What’s the Secret to Better E-mail Deliverability? Your Reputation

Deliverability is the first step to e-mail marketing success. If your e-mail never hits the inbox, all those subject line and content tactics to drive up open and click rates are useless. So why do the top e-mail marketers get a 90% deliverability rate, while others languish below 50%? A deciding factor is reputation, as measured by a “sender score,” according to Return Path’s annual “Sender Score Benchmark Report” analysis of 4 trillion e-mail messages.

Sender Reputation Is Key to Inbox Placement

A sender’s reputation score is a number, calculated from 0–100, that mailbox providers use to evaluate whether or not e-mail sent by a particular IP address is likely to be legitimate and wanted. A marketer that sends too much unwanted or spam e-mail is likely to see their reputation drop and their e-mail filtered out of inboxes. Return Path’s analysis finds that e-mail senders with a reputation score above 90 saw an average of 92% of their e-mails reach the intended recipient, but e-mail deliverability drops to 72% for senders scoring between 81-90 and just 45% for senders with a score between 71 and 80. By the way, Gmail and Microsoft were identified as the mailbox providers with the strictest deliverability requirements, and the global inbox placement average is only 80%, or 20% of e-mail wasted. Don’t join the crowd.

Boost Your Sender Score With Good Data

So what are the things to do, and not do, to get and keep a strong reputation score? A recent post by Krista Barrack, for the sendinblue blog, cites six ways you could be damaging your sender score, starting with e-mail list issues. One common error is collecting invalid e-mail addresses in your house list (often caused by typos, especially from mobile users). These create hard bounces to erode your sender score. A second mistake is using purchased e-mail data where people have no opt-in relationship with your brand and so don’t engage or mark your message as spam, hurting your score. That’s why, as responsible data brokers, we don’t sell e-mail data and instead broker list rentals so messages are sent by the list owner with valid recipient opt-ins. A third house list problem is allowing outdated, unmailed addresses to accumulate and become invalid, again leading to score-harming hard bounces. To deal with the problem, set up a program of regular communication and hygiene to prune your list frequently.

Spammer Tactics Tank Reputation

Sender scores not only suffer from poor data quality but also poor content quality. If your e-mail message is not mobile-optimized, is loaded with spam words, is plagued by faulty links, and/or is not relevant or honest, recipients are either not going to open it, will label it as spam or will opt-out. Timing matters, too, and while failure to communicate is marketing folly, the more common sin is embrace of a spammer’s excess frequency. Note that studies show read rates drop with increased weekly frequency–and opt-outs and complaints rise to cut your sender score. Finally, watch for spam traps hiding in your e-mail list. These can get you blacklisted! Spam traps come in two flavors. One type is an e-mail address purposely created by ESPs or blacklist organizers and posted online, which gets in your list via data sources “scraped” or “harvested” from the web without opt-in. (So work with a reputable data broker!) The other type of trap is an ESP-deactivated e-mail address that the ESP recycles months later; if you failed to remove the deactivated address as a hard bounce per best practices, the ESP catches you when you re-send to it.

For more insight on e-mailer reputation, get a copy of the Return Path 2017 Sender Score Benchmark Report.

Marketers Win by Catering to Millennial Direct Mail Fans

Remember when marketing gurus were calling direct mail “dead,” drowned by a wave of digital, mobile, and social technologies? Well, research keeps resurrecting mail from its low-tech tomb. In fact, recent studies find that Millennials–the 22- to 36-year-old, tech-savvy generation supposedly addicted to mobile devices and digital networking–are bigger fans of direct mail than older generations in some ways!  That’s information that printers, mailing services, and a list broker and direct marketing consultant like AccuList USA can use to convince clients who hesitate over direct mail spending.

Millennials Like Direct Mail in General

For example, a recent study by InfoTrends and Prinova found that response rates for direct mail remain high for all demographics, including Millennials, who open direct mail received at the same high rate of 66% as recipients overall. More significantly, Milennials as a group respond faster to mail–within 2.4 months–which is less than the average response time for all respondents. Plus, the InfoTrends research found that a big 63% of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within that three-month period actually made a purchase! Along similar lines, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conducted a survey on direct mail’s political impact on Millennials and found that at least 42% of Millennials prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, that twice as many thoroughly read political mail, and that Millennials are more likely to be prompted to action by mail, with 66% likely to research the candidate and 54% visiting the candidate’s website after receiving mail.

But Millennials Also Prefer Specific Mail Tactics

However, research also shows that all mail pieces are not created equal. Mailings that resonate best with Millennials are targeted and personalized, per research. Luckily, sophisticated targeting and personalization are possible with today’s variable printing, programmatic and automation programs, and database segmentation and analytics. Millennials demand printing quality as well, with one quarter of surveyed 25- to 34-year-olds saying they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality. Mailers going beyond the standard No. 10 envelope–including 3-D dimensional mailers, pop-ups and intricately folded pieces–are playing to this audience that appreciates visual creativity. Plus, engaging copy counts, with 25% of that same surveyed group saying they consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. That doesn’t mean that printed mail can be divorced from Millennials’ digital lifestyle. Data in eMarketer’s survey report “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” shows that Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in stores, and are comfortable with mobile shopping. The Millennial preference for digital/mobile shopping means that integrating print and digital–via QR, AR, or PURL–can significantly boost response, as shown in multiple studies. Research also shows that video is a response-getter for Millennials’ digital promotions. And now mailers have the printing technology to jump on the video bandwagon with audio players and video screens incorporated in direct mail.

For a good overview of recent data on direct mail and Millennials, see this article from The Financial Brand.

Science & Tech Can Help Events Capture Audience

For an event to succeed, trade show marketers must build attendance before the event and deliver for attendees by the end of the event, whether measured by lead generation, education or networking. We’ve worked with many trade show and conference marketers over the years, especially in audience-building via direct mail and e-mail, and we’ve learned quite a bit about the art of it. But there is science and technology required for success today.

Scientific Triggers to Capture Audience

For example, BizBash.com did an interesting Q&A with Ben Parr, author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, in which Parr highlighted research-based conclusions about seven “captivation triggers” of audience attention. These triggers can apply to event promotion as well as onsite efforts by show managers and exhibitors. Start with “automaticity,” which means using colors and symbols that automatically change and direct attention, such as the color red. Move on to “framing,” setting the value of an event in a context that garners more attention, such as stressing event ticket scarcity because of limited space (read valuable/exclusive). A message or design that offers “disruption,” meaning a violation of expectations, naturally grabs attention (something the political sphere is proving right now), as does “mystery,” such as an intriguing headline or subject line. Of course, there is the standard attention-getter of a “reward” for attendance, either an extrinsic reward (a swag bag), an intrinsic reward (personal self-improvement), or a combination to maximize impact. The good reputations of event, exhibitors and speakers really count, too; brain research shows audiences are especially attentive and trusting of experts, for example. And, last, an experience captures more audience attention when there is “acknowledgement,meaning personalized communication and validation. Read the whole Q&A at https://www.bizbash.com/qa-the-science-of-capturing-peoples-attention/new-york/story/30966#.WTc6lGjysdV

Tech Trends to Transform 2017 Events

Meanwhile, Event Farm, an enterprise event marketing platform, has interviewed event experts to find new technology trends likely to affect event marketing in 2017 and beyond. They winnowed their findings down to five key trends. One prediction is that more events will focus on going to meet attendees instead of drawing audiences to a centralized location; Event Farm cites the example of a successful Master Card promotion around England’s Rugby World Cup finals that, rather than holding a conventional event, met fans in London subway stations and surprised them with free tickets. Virtual and augmented reality technology make this even more viable. A second trend is to have events bring the internet to life onsite, and vice versa, by letting attendees engage with online experiences, such as viral memes or videos, and thus harness their proven viral appeal. Third, marketing pros foresee that the end of an event will no longer signal the end of an experiential marketing campaign, so that marketers engage with attendees (and non-attendees) after the event via tactics such as re-purposing an event presentation or sharing “digital” event memories. Fourth, more people will use live streaming to complement events via services like Facebook Live, not as a substitute for attendance but as an attendee-engagement enhancer and driver of future event participation. Finally, it’s predicted that attendees will increasingly seek to engage with the digital and physical landscapes simultaneously; one example is the use of smartphones to help navigate through a venue. For the whole article, see http://blog.eventfarm.com/blog/5-trends-for-experiential-marketing-in-2017-and-beyond

 

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/

 

Growing Magazine Audiences Continue Shift Toward Mobile

The good news for publishers is that total audience—across print, Web, mobile and video—grew robustly in 2016, up 6.4% over the prior year, according to the 2016 Magazine Media 360° Brand Audience Report from the Association of Magazine Media (MPA). But there is a challenge for publications within the data: the continued shift to a mobile audience. Certainly, at AccuList USA®, we have seen mobile optimization and responsive design become a key consideration in the multi-channel marketing strategies offered to consumer publication and business publication clients.

Desktop/Laptop Viewing Loses Traction to Mobile

Although print and digital editions continued to garner the largest audience for magazine media last year, the mobile platform had the most rapid growth rate, per the MPA’s trend analysis. Nearly 80% of the brands reporting showed mobile growth, with 79% of those brands up by either double- or triple-digit percentages. More than a quarter of the brands in the report grew their mobile unique visitors by one million or more each. That mobile growth came at the expense of Web (desktop/laptop) users.  In fact, the Web audience represented the only magazine media platform to decline as consumers spent more time on portable devices than computers. Meanwhile, though video remained the smallest audience platform in 2016, it also recorded strong growth, per MPA, up by double-digit percentage rates.

Print’s Lead Role Endures

“The key takeaway from this most recent analysis is that print still makes up the biggest portion of magazine media audiences, yet continued growth in mobile web means that the total audience continues to get bigger overall and reflects the multi-platform preferences of today’s readers,” concluded Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of MPA, in a press release.

And the Winners Are…

Meanwhile, even though 2016 was an election year, nonpolitical interests led the way to top spots for magazine brands. Per the 2016 analysis, the top five magazines with the most total audience—across print, Web, mobile and video—were (in descending order) ESPN The Magazine, People, Forbes, Allrecipes and Better Homes and Gardens. The top five magazine brands with the greatest percentage growth in total audience compared to a year ago were (in descending order) DominoThe New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, W and Esquire.

For more see http://www.magazine.org/industry-news/press-releases/mpa-press-releases/mpa/mpa-%E2%80%93-association-magazine-media-releases-2016

Creating Powerful Synergy With Paid, Owned & Earned Media

When budgets are tight, it’s tempting to focus on earned and owned media over paid media promotion. But marketers need to know the growth penalty of that strategy. Brands that use paid media typically grow three times faster than those that rely on owned and earned media alone, according to recent international research from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), as reported by The Drum.

Synergy From Paid, Owned & Earned Media

At the same time, paid media is more effective when coupled with earned and owned media. IPA research shows that owned media, which includes brand websites, blogs and social media sites, typically increases the effectiveness of a paid ad campaign by 13%. Meanwhile,  earned media, which includes online mentions, shares, re-posts and reviews, increases the effectiveness of a paid campaign by a larger 26%.

The Emotional Power of Video

The IPA examination of media marketing further finds that emotion is a vital ingredient to success, and that television advertising continues to be the most powerful in delivering emotional engagement. Researchers report that adding television advertising increases a promotional campaign’s effectiveness by 40% and is also the best for generating  the top-line growth that drives profit, with a 2.6% average market share point gained per year when using television advertising. The growing use of video-on-demand and online video has turbocharged video impact: IPA’s research shows a 54% increase in the average number of “very large” business effects from adding television and online video together, versus 32% for television only and 25% for online video only.

Finding the Golden 60:40 Balance

When it comes to the optimal combination of paid, earned and owned media, and the best balance of brand-building vs. targeted sales ads, IPA results show that the most profitable campaigns have a 60:40 ratio of long-term brand-building (broad reach, highly emotive) to short-term sales activation (tightly targeted and information rich). For help with media strategy tailored to your budget and market, don’t hesitate to call on AccuList USA’s multi-channel marketing expertise, from social engagement and online ads to e-mail and pay-for-performance TV. And for more on IPA research, see http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/10/31/brands-use-paid-media-grow-three-times-faster-those-just-rely-earned-and-owned-finds