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.

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 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 

Direct Mail Still Powers Fundraising, Especially Planned Giving

At AccuList USA, nonprofit interest in our direct mailing lists and services for fundraising remains strong despite the growing share of donor dollars collected via online giving. Some of the reasons that fundraising pros remain committed to mail power are cited in a recent article for The NonProfit Times by Mark Hrywna.

Direct Mail Is Vital in a Multi-Channel Mix

It’s true that nonprofit organizations are beginning to see a growing share of donations attributed to online giving, but as Steve MacLaughlin, vice president of data and analytics at fundraising tech firm Blackbaud, stresses in the article, online giving is still less than 10% of all charitable giving. Fundraisers need to avoid confusing the channel of engagement with the channel of transaction, he advises. Direct mail response certainly is no longer limited to mailed donations as many direct mail recipients go online to give; similarly, a mobile-device outreach or e-mail appeal can generate offline gifts. Even in an increasingly digital world, a good multi-channel mix will include direct mail.

Direct Mail Keeps Proving Its Power

Hrywna cites Make-a-Wish Foundation as an example of continued direct mail investment. When Chief Financial Officer Paul Mehlhorn started with Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2009, he recalls that he was told direct mail was a dinosaur that would be gone in five or six years.  Yet last year the national office exceeded 2009 direct mail revenue by several million dollars, going from $13.9 million to $15.3 million. “It looks to me like a program that can stay very strong for the next 10 to 15 years,” Mehlhorn asserts to Hrywna. In fact, Mehlhorn says he may expand on that direct mail success: “We continue to increase our investment in online giving. However, we are reconsidering our approach to direct mail and may increase our investment for direct mail in future years. As you get past the low-hanging fruit, [online] becomes almost as costly as direct mail. Unless you enlarge your donor pool, you’re going to be spending about the same.”

Direct Mail Has a Key Role in Planned Giving

Plus, while the revenue ratio of direct mail to online giving has gone from 3:1 to even at Make-a-Wish, there are some areas where direct mail retains an edge, such as planned giving. Make-A-Wish Foundation has seen revenue from planned gifts just about triple during the past four years, growing from about $2 million to $6 million, and Mehlhorn credits part of that success to actively promoting planned giving in direct mail as well as online campaigns. “A lot of the folks now making end-of-life plans are still in that generation that likes getting mail,” he points out.

For more, see The NonProfit Times article.

 

 

 

 

 

Demographic Trends Drive Growth in Pet-Owner Spending

Direct mail and e-mail lists and data services targeting pet owners are one of AccuList USA’s high-demand markets, and we expect trends in pet ownership to grow that marketing interest–and the competition that makes quality data and targeting even more essential.

Demographics Fuel Pet-Owner Spending

A recent post for The Marketing Insider highlights the demographic trends that are making pet owners such attractive targets: “Americans now own 305 million cats and dogs, an increase of 85 million over the past 10 years. The  50+ demographic is responsible for 60% of that growth. With 50+ population expected to grow twice as rapidly as the 18-49 segment over the next 10 years, brands that include 50+ pet owners in their marketing strategies will improve their odds of maximizing revenue growth,” asserts columnist Mark Bradbury.

Older Pet Owners Offer Big Opportunities

Bradbury makes the point that marketers hoping to cash in on the older pet-owning market will need to adjust their buyer profiles given that 50+ pet owners are mainly empty-nesters (80%), retired (one-in-three), and three times more likely than younger pet owners to be divorced, widowed or separated–leaving more time and disposable income to devote to pet members of the family. Bradbury points to statistical proof that older owners are on a pet-spending splurge: People 50+ spent over $15.6 billion on their pets in the last year, more than all of the other generations combined, according to PetBusinessProfessor.com.

Growing Market Also Draws Big Competition

The opportunity to market pet-pampering products is expanding, but so is the competition for slices of the pet-owner pie. Using marketing tactics of the past may either miss the mark with the older generation of pet owners, or get lost in the crowd vying for their attention. Bradbury suggests several tactics that put the focus squarely on the growing Baby Boomer pet market, including messaging that celebrates a pet-centric Boomer life stage. Multi-channel campaigning is a must for this market as well. In addition to digital marketing via online, social and e-mail, Boomers are also still heavy users, and responders, of direct mail, magazines and television, Bradbury points out. “Synergistic cross-media marketing plans” are required to maximize reach at every stage in the purchase funnel, he advises. Plus, though Boomers like to spend to dote on their pets, they also want to spend wisely and are attracted to savings opportunities. Direct marketers will want to include discounts or loyalty reward programs to win brand fans.

For more of Bradbury’s pet marketing suggestions, see https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/314521/the-inside-track-on-the-booming-pet-market.html

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.

 

 

Fundraising Mail Benefits From Data-Rich List Segmentation

Because effective data use is so key to nonprofit direct mail success, AccuList USA goes beyond data brokerage and supports fundraising clients with merge-purge and segmentation, predictive analytics, and data hygiene and appending, as well as rental list vetting and parameter selection.

Limited Data Limits Response

Some fundraisers question the need for a more sophisticated data approach, of course. So we’ll pass along a recent NonProfitPRO blog post by Chris Pritcher, of Merkle’s Quantitative Marketing Group, which challenges overly narrow views of donor data. Too often, using data to understand the donor base is limited to one of two categories, Pritcher notes: 1) RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) data and giving history, or 2) donor demographics and behavioral measures, ranging from factors such as wealth or related interests/purchases to applying behavior-lifestyle systems such as Prizm. Whether the data is first-party or third-party sourced, each approach has its limitations. RFM often silos data from a single channel, for example, even though donors live in a multi-channel world. RFM also focuses mainly on short-term financial action, ignoring donors, especially Millennials, whose giving is maximized through an interactive, long-term relationship. Meanwhile, though donor demographics can help avoid low-opportunity lists and segments, demographics in isolation may be too general for effective response targeting. Wealth data indicates who has money but not who is willing to give that money to a specific cause, as Pritcher points out.

Multi-dimensional View Enriches Segmentation

Pritcher urges fundraisers to step up their donor targeting and embrace “multi-dimensional segmentation” over the either/or data approach described above. Instead, nonprofits can analyze donor actions (both financial and non-financial) along with data such as demographics, wealth, donations to other organizations, etc., to create more actionable segments. Here are some of his basic tips for success: 1) avoid a myopic view by using financial and non-financial information across channels; 2) control scale by limiting segments and focusing on actionable over descriptive data; 3) include a plan for migrating donors into the most engaged segments; 4) focus strategy and budget on top donor segments, and use segmentation to acquire prospects likely to grow into similarly engaged donors; 5) target messaging by segment to further boost response, affinity and loyalty.

For the complete article, go to http://www.nonprofitpro.com/post/who-exactly-are-your-donors/

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/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subscription Marketing Basics Still Create Winning Formulas

Despite modern publishing’s multi-platform environment (print, web, mobile), many long-time subscription marketing rules retain their relevance. A recent post from Bill Dugan, for niche magazine consulting firm Mequoda, stressed just that point by reminding audience development pros of the fundamentals for price, offer and creative. As a list brokerage with many paid or controlled circulation clients, AccuList USA would, of course, add another important component: quality data

Price, Offer, Creative

As Dugan stresses, the art and science of pricing still counts. In pricing, whether for print, online, tablet or combination packages, subscription marketers actually have an edge over many other products by being able to sell the same product at different prices each time it’s purchased, from a new subscriber to each subsequent renewal. Pricing strategies can include 1) simply the same price at every stage of buying or renewing; 2) giving the more price-sensitive new subscriber an introductory discount and then selling renewals at full price; 3) maximizing response and profitability with a step-up program from a low introductory price through gradual renewal increases to maximum; and 4) rewarding subscribers with a lower monthly price for selecting a longer (annual) term. Next, marketers can build a range of offers. Based on testing, Dugan reports that the best response is earned by a “soft offer,” meaning a trial free issue or more, plus a premium and a bill-me-later for a full subscription. The lowest response offer is the old-fashioned hard offer, requesting up-front credit card payment with no trial or premium,per his testing. And finally, direct marketing success requires wrapping the offer in effective creative. A key to creative response today, whether direct mail or e-mail, is personalization that focuses on the target customers’ needs.

And Market-Tested, Targeted Lists!

Of course, effective personalization requires targeted, quality data! So while Dugan didn’t talk about the paramount importance of data, we remind marketers of the continuing relevance of either the 40-40-20 rule (40% of response success from audience/list, 40% from offer and 20% for creative) or the 60-30-10 formula (60% from targeted audience/list). Bottom line, good audience data is key. To support digital and print publishers, AccuList USA turns to its proprietary research on market-tested data and selection parameters most likely to boost response. That means lists such as those targeting active subscribers to trade or consumer publications; book buyers having specific interests; digital or print edition subscribers; known subscribers at work, home, or waiting room address; or subscribers with Facebook profiles.

For the complete Mequoda article, see http://www.mequoda.com/articles/subscription_websites/subscription-marketing-the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same/