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/

Push Your Event Marketing E-mails Ahead of the Pack

During close to 30 years of direct marketing to help trade shows and conferences boost attendance and sell exhibitor space, clients often have asked for guidance on event industry response for e-mail campaigns. Now we can enhance data pulled from our proprietary research and experience with Eventbrite’s new “2017 Event E-mail Benchmarking Report,” comparing survey responses from over 340 event organizers across the U.S. and U.K. for a range of event types and sizes.

Benchmarks to Emulate

If you’re an event marketer with a fuzzy notion of the basic response measure of click-to-open rate (CTOR), you’re not alone. The benchmark report found that 39% of respondents said they didn’t know their average CTOR. That’s an ignorance that these event pros need to remedy if they hope to catch up with even average e-mail results. The rest of the U.S. event organizers surveyed reported an average CTOR of 12%. That was higher than their U.K. brethren, who only cited a 9% average, but far behind the enviable 17% in the U.S. who reported a CTOR of 21% or higher! Festivals scored the best average e-mail CTOR (14%), while classes and workshops had the lowest (9%).

Copy & Design to Boost Click-to-Open Rates

Event marketers who want to improve CTOR can commit to a number of basic creative tactics. First, they can revisit layouts and make sure they direct recipients to a compelling and clear call-to-action. Then, copy should be relevant, personalized and spam-filter avoidant, running from a great subject line that entices opens to copy that wins clicks. Obviously, mobile-optimization is a must now that the majority of e-mails are opened on mobile devices. Note that the most effective e-mails today also include an engaging image. E-mail research has found that e-mail campaigns with imagery have a 42% higher CTOR than campaigns without images, for example. (Don’t forget to comply with CAN-SPAM opt-out and privacy regulations, of course.)

Target, Test, Automate, Integrate

As data brokers, we must remind that response is even more dependent on the quality of targeted opt-in e-mail data, whether house or rental lists, and use of professional software and database support for list segmentation, updating and permission management as well as results tracking, testing and analysis. Indeed, regardless of carefully crafted e-mail creative, results measurement and analytics are essential to a direct marketing basic: testing of creative, lists and targeting to find what works best. Automation of event updates and confirmation/thank-you e-mails has also proven its value in maximizing click-through rates and conversions/registrations. And, finally, e-mail gains the most reach as part of a consistently branded, multi-channel effort, leveraging social media’s e-mail list building strategies, for example, as well as the proven marketing power of direct mail. (Ask us about our Digital2Direct marketing program that matches postal and opt-in e-mail records to send targeted mail and e-mail to the same recipients.)

For more metrics from the new event e-mail benchmarking survey, get the free report at https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/academy/2017-event-email-benchmarking-report/

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.

Fundraising Pros Forecast 2017 Trends for Direct Mail

For nonprofits, 2017 offers an avalanche of political and technological changes, yet we don’t see any trend sweeping direct mail or e-mail out from under fundraising marketers just yet. Certainly, AccuList USA’s top fundraising mailing lists, based on proprietary research, continue to deliver donors and dollars to clients.

In fact, NonProfit PRO magazine recently found relevant mailing insights when it asked nonprofit pros nationwide for 2017 fundraising trend predictions. A few nuggets from its “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017” include:

Digital & Analog Can Grow Together

Marketers should see digital and non-digital communications as symbiotic rather than competitive. Indeed, Roger Craver and Tom Belford, editors of The Agitator, predicted that the continued rise of digital technology and data will paradoxically foster an increase in “old fashioned” pre-digital methods of communication and relationship building, such as direct mail, printed “thank you” notes, personal phone calls and print newsletters. Why? Because old-fashioned non-digital communications “provide a key—and currently missing—fundraising ingredient: a human, real-life interaction between an organization and its donors.”

Integrating Not Just Multiplying Channels

Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, principal of Clairification, advised nonprofits to recognize that they are now dealing with an all-encompassing “Generation Connected” (GenC) and must be in multiple spaces simultaneously—but with consistent and integrated messaging. Merely fundraising through multiple channels does not equal integration from the consumer’s perspective, she warns;  integration requires coordinated images, messages and offers across channels to avoid muddling the brand.

Going for Mailing Depth Over Volume

Direct mail is still a top fundraising tool—but not if used as a blunt instrument. Nick Ellinger, vice president of marketing strategy at DonorVoice, noted recent Dutch research that found 63% of the revenues of an additional nonprofit mailing aren’t new revenues but rather cannibalized from the revenues of other communications. However, by investing in donor knowledge and targeting, customization and personalization rather than just mail volume, test programs report stable gross revenue and a significant increase in net revenue in year one (or year two at worst), Ellinger reported.

Direct Mail’s Not Dead & Neither Is E-mail

Eric Rardin, vice president of business development for Care2, predicted that e-mail will only increase in importance in 2017. While social tools and platforms proliferate and compete, e-mail emerges as a digital tool that best allows marketers to push traffic and engagement online, he noted, so the value of an e-mail address, with permission to mail, will continue to increase year over year.

Use Technology to Kick Up Results

Though “old-fashioned” mail still drives donations, it may do a better job if paired with new technology. Shari Mason, vice president, marketing communications of Smile Train, suggested embracing 3D-printing initiatives, virtual reality experiences and social-good fundraising platforms to improve giving-impact communications, message sharing, call to action, and cause awareness. Leigh Kessler, vice president of communications for CharityEngine, even urged testing mobile device voice intelligence technology (Siri, Cordera, Google Now)—for example with a direct mail piece that says, “If you have Amazon Echo, just say ‘Alexa, I’d like to Give $25 to customURLnonprofit.org.'”

For more trends, read NonProfit PRO‘s “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017.”

Direct Mail Woos Millennial Shoppers by Embracing Their Digital Side

With the millennial generation, roughly those aged 18-35, now outnumbering boomers, most marketers want to keep this big batch of younger purchasers in their crosshairs. Yet direct mailers sometimes report frustration that response does not match assumptions and expectations from mailing lists and creative.  One cause of lower than desired response may be failure to take into account how millennial shopping and buying habits differ from those of other generational groups.

Yes, Millennials Shop Differently (and Digitally)

A recent article by eMarketer, drawing from its “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” survey report, cited three shopping habits that should be of interest to direct marketers. First, millennials tend to prefer digital shopping, even while in stores. Second, millennials are very comfortable with mobile shopping. And third, millennials have a strong presence on social platforms yet also respond well to direct marketing via e-mail. (See more on the report.)

How Direct Mailers Can Woo Millennials

Millennials are not averse to direct mail–but it depends on the direct mail. Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould recently cited five reasons direct mail may flop with millennials–and three come back to the clear digital preferences identified by eMarketer. First of all, a direct mail offer that does not include an online purchase option is missing sales, Gould points out. And, per eMarketer reporting, mailers may be losing sales in a big way considering that 90% of millennials, 93% of Gen Xers and even 84% of boomers said they bought online in a June 2016 Berkeley Research Group survey. Next, since millennials clearly embrace mobile shopping, every aspect of the shopping experience should be mobile-friendly (website, landing pages, shopping cart), Gould advises, and it is certainly key if the direct mail includes mobile-scanned QR codes to connect digitally. Then, since social media matters to millennials and is where they do research before they buy, a direct mailer lacking a social presence is also snubbing millennial shoppers. But not just any social outreach will do; millennials want authentic, informative, humanized interaction.

Friendly, Authentic, Tech Savvy

Regardless of digital messaging, printed content also needs to seem authentic and friendly if the mailer wants millennials to make a connection with the offer and the brand, per Gould. Millennials value companies that make them feel good, she points out, so mailers should review their creative and remove the phony or impersonal. Finally, millennials expect a company to be up-to-date with technology and to integrate marketing, shopping and sales with technology–whether in-store, in direct mail, or on the website. Millennials can relate to direct mail offers–but not if they are tied to a company that lacks the technological savvy to make interaction easy, seamless and personalized. Do millennials’ digital and tech preference mean that direct mailers can only succeed by stuffing technology into print pieces–QR, AR, video, etc.? Not necessarily, answers Gould. As with any marketing effort, just test what makes sense for enhancing audience experience and boosting response.  For Gould’s article, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/how-to-get-millennials-to-respond-to-your-direct-mail/

 

Positive 2017 Fundraising Trends Create Opportunities

While 2017 is starting as a year of uncertainty, especially in politics, a recent CauseVox post provides some good news for AccuList USA’s current and future nonprofit direct marketing clients. CauseVox staff writer Tina Jepson spotlights 10 fundraising trends that offer opportunities for greater success this year, and we’ll pass along a few here.

Increased Individual, Corporate & Recurring Giving

Donation forecasts are upbeat, Jepson shares: Philanthropy Outlook 2016 & 2017 predicts that an increase in individual and household income will help to boost fundraising efforts for nonprofits, charities, and NGOs by as much as 3.8% in 2017.  Plus, with Gross Domestic Product and business savings on the rise, total corporate giving is predicted to rise by 4.7% in 2017. And monthly giving, which accounts for 17% of online revenue, also will continue increasing per the 2016 M+R Benchmarks report. The trick with individual donors is to catch the wave with smart targeting, inspiring creative and campaigns to get existing donors to boost giving, says Jepson, while, for corporate giving, nonprofits would do well to maximize gift matching, to court business leaders and to keep tabs on company arrivals and growth locally. Plus, Jepson urges nonprofits to amp up their monthly giving strategy, making monthly giving the first option for donors on the website and a marketing priority in e-letters, direct mail and e-mail.

Donor Retention at a Record High

Donor retention rates are at the highest rate since 2008 at 45.9%, and nonprofits and charities clearly should make retention a marketing priority to capitalize on this powerful fundraising engine, Jepson notes. She suggests capitalizing on the trend with tactics such as personalization; prior gift recognition; leveraging donors’ preferred channels; donor education via videos, infographics or pamphlets; and donor activation with engagement opportunities such as volunteering or advocacy.

More Donor Data Than Ever Before

Digital interactions—websites, e-mail, social media and now the Internet of Things (IoT)—combine with traditional channels such as direct mail to generate a wealth of data about existing and potential donors. A key goal for 2017 is to gather, analyze and use actionable data effectively. Jepson lists a few ways to do so: Tracking analytics on your website and social media posts to learn the demographics and behavior of your paid, earned and owned media audience; using Facebook and Instagram Ads and Business Manager to target ads to donors likely to give; and turning around data learning to share with, and inspire, donors in real-time online via options such as a website ROI ticker that tracks return on investment (possibly in lives changed) per average donation.

Social Media & Mobile Marketing Challenges

In social and mobile marketing, nonprofits face challenges as well as opportunities. Social media platforms, including Facebook, now are promoting organic content that prioritizes the audience’s friends and family over nonprofit messages. Jepson points out that this means that effective social media marketing will need to rely more on purchased ads and targeting of key demographics, as well as creating viral content that inspires shares. Meanwhile, if your nonprofit hasn’t invested in mobile optimization of websites and e-mails, you’re missing a key donation source: Mobile giving makes up 17% of all online giving now and is projected to rise further in 2017.

For more trends and Jepson’s suggestions on maximizing their fundraising impact, see https://www.causevox.com/blog/fundraising-trends-2017/

 

Direct Mail Finds Revived Power With Multi-Channel Marketing

In today’s digital environment, focused on delivering the right message to the right customer in real time, some may mistakenly see direct mail as a clumsy marketing relic. Yet at AccuList USA, we see a re-energized role for direct mail among many clients of our data-driven marketing support services. Why? A recent blog post by Patrick Groover, Solutions Consultant at Marketo, highlights just three ways multi-channel data and automation platforms are actually boosting the power and relevancy of direct mail.

Direct Mail Personalizing

Maybe you’ve received a “happy birthday” mailer with a relevant, personalized coupon offer. That’s a simple example of how direct mail can integrate with a marketing automation platform through software APIs (application program interfaces) to use information about a customer’s specific demographics and behavior to print timely personalized content. With pre-configured creative, Groover points out, it’s easy to call up the right template, add elements of personalization, and print and mail on the same day. Multi-dimensional mailers can pre-stock materials and send out batches according to agreed protocols. Such timely, personalized offers delivered in unique, tangible formats are proven response drivers.

Direct Mail Nurturing

Many marketers engage in time-released nurturing campaigns with customers, often via a series of e-mails. Why not integrate direct mail into a multi-channel nurturing campaign? By adding a direct mail step with dynamic personalization to create relevant, specific messaging geared to the buying cycle, marketers increase their tangible, personal outreach and make the audience feel more hand-selected and valuable. Guaranteed to be seen in the mailbox, a mailed nurturing contact may reconnect in a way missed by e-mails lost to crowded inboxes and spam filters.

Direct Mail High-Value Targeting

Direct mail is pricier than e-mail (especially dimensional mail), which is why it makes sense to reduce risk by targeting direct mail to the most valuable audiences. Multi-channel data and marketing technology make that targeting easier today. Groover suggests using marketing automation to quickly identify the most valuable leads, create self-sustaining high-value lists, and trigger timely mailings of relevant collateral. This is clearly a boon for B2B account-based marketing. As one example, Groover notes how mailers can target prospects at higher education institutions by sending a piece only after the prospect downloads a specific website asset.

For the complete article, see http://blog.marketo.com/2016/10/3-effective-ways-to-incorporate-direct-mail-into-your-multi-channel-campaigns.html

 

 

 

 

 

How Direct Mail Testing Factors Differ by Product Stage

Direct mail success is all about testing — lists, offer, creative, and, of course, the product/service itself. While there’s no single formula that applies to all our direct mail consulting clients, Malcolm Decker’s excellent article “How to Test Your Direct Mail” in Target Marketing magazine’s resource section offers some useful guidelines.

Testing for a New Product

Decker differentiates the weight given the various direct mail testing parameters by a product’s life cycle–new product testing; honing success of an existing product; and testing to revive a mature product. For example, his ideal new-product test is mailed to 120,000 names, with the house list providing less than 20% of names mailed, and testing of 15 different lists, three different prices/offers, and three different creative packages. In looking at the relative contributions of testing factors, he notes that even the most well-researched new product can impact results by 30% plus or minus. Mailing lists–ranging from tightly targeted response lists to larger, broader and thus riskier lists–will contribute another plus or minus 30% to success, based on Decker’s experience. Then the price/offer will deliver another 30% up or down. And last, the creative factor for a new product can move the testing needle by another plus or minus 10%. Decker assumes proper timing since the difference between the peak season and the trough in demand is a whopping 40% of response (check Who’s Mailing What! archives and seasonality tables if unsure).

Honing Success and Maturity Challenges

Once marketers have a couple of years of mailing results to help determine price elasticity, list universe, creative preference, premium impacts, etc., Decker notes that the 30-30-30-10 relationship of start-up testing has shifted. The product can’t add much to response unless it is revised. The list universe is substantially explored, so new, more effective list contributions are scarcer; lists now potentially improve results by just 10% up or down. New offer twists, on the other hand, can goose interest in a well-known product by plus or minus 40%, and creative changes in copy and design can help re-position and expand markets for a potential 50% either way. Once a mature product’s proven marketing choices face the challenges of competition or changing tastes and demographics, the key factors shift once more. Testing now may involve a restaged product for widened appeal, which can deliver a 20% shift in either direction. Plus, a restaged product can open up the known list universe to new lists and improved results from existing or marginal lists, for another 20% difference. And a retooled product will require more price/offer testing that can shift results another 30% up or down. Finally, new creative strategy can breathe life into response for a potential 30% gain (or dip).

A Caveat on Formulas

Decker’s exposition is a quick guide for allotting effort and resources in direct mail testing at each stage in a product’s life cycle, but marketers should realize that formulas are sometimes contradicted by market experience, Decker warns. As he notes, the strongest list among 15 may produce 20 times the revenue of the weakest list! New creative can beat a proven control by a 100% bump in response. And no formula applies equally to all product types, from computers to cornflakes. Download the whole article at  http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/resource/how-to-test-your-direct-mail/

Ready for the Holiday Retail Season? Don’t Miss Out on Mail Power

As retailers head into the holiday sales season and balance their offline-online marketing mix, there’s solid recent evidence to support direct mail investment, even by digital-first marketers. It’s why AccuList USA continues updating mailing list research to hone response for a wide variety of multichannel retail campaigns in popular seasonal categories like gourmet and food gifts, health/beauty, hobbies/collectibles, and pets.

Holiday Shopping Survey Shows Direct Mail Power

Among the findings of global marketing firm Epsilon’s just released 2016 holiday shopping survey is shoppers’ clear propensity to respond to mail, for example. In fact, 77% of respondents said they feel advertisements received by mail will have at least “some influence” on their buying decisions this holiday shopping season. Compare that number to the just 41% of respondents who said that banner advertisements when searching online will have at least “some influence” on buying decisions. According to the survey respondents, they are influenced by direct mail because it usually contains an offer or discount and the format allows for leisurely review time. No surprises there.

Even Digital-First Marketers Embrace Mail

If any digital-first marketers are unconvinced, they should take a look at some real-life mail examples from digital market leaders, cited in a recent article for Target Marketing magazine by Paul Bobnak, director of Who’s Mailing What!. Bobnak shares five mail examples that are helping digital-first marketers stand out from their online competition: a Zulily postcard for the women/family-oriented shopping site, an informative Angie’s List magazine to build loyalty for the consumer review site, a discount promo mailer for pet products from chewy.com, a Handy.com home cleaning service piece that leverages its social media reviews in print, and a very small direct mail piece by Airbnb for simple and direct vacation property  recruiting.

To take a look at the mail pieces, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/5-good-things-digital-mail/