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.

B2B Sales Trends Boost Mobile-Friendly Online Acquisition

With Forrester Research forecasting steady growth in B2B e-commerce, reaching $1.2 trillion in sales, or 13.1% of all B2B sales, by 2021, smart e-commerce marketing is more essential than ever for AccuList USA’s B2B catalog and e-commerce clients. A recent bigcommerce.com blog post highlighted many important trends for B2B e-commerce, but we’ll focus on three marketing-related takeaways.

Acquisition Is the New Online Focus

The days are gone when B2B online strategy could succeed by putting up a website as a customer service portal, a place for existing account re-orders or a passive catalog display. Online selling is becoming a core part of B2B business and sales strategy, argues bigcommerce.com post author Jillian Hufford, marketing analyst at nChannel, a multi-channel integration provider. B2B marketers should start by profiling customers to better target online and offline promotions to find high-ROI traffic. Note that a robust SEO/SEM strategy, coupled with website search tools, is essential given that 74% of B2B buyers report researching at least part of their work purchases online. Easy, seamless cross-channel ordering is another basic of online customer acquisition now. Plus, an investment in online content marketing, coupled with SEO strategy, can leverage educational and expert content on the website to attract searchers and win Google rank.

Online and Print Catalogs Work in Tandem

Five years ago, more than two-thirds of B2B sellers thought they would stop mailing paper catalogs. That hasn’t happened, but many B2B merchants are using an integrated multi-channel effort to balance smaller or less frequent print catalogs with more interactive online catalogs. For success with print-plus-online, the online catalog cannot merely mimic the print version. E-commerce means investing in interactive online tools that allow customizing, sharing, distributing, ordering and tracking, all supported by integrated back-end technology.

Mobile-Friendly Means Revenue-Friendly

Ever-expanding B2B mobile use is driving big marketing changes. Google and BCG research data from 2017 shows why: 80% of B2B buyers are using mobile at work; 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase; and 60% of B2B buyers expect to continue to increase their mobile usage. B2B retailers who are dragging their feet on mobile-friendly adaptation risk dragging down their own revenues; BCG research found that brands that are “mobile leaders” earn more traffic, more leads and more revenue than “mobile laggards.”

For more B2B e-commerce trends, and examples of real-life company online successes, see Hufford’s attached blog post.

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/

Skeptical of Marketing Tech Buzzwords? You’re Not Alone

To help support direct marketing clients, AccuList USA tries to keep up with the latest in marketing technology and tactics, and so we’ve been bombarded along with clients by advice on how to seize opportunities with personalization, “big data,” omnichannel, real-time marketing, and, most recently, artificial intelligence (AI). Marketers struggling to find room in real-world budgets often worry that they’re falling behind in an escalating martech arms race! New research by Resulticks—a survey of over 300 marketing pros across industry verticals—offers interesting perspective.

Big Expectations: Big Data and Personalization

“Big Data” was the hot topic at the 2013 DMA Annual Conference, with 50% of marketers enthusiastic about investing. But making practical sense of those data torrents turned out to be more difficult than expected. Resulticks finds that only 16% of today’s marketers have fully implemented big data solutions, 20% have given up on the concept, and just 27% rank big data as a top priority now. Part of the problem is overhyped, underperforming martech platforms, per the survey, with 21% of marketers complaining that vendors overpromise and underdeliver. In contrast, personalization—meaning targeting that goes beyond basic attributes such as name to deeper parameters such as purchase history and online behavior—has done better in fulfilling expectations, with 60% of today’s marketers reporting full or partial implementation. The only fly in the ointment: Tech investments have not always kept pace with enthusiasm, and only 20% rate their software ability to deliver personalization as “excellent.”

Technically Challenged: Omnichannel

Back in 2014, one study found almost half of retailers saying they were going to commit to an “omnichannel” approach. Unlike multichannel marketing, where marketers touch customers at multiple points on their journey, the ambitious goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a seamless customer experience across all channels. Resulticks finds that only 9% of today’s marketers describe their approach as omnichannel, compared with 63% who use a multichannel approach. Technical barriers explain omnichannel’s failure to thrive. Only 35% have fully or partially implemented the required software platforms for omnichannel, and, among those who have bet on platforms, 58% rank vendor execution as “poor” to “fair” (compared with 13% who give their omnichannel software “excellent” marks).

Enthusiastic Embrace: Real-time Marketing

There’s a better report card for the “real-time marketing” that rapidly uses data across channels for more timely, targeted engagement in the customer journey. Resulticks reports that 49% of marketers rate their real-time marketing ability as “good” to “excellent,” that half say they have fully or partially implemented real-time marketing solutions, and that 47% say real-time is a priority for their organizations today. However, many marketers may need to adjust their definition of “real-time” if they want to compete for customers’ expectations; 47% are defining real-time as responding in an hour or more (with 20% taking a day or more), compared with the 12% delivering true real-time response in the milliseconds.

New Kid on the Block: AI

Social media giants have been betting on AI, and marketers are following their lead, with one study showing more than 50% planning to adopt AI in the next two years. However, Resulticks’ survey finds almost half (47%) of the marketers polled already rate AI as overhyped. Here’s a big source of that skepticism: 43% of marketers believe martech software vendors overpromise and underdeliver, and 69% rate their vendors’ ability to execute AI as “fair” to “poor.”

To download the study report, go to https://www.resulticks.com/marketingflabtofab.html

2018 Digital Marketing Spend to Rise; High Hopes for Social

AccuList USA’s digital marketing clients are already looking ahead to 2018 results, with many planning to increase digital spending. They’re following the trend reported in a recent survey by Ascend2, which found that 93% of firms expect to boost digital marketing budgets in 2018.

Boosted Digital Spend Planned in 2018

The survey, conducted in December 2017, tapped 217 marketing influencers, with 43% working for B2B firms, 35% for B2C firms, and 22% for hybrid firms. The combined 52% planning marginal increases and 41% planning significant boosts in 2018 digital marketing budgets dwarfed the 7% who intend to decrease digital spending. But the more interesting data involves where the marketers foresee the biggest bang for digital bucks in the year ahead.

Social & Content Marketing Dubbed Most Effective

Respondents expected the most effective digital marketing tactics in 2018 to be social media marketing (18%), followed by content marketing (17%). Search engine optimization was seen as most effective by 15%, e-mail marketing was seen as leading by 13%, and paid search and social ads was chosen by only 11%. The lower ranking of e-mail and search ads was not due to execution barriers; both were rated as among the least difficult to implement.

Execution Challenges for Data Management & Technology

In contrast, surveyed marketers reported the greatest execution difficulties for data management (18% rated as most difficult) and marketing technology (also 18%). Content marketing and search engine optimization tied for second place in terms of implementation challenges, with both selected by 16%.

Go to https://research.ascend2.com/2018-digital-marketing/ to download a full copy of the Ascend report.

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.

Marketing With Online Video? If Not, You’re Behind the Curve

In supporting our digital marketing clients, AccuList USA has seen rapid growth in online video use, and a recent Forbes magazine article by John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co., cited video as one of six essential trends to include in 2018’s digital marketing budget. Why? Researchers forecast that by 2020 online video will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic. Already over 500 million people are watching video on Facebook every day. If you want a crack at that audience, you’ll need to join the video world.

Low-Cost Video Ads Boost Engagement and Sales

Video ads are not just good at promoting brand awareness and engagement; they deliver sales. Video creation service Animoto’s most recent survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers reinforces online video’s clout: 64% of consumers say they purchase after watching branded social videos. No wonder more businesses are jumping on the video ad bandwagon and investing in paid/sponsored video as well as paying to “socialize” or promote videos. Helping the video boom is the relatively low production cost; in fact, 92% of marketers told Animoto they make videos with assets they already have. Meanwhile, a nationwide pricing survey of videographers and photographers found that the average small business marketing video cost less than $1,000 in 2015 and a medium-sized product demo video was around $2,000.  Cost is not a barrier; coming up with engaging, targeted content is the challenge.

Marketers Focus on Multiple Platforms, Mobile Viewing

So what platform will best deliver the target audience? Animoto’s survey shows where consumers engage with branded videos daily: 49% on Facebook, 32% on YouTube, 24% on Instagram, 22% on Snapchat, and 22% on Twitter. Most brands hedge their bets by using multiple platforms, paying to capture eyes on YouTube and Facebook, for example. The more important goal, regardless of platform, is to optimize for mobile viewing since 84% of online video viewers watch on mobile devices–which is why 81% of marketers are optimizing their social videos for mobile viewership, per Animoto. Timing counts, too. Animoto’s survey found 33% of video consumers watch during the lunch hour, 43% during the afternoon, 56% during the evening, 38% before bed, and 16% in the middle of the night.

Square, Live and Soundless Creatives Gain Traction

Square video, as opposed to horizontal video, is growing in popularity, with 39% of surveyed marketers creating square and/or vertical videos now. Why? Square videos take up 78% more space in the Facebook News Feed, and get more engagement, than horizontal videos, according to Animoto. Live streaming video is also growing in popularity. According to IT/networking giant Cisco, live Internet video will account for 13% of  total online video traffic by 2020. But before you spend time and dollars crafting a great video sound track, note that video editing software firm Camtasia reports that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound.

For a summary of Animoto’s social video marketing findings, go to https://animoto.com/blog/business/state-of-social-video-marketing-infographic/

 

Event Marketing Pros Foresee Spending Boost

Many of AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketers are already looking ahead to 2018, and event technology firm Bizzabo’s recent “Event Marketing 2018: Benchmarks and Trends” report has some good news: Event marketers and business execs plan to invest more in live events in future.

Marketers & C-Suite Plan More Dollars for Events

One of the key findings of Bizzabo’s global survey of 400 mid- to senior-level marketers is that most event marketers believe that events are the single most effective marketing channel, better than e-mail, social media, and digital and traditional advertising. The majority also plan to invest more in future live events, both in terms of budget (63%) and number of events (63%). Plus, the majority (91%) of businesses with top performance place a greater emphasis on live events as a marketing channel than the underperforming businesses or businesses performing as expected–and those overperforming businesses plan to grow their event marketing budgets by more than the rest. Regardless of performance, an overwhelming majority of C-Suite executives surveyed (87%) say they believe in the power of live events and plan on investing more in the future.

But Event Success Still Doesn’t Come Easy

Though event marketers and executives have confidence in the marketing effectiveness of B2B trade shows and conferences, that doesn’t mean they think success is assured. In another survey, Bizzabo asked leading event marketers for advice on overcoming common event hurdles. For example, what if attendance is sparse? To avoid staring at an empty hall in horror, make sure the event is clearly advertised on all social media profiles, blog, and website, including paid ads; empower those who have already committed attendance (especially speakers) to be event ambassadors by sharing the event on their own social media profiles and websites; and use RSVPs to keep attendees accountable. Then what if the attendees are there, but enthusiasm is low? To boost engagement, the pros suggest crowdsourcing questions for interviews and round tables before the event; creating hangouts or webinars related to event sessions; and sending segmented e-mails based on registration data to get attendees pumped up for specific aspects. So how do you get data in real-time to keep steering the event toward success? There are now mobile event apps that can track every touch, and mobile polls and surveys can instantly collate results. Beacons can measure crowd movement and dwell-time in exhibit booths, and social sentiment analytics tools can get direct, immediate feedback. To see solutions to nine common problems–including managing multi-track events, avoiding long lines, planning social media effectively and more–go to https://blog.bizzabo.com/event-marketing-nightmares-and-how-to-solve-them

 

 

Seeking E-mail Response, Marketers Face Text vs. HTML Choice

There’s an ongoing debate in e-mail marketing over which format option will optimize results: simple text-based e-mails or fancier html versions. For our e-mail list and marketing clients, AccuList USA offers some surprise findings on that point: Marketo reports that a recent analysis of e-mail effectiveness shows text-based e-mails perform significantly better than their more creative HTML counterparts. Although both formats have the same open rate, text-based e-mails have 21% higher unique click-to-open rates on the offer link and 17% higher unique click-through rates on the offer link, according to the Marketo study.

So should marketers dump their rich html creatives? Not so fast.

Text E-mail Is Personal & CTA-Focused, But…

Why did the text-based versions win more response? The Marketo study found that text-based e-mails’ fewer visual distractions focus response on the call-to-action link. In HTML versions, nearly 16% of clicks went to other links (such as logos) instead of the main call-to-action link, per Marketo. Other research shows that text e-mails are also viewed as more personal by recipients, who see the visually rich html e-mails as clearly commercial. Finally, text-based versions have a better chance of delivery since the messages are less likely to be caught in spam filters or to have mobile viewing issues. But there are clear disadvantages, too. The key drawback of plain text formats, with no html, is that there is no tracking of open rates or clicks. Plus, URLs included in the message must be fully typed out, which can create visual clutter. Text-based e-mails without any html design elements will lack engaging visual impact for branding or product promotion, will have less ability to break information into easy-to-read/scan sections or columns, and will have few tools, such as buttons and color, for directing CTA attention.

Marketers Still Like HTML Tracking & Branding

Despite general response findings, html e-mails continue to be used because of advantages that make them the right choice for campaigns relying on branding, richer messaging and detailed metrics. For example, html allows incorporation of branded images and logos that may yield higher conversion rates for some verticals. An html e-mail also can package more information in digestible, easy-to-read bites. It can direct action via color, clickable text and buttons. Most important, html offers tracking of opens and clicks for marketing metrics.

For a more extensive discussion of the marketing merits of text versus html e-mail formats, check out this helpful digitaldoughnut article: https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/december/choosing-between-plain-text-html-email