doubters, 2018 Direct Mail Ups Response, ROI, Usage

AccuList USA’s direct mail marketing clients received lots of encouraging news in the 2018 “ANA-DMA Response Rate Report.”  Direct mail improved its usage ranking to tie with social media as the second most-used medium (57%), for example, and continued to deliver the best response rates of any medium. In fact, “snail mail” even improved on its response success by doubling median response rates over last year to 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists in 2018. Mail’s Return on Investment (ROI) also leaped by 12 percentage points to beat out online display this year.

While Marketers Forecast Mail Decline, Usage Tells a Different Story

The only negative in the report is that those surveyed continue to doubt the future of direct mail, with 19% saying they plan to decrease usage in the coming 12 months. But if the report participants follow their behavior after previous surveys, which similarly predicted mail declines, direct mail usage will remain buoyant, which allowed it to rise in 2018 despite planned cuts. One drag on direct mail continues to be its Cost Per Action/Acquisition, which is the highest CPA of any medium and puts budget pressure on mail volume, which did decline for both house and prospect lists compared with the 2017 study.

Direct Mail Usage Dominates Most Industry Segments

However, high response rates, competitive ROI, online tracking and print-tech advances are keeping marketers loyal to “traditional” mail in a digital world. In fact, direct mail usage for marketing campaigns equals or exceeds 50% for most of the 11 industry segments cited in the study. In usage, direct mail leaders were travel or hospitality (80%), nonprofits (75%), publishing or media (71%), and financial services/banks/credit (67%). Only Technology (44%), Retail (44%), and B2B Services (34%) came in below the 50% usage mark. 

B2B, B2C Split on Formats As Response Tracking Goes Digital

When it comes to direct mail creative format, postcards tend to produce the best overall response in combined B2B and B2C data, with a 13% median response rate for house files and 10% for prospecting files. Letter-size envelope formats turned in rates of 10% for house lists and 4% for prospecting, and oversize envelope mail garnered 11% for both house and prospect lists. Format results are different for B2B versus B2C, however. Looking only at B2B, limited data indicates the letter-size envelope format outperforms with a combined median response for house and prospect lists of 15%-40%, compared with postcards’ 14%-16%. For B2C, responses show oversize envelopes actually turning in the best 9%-12% median response for house and prospect lists combined, compared with postcards at 9% and letter envelopes at 4%. In tracking those response rates, marketers have definitely gone digital, with over half of surveyed marketers (53%) saying they use online tracking capabilities, such as PURLs, followed in popularity by the use of codes or coupons (45%) and call center or telephone inquiries (41%).

 

Industrial Marketers Bet More on 2018 Direct & Digital

AccuList USA has a long track record of helping warehouse, industrial and back-office product marketers via data brokerage, predictive analytics and multi-channel direct marketing, and we’ve learned some important lessons along the way.

Industrial & Tech Marketing Budgets Expand in 2018

The good news is that many industrial marketers were inspired to expand investment in 2018. According to the “2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing” report published by engineering.com, industrial marketing budgets in 2018 are expected to hit “the highest levels of growth (45%) and the lowest reported levels of shrinking budgets (4%), of any of the last five years.” More than half (54%) of manufacturing marketers expect their budget to be larger in 2018.

Quality, Targeted Data Is Key to B2B Direct Marketing

But expanded multi-channel spending still needs to be smart spending. As data brokers, we can’t overemphasize that successful B2B direct marketing–including direct mail, print catalogs and e-mail campaigns–starts with quality, targeted data. Marketers can boost response by using predictive analytics and buyer profiles to target–and then opt for the rental lists of active product inquirers/buyers that our proprietary list research finds to be top performers in each vertical. Targeting the right message to decision-makers in the buying process is also key; with product and industry factors affecting whether to select a chief engineer, purchasing manager, warehouse manager, human resources chief, or C-suite executive in mailing lists.

A Digital Strategy Is Now Essential for Leads and Sales

While direct mail continues its response leadership, there’s no denying that most B2B buyers are digital shoppers today. Research by Acquity Group finds 94% of B2B buyers say they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product, for example. Forrester Research has found that 59% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep, and 74% find buying from a website more convenient. That makes digital catalog sites into essential sales tools, giving customers the option to browse product, pricing, and inventory information in real-time and then self-serve. Of course, online traffic-building requires a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy given that 73% of global traffic to B2B companies comes from search engine results. But most successful B2B marketers also invest in paid digital efforts. In fact, a 2015 study by Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Fathom found that manufacturers ranked search engine marketing highest among paid marketing options in terms of efficacy (52%) and promoted social media posts came in second (39%).  For social media ads, B2B marketers see video as a top response tactic, which is why manufacturers in the study ranked YouTube as the most effective social media site, followed by LinkedIn ads, which AccuList USA supports. Take a deeper dive into the core elements of digital industrial marketing with this post by gorilla76, a B2B consulting firm.

 

 

 

2018 Recognition Market: Tech Partnering, Wellness & Non-cash Awards

AccuList USA recently completed proprietary research on hundreds of top performing lists of employee recognition and incentive product buyers to support clients in a business-to-business marketplace that now encompasses close to 90% of companies.

89% of Companies Committed to Recognition Spending

In fact, the 2017 “Trends in Employee Recognition” report from WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, found 89% of surveyed organizations committed to recognition programs, with 65% offering between three and six different programs, from companywide (81%) to individual (69%) to department/team (67%). The top five recognition programs rewarded length of service (85%); above-and-beyond performance (77%); programs to motivate behaviors associated with the business initiatives, such as customer service (51%); peer-to-peer recognition (49%); and retirement (34%).  Certificates and/or plaques remain the most awarded recognition item, at 80% of respondents, followed by cash (55%), gift certificates/cards (45%), company-logo merchandise (40%), and food, such as a lunch or pizza party (39%). For incentive and recognition marketers, targeting can mainly focus on two departments responsible for administering programs: human resources (59%) and compensation (22%).

2018 Trends Include Brand Culture, Tech Partnering, & Wellness

The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2018 Trends Study” offers recognition and incentive marketers more guidance on changing demand trends. For one, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality capabilities will be a “fundamental requirement” for vendors and suppliers looking to partner with incentive professionals in 2018, per IRF. Marketers also will want to push wellness messaging, since more incentive professionals are adding health and wellness components focused on fitness, food, and comfort to their incentive programs this year compared with other features, says the report. And when it comes to merchandise products, incentive buyers in 2018 don’t want more choice as much as more “impactful products,”  such as products with local sourcing or organic roots and products that can be easily personalized and customized. The desire to build a brand-asset culture around intangibles, such as innovation, as well as traditional assets is one factor pushing these non-cash awards in 2018, notes the report. On the other hand, gift cards will continue to gain momentum this year, according to the IRF, which says mid-size firms spend an average of nearly $500,000 annually on gift cards across all programs, while large ones spend over $1 million annually. Finally, although incentive travel makes up a small part of the recognition pie, the incentive travel industry’s net optimism score for the economy is up almost 20 points from 2017 in the IRF report, leading to budget increases despite rising costs. For more on top incentive trends, see http://www.incentivemag.com/News/Industry/IRF-Top-Incentive-Trends-2018/

 

 

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

Promotional Product Marketers Can Hone Proven Tools

AccuList USA recently completed a proprietary analysis of the top-performing direct mail and e-mail lists for promotional products companies to help buttress the continued success of this evergreen marketing tool.

A Message About Proven Success

Promotional product providers already have some powerful arguments in wooing business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers. For example, per industry surveys, eight in 10 consumers have one to 10 promotional products, 53% use the giveaways at least once a week, and 60% retain the products for up to two years. Before receiving a promotional product, 55% surveyed had done business with the advertiser, but after receiving a promotional product, 85% did business with the advertiser. With promotional products delivering such regular, repeated brand exposure and enhanced outreach, it’s no wonder the U.S. promotional products industry is forecast to generate $24 billion in 2018, growing at 2.5 % annually.

Many Industries Worth Wooing

Plus, while not every industry is a good target for a promotional product pitch, prospective buyers abound. A recent post by Designhill, a graphic design platform, cited some top promotional users they have supported. Real estate promotions lead in distributing branded notepads, keychains, calendars, magnets, door hangers and more, for example. The education sector often offers writing instruments, apparel, water bottles, folders, and frisbees at college fairs, seminars, expos and open houses. In today’s competitive healthcare market, clinics, hospitals, outpatient clinics and surgery centers go beyond branded tote bags to first-aid kits and custom ice packs. Nonprofits are big consumers of tumblers, tote bags, wristbands and lanyards, while banks, credit unions and insurance firms opt to reward both employees and new accounts with everything from travel bags and mugs to fidget spinners. With the midterm elections ahead, don’t forget that political candidates are a big market for flags, stickers, decals, apparel and hats (following in MAGA footsteps). On a global basis, the top 25 promotional products purchasers include seven from the consumer-goods industry, six from the communications industry, and a dozen more from pharmaceutical, technology and automotive industries.

Targeted Data Available for Mail, Digital & Social

The key to success is targeted data. Promotional products are visual sales, which is why direct mail and catalogs using targeted mailing lists have such a role in the industry. Now social media options such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn also allow for visual, targeted promotions, including video. And tools like AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct can link highly targeted direct mail with social media advertising on Facebook, or send direct mail with timely opt-in e-mail to the same recipients. In a digital world, house e-mail databases, enhanced by LinkedIn connections, lead capture forms or event contacts, are very cost-effective marketing tools for promotional products—as long as the e-mail database is accurate, up-to-date and targeted, which is among the data support services that AccuList USA also offers promotional product clients.

 

 

 

Direct Mail Lead Gen Doesn’t Have to Bust the Budget

Many direct marketing articles tout digital tactics for generating sales leads. But at AccuList USA, we can attest to the continued lead-gen effectiveness of traditional direct mail for a range of our clients, including online retail and publications. Direct mail has higher response rates while avoiding some of the challenges of SEO, social media and e-mail, such as rapidly changing rules, deliverability/visibility issues and a crowded competitive space. But what about the cost of direct mail?  As a recent MarketingProfs post highlighted, there are direct mail options that can effectively deliver leads without busting the marketing budget!

Sales Letters Are Proven Workhorses

A No. 10 envelope that includes a one- or two-page letter and a reply card is an expensive, simple and effective way to reach prospects with something likely to be opened and read (unlike many e-mails). Of course, response depends on the proper targeting of the prospect lists and the personalized content of the letter. The letter should identify a problem, present a solution and offer a “freebie” of value, such as a brochure, sample, demo, evaluation, information kit or anything else that will get a response so that salespeople can follow up with qualified prospects.

Postcards and Flyers Are Lower Cost Options

A postcard is an inexpensive alternative to a letter, with low print costs and lower postage rates, as long as you stay within the minimum size of 3.5″ x 5″ and the maximum of 4.25″ x 6″. Because there is less room for the sales message, offer copy needs to be simple with a clear call to action. And because there is no additional response device, postcards need to stress a website address or a phone number. To drive traffic to a retail store, make room for directions or a map. Similarly, flyers are cheap and great options for local small businesses or businesses that want to appear small (read less expensive). Printed on ordinary paper, folded in thirds with a tab to hold it closed, and addressed with a mailing label and stamp, the result doesn’t have to be beautiful to be effective. Put the main message on the inside and teasers and mailing information on the outside so that, when you read the address, the folded side is on the bottom and the tab is on the top.

Court Attention With Invitations and Special Delivery

An invitation doesn’t have to be printed in formal lettering on cream card stock in a fancy hand-addressed envelope. You can draw people to an event or offer in a way that seems more personal and important just by using the words “You are invited…” An invitation can use a letter, a postcard or a flyer for an open house, special sale, product demonstration, etc. The key is to make the event seem exclusive and the invitees special in some way. Another way to make a mailing seem special is to use FedEx or other quick delivery service. The package content can range from a simple personal letter to a video or product sample. A special delivery package is a guaranteed open, but, because the delivery method is more expensive, it is usually limited to a smaller group of select targets.

For the complete article, see http://www.marketingprofs.com/8/cheap-direct-mail-tools-generate-sales-leads-fast-rieck.asp

Smart List, Mail Design Choices Help Save on Postage

Direct mail has higher average response rates than digital choices, but maximizing mail ROI requires cost efficiency, especially in the postage realm. Good list selection and hygiene are key to avoiding mailing waste, and this is one area where AccuList USA’s expertise in targeted mailing lists selection and data services can certainly aid clients. Another important factor in controlling postage costs is mail package design. An article by Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould offers a great summary of how smart choices in lists and design can add up to savings.

Targeted, Clean Lists Cut Postage Waste

If you are sending mailings to the wrong people, people unlikely to be interested in your offer, lower response rate and cost inefficiency will be reflected in poor ROI. Using tools from predictive modeling to customer profiling to segmentation can improve list choices and targeting parameters. Plus, AccuList USA’s proprietary list research can help clients find the top-performing lists for their specific vertical market. But no matter how data is targeted, dirty data with duplicates, errors, invalid addresses, and old demographic or purchase history information will create costly delivery failures and misdirected waste. That’s why AccuList USA goes beyond list brokerage to provide expert merge-purge services that combine and standardize data in order to eliminate duplicates, identify and correct old or undeliverable addresses, verify zip codes, and maximize postal discounts. In fact, by comparing names and addresses to real-time information on multiple public and private databases, AccuList USA offers an advanced hygiene regimen that is able to identify and correct twice as many addresses as standard USPS FASTforward and NCOALink use, which only represent a portion of U.S. movers and undeliverables.

Careful Design Wins Postage Discounts

USPS offers postage discounts to mail pieces that are not only addressed correctly but also designed for processing on automated equipment. For mail to qualify for the lowest postage rates, the mail piece needs to be at a letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5″ long and a maximum of 6″ high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category, which can cost more than twice as much per piece as a letter. Plus, to take advantage of automation, the piece must by rectangular, with an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage. Then the addressing and barcode block on letter size mail must fit into the USPS OCR read area to avoid additional postage. For tri-folded self-mailers, the address must be on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage. Naturally, weight matters.  Keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce; if the piece weighs over 3 ounces, it must go in an envelope. Thickness counts, too  If a mail piece is less than 0.009″ thick, it costs more in postage. On the other hand, the  maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”. The best advice is to consult with your mailing service provider about any new design in advance. For more, see https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/save-money-postage/

 

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

Purchase the whole report or see a free summary article for more data.

Pet Charity Mailer’s Creative Opens Hearts & Wallets

AccuList USA has a long and successful history with mailing lists and data services targeting “pet parents” and organizations offering pet-related products, services and causes. One of the surefire ways to engage an audience is to use adorable animal pictures combined with copy crafted to open hearts–and wallets. So here’s a recent example of direct mail to inspire our pet marketing clients, courtesy of a post by Target Marketing magazine.

Envelope That Uses Hard-to-Say-No Pictures & Teasers

Best Friends, which runs the largest no-kill U.S. animal sanctuary across multiple locations, was seeking donations for its mission of ending pet homelessness. The outer envelope of their newsletter package immediately grabs attention with a picture of one of the nonprofit’s doggie stars. The heart-tugging gaze is hard to ignore, especially coupled with an intriguing teaser: “Hey, whatever happened to Justin? Find out inside!”

Emotionally Moving Letter With Up-Front Reply Form

When recipients open the envelope, they find a newsletter showcasing the sad story of a pup who had a rough start, including a photo to tug at donor heartstrings. And once emotions are triggered, the format makes it easy to act by putting a donation reply form and call-to-action right at the top of the letter.

Including Proof of Dollar Impact & Mission Value

If prospective donors still hesitate, the Best Friends’ copy offers data on the importance and urgency of action by providing examples of the impact that specific dollar-amount donations will have. The copy also educates recipients on the organization’s mission, vision and history so they connect with the larger cause.

Since a picture, especially one of a winsome pup, is worth a thousand words, take a look at the actual mail piece by going to the article.