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

Why You Should De-dupe Your Data

In today’s data-driven marketing, data is not only the most important asset that your company can have but can also make or break your campaign. Having clean data impacts not only marketing activities but also impacts your reputation, operations and decision-making. De-duping is one of the most important aspects of overall data hygiene. Duplicates can be found on many levels of data; they arise at the household level, individual e-mail level or company level. But before you can de-dupe your data, you must make sure you have a clear definition of what a duplicate is. Some businesses de-dupe based on a household address for direct mail campaigns, others on an e-mail basis for e-mail marketing campaigns, and some de-dupe based on the company level. If you are still not convinced that you need to de-dupe, consider the following benefits:

Avoiding Different Offers to the Same Customer

Having direct mail going out to the same household can be costly, and it can also be extremely embarrassing. For example, you send two different direct mail creatives to the same household. As one of the records was a customer, you decided to provide a returning customer 15% off, while the other record was marked as a prospect and only got 10% off. Now the person opening both direct mails will be confused by having two different discounts, and the company also can face a PR nightmare.

Cutting Unnecessary Cost

It goes without saying that having duplicates increases your cost. For example, assume you are doing a direct mail creative which costs you $5 per mailing. Your list contains 10,000 recipients. The total cost of mailings therefore is $50,000. If you decided to de-dupe, you would find out that 10% of your mailing list was duplicated. Therefore, $5,000 was a waste of resources. It would have been much cheaper to de-dupe prior to deploying your campaign.

Good Analytics for Decision-making 

Analytics is important not just from a perspective of understanding how your marketing and sales is performing but also from a decision-making perspective. By having duplicates in your CRM, you are going to be double-counting your list capabilities, miscalculating your true growth rates, and getting the wrong rate of responses. If you are looking to make a decision on future campaigns, basing it on duplicate data will give you the wrong list count, wrong budget and possibly the wrong creative picked (especially if you are basing it on an A/B testing done previously).

Reducing Customer Service Confusions

If there are duplicates in your CRM system, having clients call in, e-mail or come into the store will make it difficult for staff to track down the right individual. For example, Mary Smith is found twice in your CRM with the same phone number. She calls in to your customer support to inquire about her order status. Your customer service rep decides to pull up the customer account by phone number and finds two records. Now she has to put the customer on hold while she checks both accounts to try to locate the last purchase before she can even assist the customer. Not only is it wasting everyone’s time and making customer service inefficient, it also makes the customer have a bad customer service experience.

Preventing Potential Loss of Sales

Finally, the biggest impact that duplicates have on your business is a potential loss of sale. If you have duplicates, you do not have a true view of all prospect or customer activities. Therefore, you could be excluding prospects from a sales call because your lead scoring system indicated that they are not ready. However, if the data from both records was combined, you would have all signals indicating they are ready to be passed on to sales. With duplicates, by the time you figure it out, a customer may have already lost interest and gone with your competitor.

You can easily de-dupe your list by using a de-duping tool that will require less effort to identify duplicates and establish a master record than is required to deal with the consequences of duplicate data. De-duping should be part of your data-cleaning initiative, either prior to any major campaign or on a yearly basis.

If you are interested in data clean-up and use of a de-duping tool, contact guest author Anna Kayfitz, CEO of StrategicDB Corp.

P&C Insurance Embraces Direct Mail Response

Direct mail by property and casualty insurance clients continues as a staple of AccuList USA’s list brokerage and data services business, and so we were pleased to see a Valentine’s Day love note to P&C direct mail from the marketing consultants at IWCO Direct.

P&C Insurance Industry Loves Direct Mail

The IWCO post notes that nearly 400 insurance companies mailed more than 5.7 billion pieces of mail in 2017, according to Comperemedia. The property and casualty insurance category accounted for 53% of that volume, with more than 3 billion pieces of direct mail mailed by 110 companies. Of those direct mail packages, 95% were Marketing Mail (formerly called Standard Mail), mainly for acquisition (89%).

Mailings Reflect Ongoing Promotional Trends

Comperemedia and Competiscan data highlighted trends revealed by those direct mail packages, too.  With 55% of policyholders likely to shop around for insurance as a policy comes up for renewal, smart insurance providers are taking a proactive approach and contacting policyholders in advance to remind them why they should remain with their current P&C insurance provider. Also to woo shoppers, both in acquisition and renewal, insurance promotions are direct about savings messages and competitor pricing comparisons. Finally, the industry’s continued embrace of direct mail does not ignore the digital revolution; in fact, direct mail packages are highlighting the industry’s growing self-service digital functionality for policyholders.

Basic Direct Mail Tactics That Up Response

Leveraging industry trends and success stories, IWCO lists three basic tactics proven to boost response for P&C acquisition and cross-sell mailings: 1) Comparison charts touting coverage benefits over those of top competitors, and an offer to match coverage pricing and benefits upon policy review if appropriate; 2) Promotional cards with a clear call-to-action via website, mobile app, and/or toll-free phone; and 3) An eye-catching personalized tagline. See https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/02/14/pc-insurance-marketing-trends-valentines-day/

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.

 

 

Year-end Fundraising Needs Multi-Channel, Multi-Touch Effort

Even though AccuList USA’s nonprofit clients are deep into year-end donation drives, it’s worth checking off fundraising benchmarks to give those final tweaks and finishes before New Year’s. MobileCause, a fundraising software and strategy firm, has developed a handy infographic based on marketing research and insights gleaned from its webinar attendees.

Multi-channel Campaigns Maximize Giving

A key takeaway is that branded, multi-channel campaigns raise both more immediate dollars and have more long-term value, with 61% of donors more likely to give again. The infographic cites Japs-Olson Company data to prove the point: Response rates are 6% for direct mail only, 27% for direct mail and web, 27% for direct mail and e-mail, and 37% for the combination of direct mail, web and e-mail. While direct mail remains the centerpiece of donation drives, with 71% to 81% of donations from mail, greater success requires combining and coordinating channels.

Multiple Appeals Drive Donor Action

It is also essential to make multiple appeals across channels, since research shows that it takes a minimum of three exposures to a message to generate a decision. MobileCause suggests the following tactics for maximum impact: a warm-up letter, an appeal letter, a follow-up letter, and e-mails every two weeks, all supported by website home page articles, customized donation form and personal communication (such as phone calls). Don’t neglect to craft social media ads, too. Plus, plan to use video to drive engagement and response across channels–on social pages, e-mail, and website (Augmented Reality can even add video to paper mail, too). You’ll be in sync with MobileCause attendees: 61% plan to add video to campaigns, 23% plan a custom donation page, and 21% plan an online landing page.

Timing and Planning Make the Difference

By December, fundraisers should be reaping the results of efforts that launched in October, when website, donation page and videos were readied and the first year-end appeal mailed. November should have leveraged Giving Tuesday and e-mail follow-ups. But now that we’re in December, there’s still time for the extra push. Consider a Dec. 26 year-end e-appeal and a Dec. 31 last chance e-appeal, for example.

Check out the year-end giving infographic from MobileCause for more data and tips.

Making the Case for Direct Mail Power in Multi-channel Marketing

As our multi-channel marketing clients polish their 2018 marketing plans, it’s a good time to remind them of the continued value of direct mail in this digital era. A recent infographic from direct marketing agency US Presort puts together data from The Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Social Media Examiner, Epsilon, Experian and Marketing Sherpa to make the case for a direct mail commitment.

Why Connect Digital & Direct Mail?

The majority of marketers (71%) say they believe in an integrated multi-channel approach. After all, a smart multi-channel strategy can combine the pervasive impact of digital (96% of consumers say they were influenced online in making a purchase decision) with the effectiveness of direct mail (digital can’t beat mail’s 80% open rate or its consumer trust rating  of 76% compared with 61% for Google search, 43% for social and 39% for online ads). And marketers who combine direct mail and e-mail in a single integrated campaign report better results than when running standalone efforts, with overall response increasing by 35% or more. So why are so few marketers (just 29%) actually implementing those integrated multi-channel campaigns?

Addressing Direct Mail Myths

Lingering misconceptions may cause some marketers to hesitate over integrating direct mail with digital. As the infographic points out, direct mail has a high perceived cost. Yet while direct mail costs more to produce and distribute, its response rates are also much higher than other channels, so its ROI remains competitive. For example, per the DMA’s 2016 data, direct mail response rates averaged 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, compared with online display ads at 0.9%, e-mail at 0.6% for house files and 0.3% for prospects, social media with 0.6%, and paid search at 0.5%. As a result, median ROI for direct mail, while behind e-mail, is on par with social media at 29% and 30%, respectively, and ahead of other digital channels such as mobile, search and online ads. Others assume difficulties in connecting and tracking combined paper and digital promotions. But technology and U.S. Postal Service discounts are making direct mail easier and cheaper to integrate with digital via mobile device-scanned coupon links, QR codes, PURLs (Personalized URLs), and landing pages. Plus, direct mail is now much easier to track in real time thanks to the U.S. Postal Service Intelligent Mail Barcode that lets marketers follow every single piece from the postal DSCF unit to the prospect’s door.

Making Direct Mail Part of a Multi-channel Solution

Successfully leveraging the power of direct mail in a multi-channel strategy requires a few key steps. As suggested in the infographic, include the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode on all mail to track delivery and coordinate with other channels, and then gather measurable response from multiple channels via tactics such as reply cards, 800-number call tracking, as well as mobile-scanned QR codes and PURLs. Create campaign-specific landing pages and make sure they are mobile-friendly. Integrate e-mail and direct mail messaging and lists, and coordinate e-mail blasts with mail delivery; plus create Facebook ad campaigns to target the same audience as your direct mail lists (see our Digital2Direct programs). Finally, consider IP Direct Mail or Web Direct Mail to target the same mail audience on Google with coordinated ad banners.

To share the full infographic, go to https://www.uspresort.com/posts/direct-mail-how-to-succeed-in-digital-era

 

 

Use Key Direct Marketing KPIs to Gird 2018 Plans

The busy year-end holiday season, especially for fundraisers and retailers, should not distract direct marketers from the working on the analytics they need to finalize next year’s marketing plans and ROI. A recent post by the Digital Dog Direct agency helpfully offers a checklist of basic marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Spending and Lead Generation

Marketing ROI is about effective spending and requires tracking results by channel and campaign. KPIs use actual annual outlay for direct mail marketing (lists, print, lettershop, creative, postage), digital marketing (e-mail, SEO/SEM, landing pages, social media and creative), as well as spending on PR/events/brand/content marketing.  Marketers must keep a tally of the number of outbound leads attributed to direct mail or e-mail campaigns, as well as the inbound leads generated by efforts such as SEO, blog content or PR. Then a cost per lead acquired can be calculated by dividing annual expenditure by the number of leads generated. Since the ultimate goal is sales not merely leads, the percentage of leads that become paying customers and the dollar sales per lead are key measures.

Multi-channel Performance Rates

Beyond evaluating general performance, marketing planners should use measurement to fine-tune future marketing plans and budgets. This means identifying the response rates and conversion rates for each channel, for each direct mail and digital campaign, and for tests of creative, timing, frequency, lists and segments. Performance rates should be measured not only for campaigns to acquire new leads/customers but also targeting of existing customers and reactivation of dormant customers. Website traffic reports from Google Analytics can not only show online ad and SEM effectiveness but also track spikes around direct mail or e-mail promotions to give a fuller picture of response. A simple ratio of the annual return on marketing investment, or ROI by channel and campaign, can be calculated by adding up incremental sales from marketing and subtracting marketing amount spent, and then dividing the result by amount spent on marketing.

Long-term Growth of High-Value Customers

But remember that a focus on annual or campaign results can be myopic since these do not necessarily deliver long-term growth–for example if attrition is high so more customers are lost than added. Marketers need to look at customer and prospect databases to make sure they are growing year-over-year. Because acquiring a single sale per lead also is less profitable long-term than acquiring a repeat customer, measuring average customer lifetime value is a vital KPI and is calculated by multiplying average dollar sale per customer by the average number of purchases per year and the average retention time in years.

See the full article for the KPI checklist.