2018 Offers New Growth Opportunities for Publishing Marketers

There’s no doubt that AccuList USA’s business and consumer publishing clients face some pivotal audience- and revenue-building challenges in both print and digital marketing, but there are also growth opportunities in 2018. We note three potential positives recently highlighted by Publishing Executive magazine.

Quality Content Over Free Content

Audiences are increasing their demand for quality content, and advertisers are seeking publishers who can deliver that quality. There is a lot of untapped revenue potential for publishers who commit to quality, especially since the free-information era is ending as readers become wary of free but low-value content and increasingly willing to pay for reliable quality. For digital publishers, the downside of a shift to paid quality content can be a shrinkage of circulation, forcing them to balance potential gains in subscription revenue against lower page-views for ads. The Publishing Executive article offers various mitigating tactics: leaky paywalls; metered paywalls; charging only for premium content; allowing only paid subscribers to comment or participate in an online community; early access to certain articles for paid subscribers; access to paywalled content for subscription to a free newsletter, etc.

It’s All About Niches

With consumer access to vast amounts of information spewing into print, online, media and social every day, mass-market-oriented print and digital publications have been struggling, and niche publishers proliferating. Readers want to focus on what’s relevant to their specific interests, and many advertisers want to reach the right pool of people more than just the largest pool of people. The trick for publications is to embrace niche demand without sacrificing too much circulation. The Publishing Executive article offers some suggestions. Digital publications can create a product-within-a-product on the website, for example, with content targeted to a subset of the normal audience and attractive to new sponsors who want to reach that specific audience. For print publications, there are niche-targeted inserts, bonus sections, customized covers, polybagged special reports, or ad packages that combine a full-page ad in the magazine with a more in-depth cover wrap or insert for a special event or audience.

Demand for Brand Safety Grows

Brand advertisers have become concerned about aligning with publishers who tolerate fake news, violence, extremism, or other offensive content. The Association of Magazine Media recognized the danger and the opportunity in 2017 and released an ad campaign (“Better. Believe it.”) to highlight magazines’ quality content and brand safety. This means that respected publishers can court advertising revenue (and circulation) in 2018 by stressing brand quality and safety in their promotions. On that point, Publishing Executive quotes from an Advertising Age piece in which Shelagh Daly Miller of AARP declared: “Only when brands partner with reputable publishers can they have full confidence in where their ads are being placed. That’s a message that should be all over our industry’s media kits. And tattooed onto the foreheads of our ad reps.”

For more on publishing growth opportunities in 2018, read http://www.pubexec.com/post/6-growth-opportunities-publishers-2018/

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 Trends: Technology, Targeting, Tactics

Digital marketing continues to experience rapid changes. AccuList USA will be helping clients navigate this year via quality data, data services and other support efforts that take into account 2018 digital marketing trends recently outlined by Forbes magazine’s Forbes Agency Council.

Technology Drivers: AR, Conversational Interfaces, Video

The first of the article’s 15 trend predictions is continued growth in the use of Augmented Reality (AR), per Chris Carter of Rep Interactive, as mobile devices become more powerful, social apps improve AR integration, and, we would add, traditional print, from direct mail to ads to labels, also embraces AR. Meanwhile, the popularity of  conversational interactions will offer new opportunities and challenges, per a couple of council members—such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, chatbots and more. Now that Google says 20% of its mobile queries are voice searches and usage set to climb further, marketers will need to create content targeting these types of searches and ads for non-traditional venues (such as sponsored smart-fridge recommendations), predicts Brett Farmiloe of Markitors. Video was a big story in 2017 and is now seen as a basic of success for 2018 marketers, per several Forbes council members. It also means that marketers will face a higher bar in terms of quality. As social media platforms jump into live video and add features, “the shaky, holding-a-phone-in-your-hand live video won’t be acceptable anymore,” warns Thomas Brodbeck of Site Strategics.

Targeting Goes Hyper: Personalized & Contextual

Most marketers agree that the days of impersonal e-mail blasts are done. So what’s ahead in 2018? Marketers will be focused on hyper-targeting and personalizing every interaction, forecast several experts. Watch for personalized landing pages connected to each advertising campaign, for example. The need for unbiased targeting, predictive analytics and budgeting at every step of the customer journey also will increase use of application programming interfaces for machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, opines Douglas Karr of DK New Media. And as data protection regulation increases, ad tech vendors will need to go beyond tracking behavior with cookies to contextual targeting strategies based on page content, adds Julien Verdier of Adyoulike.

Some Tactics Keep Their Buzz, and Some Fade

“Influencer marketing” had marketing buzz in 2017, but Craig Greiwe of Rogers & Cowan predicts that 2018 will see a collapse of interest because brands that spent big on influencers haven’t seen measurable results. He expects brands instead to “zero in on a few select individuals who drive results or move to organic grassroots promotion, and away from high-cost, middle-tier influencers who drive awareness but little ROI.” Content marketing, meanwhile, will remain a key part of the marketing tool box—but with some changes. New formats, video, and voice search are ending the focus on blog posts and listicles and pushing marketers toward featured snippets, interactive spoken tutorials and integration with User Interface features, says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com. In the crowded online grab for engagement, native advertising will retain appeal, too, per Timothy Nichols of ExactDrive, Inc., helping marketers to expand viral sharing and develop a more involved relationship with target markets.

For more trend predictions, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/12/18/how-digital-marketing-will-change-in-2018-15-top-trends/#464141092d9a

Social Media Pros Predict Wide Range of Changes in 2018

Both B2B and B2C marketers are planning on investing more in social media marketing in 2018, per surveys. So AccuList USA’s clients may want to take a look at the trends that social media experts are predicting for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest marketing in the year ahead, as recently gathered up by Social Media Examiner.

Video Boom: Moves by LinkedIn and Facebook

Among the more than 33 predictions featured, multiple social media pros stressed the growth and impact of video, as “even simple selfie videos filmed on cell phones are propelling businesses higher than video-less businesses,” to quote one forecaster. B2B marketers will be pleased to know that LinkedIn advertising is expected to roll out video ads for business pages and geofilters for videos, now in test. Facebook, which remains the social media ad leader, is positioning to become a major player in online video. In 2017, Facebook debuted Facebook Watch for select creators (a TV-like option). In 2018, it is forecast that the program will expand to all people and pages on Facebook, and also that Facebook will likely roll out new features for video creators, perhaps including preferential Facebook news feed exposure for original native video, revenue-sharing deals, or even a dedicated video app. With the video boom, metrics will need to get more sophisticated across platforms. Since each platform counts their video views differently (Snapchat at 1 second, Twitter at 2 seconds, Facebook/Instagram at 3 seconds, and YouTube at 30 seconds), watch for marketers to go beyond number of views to data measuring the time spent and the attention held across all screens on all platforms.

Instagram Gains Ground With Marketers

Instagram is forecast to keep surging after fast growth in 2017, with 15 million businesses using Instagram by July 2017 (nearly double the 8 million businesses that used Instagram in March 2017), with 80% of Instagram accounts now following at least one business, and with global advertising set to reach $4 billion for 2017 year-end. One reason is that Instagram has been improving its tools for marketers, including InstaStories promoted within the  “news feed,” the Story Highlights feature that allows pages to host static collections of previously disappearing story posts on profiles, “swipe up” calls-to-action, posts that click through to online stores, and soon the ability to follow hashtags.

Rising Ad Costs Force Smarter Targeting, Metrics

The bad news for marketers is that the popularity of social media will translate into rising ad costs in 2018, with pricing of Facebook and Instagram advertising predicted to rise over the next 12 months. However, that cost trend should actually spur businesses hesitating to invest; marketers who commit to social media ads now will generate awareness, build audience (particularly via e-mail subscribers) and gain a competitive advantage in the increasingly crowded market. Given the rising cost to gain the attention of prospects and acquire customers, more businesses also are urged to hone ad effectiveness beyond generating leads followed with automated e-mail—for example using retargeting, AI and other techniques to ensure prospects see the most relevant messaging for their point in the customer journey. And, as cheap organic reach declines in effectiveness and paid ad costs climb, the importance of ad metrics increases. Whether on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, marketers will need to track the metrics of each ad or promoted post, combining a paid acquisition model with historical data and personalized content if they hope to translate social media marketing into real revenue results in 2018, warn the social media mavens.

For more predictions, see https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2018/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=NewsletterIssue&utm_campaign=New

2018 Offers New and Old Marketing Data Challenges

As a data broker, AccuList USA is committed to helping its data services clients with data gathering, quality, targeting and analytics. Looking ahead to 2018, we see new and old data issues for direct marketers. A recent Forbes magazine interview with Tom Benton, the CEO of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), highlighted six of those data challenges for next year.

Perennial Problems From Quality and Integration

Given the huge amount and types of data streaming into marketers, many are struggling to decide which data sets to use and which to ignore, how to keep data accurate and actionable, and how to integrate new data with existing data. Several practices for 2018 success are suggested: clear business goals and target audiences to narrow the data focus; a clear test case for examining or onboarding data; regular examination of new and legacy data accuracy and value; and systems for integrating new data with existing data, especially given the new types of data streams available–everything from wearable gym trackers to chatbots to grocery checkouts.

New Opportunities Via Technology

The Forbes overview also cites the exciting opportunities coming from new marketing tech tools, such as augmented reality (AR), machine learning and AI. Are you ready to take advantage? The articles offers the example of how 1-800-Flowers improved customer experience by integrating the company’s website with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and natural language processing to understand customer demand and then search the product catalog to deliver customized recommendations. Use of AR today ranges from AMC theater movie posters to Simmons Bedding Co. product demos to labels of Australia’s 19 Crimes wine brand. And consider that digital growth company Urban Airship has developed a machine learning algorithm to analyze mobile customer behavior and help app publishers identify the most loyal users and predict those that are likely to churn to improve retention investment in specific customer segments.

Challenges With Cybersecurity and European Rules

If customers don’t trust that sensitive information will be safeguarded, they’ll stop engaging, hurting not only individual brands but the data-driven community. Massive data security breaches made headlines in 2017. That makes data security a top concern to retain customers and prevent risk in 2018, per Benton. Meanwhile, American marketers who seek to tap European markets need to get ready for the enactment of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), taking effect May of 2018. The regulations will set a new baseline for consumer privacy rights and focus on ensuring that proper consents are obtained for a range of data sets and that other privacy rights are observed, such as the “right to be forgotten.”

For more on 2018 data trends, read the Forbes article.

Why Direct Mail Remains Buoyant in Digital Flood

In the tidal wave of digital marketing options, prospects for our direct mail lists and support services sometimes worry about investing in an “old-fashioned” mail channel soon to be washed away by changing preferences and digital efficiency. So we like to keep providing data to show that direct mail is actually riding atop the digital crest.

Businesses Have Solid Reasons to Direct Mail Today

For example, a recent business.com post by entrepreneur Brian Roberts cites five basic reasons businesses should use “snail mail.” No. 1, thanks to a drop in mail volumes, mailers today enjoy much less competition for audience attention in physical mailboxes compared with spam-jammed e-mail inboxes or ad-laden web platforms. Plus, No. 2, those mailed communications aren’t going to be culled out by high-tech spam filters as is so much of today’s e-mail. No. 3, once delivered, a physical mail piece is a lot likelier to be opened than an e-mail message. As data firm Experian recently reported, 70% to 80% of direct mail recipients say they open their mail, and, per InfoTrends’ most recent data, a third of U.S. consumers report they read direct mail marketing more than e-mail marketing, and another 34% read both with equal frequency.  No. 4, direct mail allows a lot more creative freedom, unlimited by file size, spam filter triggers or flat visuals. Mail can be dimensional, digitally interactive, multi-sensory, immediately gratifying with promotional rewards, and more. Now that personalization is key, direct mail also outdoes digital, with 70% of Americans saying physical mail is “more personal” than e-mail, per Experian. Finally, at  No. 5, mail is great for geo-targeting and driving traffic to physical locations, with in-store-only promotions at retail stores as an example. Plus, it can drive digital traffic; 60% of direct mail recipients visit a website mentioned in direct mail, Experian reports.

Trends Prove Direct Mail’s Continued Business Appeal

A study by the Boston Consulting Group confirms that total spending on direct mail is expected to rise from 11% to 12% by 2020. The simple reason for snail mail’s survival is its continued marketing power. U.S. Postal Service surveys have found that consumers who receive direct mail spend 28% more than those who don’t, for example. As we’ve noted before, the Data & Marketing Association’s 2016 “Response Rate Report” put direct mail response rates at 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest DMA-tracked response rates since 2003, and far higher than the less than 1% of various digital channels. That is what sustains mail’s strong ROI. For a great summary of direct mail trends and stats, see the Experian infographic at https://www.edq.com/resources/data-quality-infographics/how-direct-mail-is-winning-in-the-age-of-the-internet/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Direct Mail Retains Its Place in Marketing Tool Chests

Direct mail, perhaps because of its proven workhorse status, keeps a low profile in marketing trend articles, except for the periodic “direct mail isn’t dead” reminder. Yet, despite growing use of digital channels–web, e-mail, social, mobile–AccuList USA and its many mailing list and direct marketing clients join the majority of marketers in continuing to rely on direct mail. Why? Marketing data backs up direct mail’s proven response power and ROI.

Data Proves Mail’s Staying Power

In fact, Target Marketing magazine’s latest study “Marketing Mix Trends 2010-2016” shows that 69% of marketers surveyed either increased or held steady on direct mail spending in 2016. The 6% of marketers decreasing their mail budgets were the smallest group since 2010. A reason for direct mail’s survival as a go-to marketing channel can be seen in the the Data & Marketing Association’s 2016 “Response Rate Report.”  The report showed 2016 direct mail response rates leaping to 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest DMA-tracked response rates since 2003. By comparison, 2015’s reported rates were 3.7% and 1.0%, respectively. More significantly, no other channel in 2016 had response rates over 1%! Direct mail response allows it to compete in ROI despite higher costs, coming in third at 27%, close to social media’s 28% (e-mail leads ROI).

Basic Tactics Keep Winning for Direct Mail

Bottom line, direct mail’s evergreen power lies in delivering on direct marketing basics. To that end, industry pros–agencies, data brokers, printers, mailing houses and creative services–still need to guide clients toward success. Rather than exploring the diverse creative and tech-savvy ways to meet direct mail goals, it is easier to focus on a few big mail “don’ts,” and that’s the tack recently taken by Summer Gould of Target Marketing magazine in “5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail.” Obviously there are more than five missteps out there, but Gould chooses key, highly avoidable pitfalls: a hard-to-read font (yes, point size matters); dishonesty (seeking a sale at the cost of long-term customers and reputation); old, bad data in mailing lists (one of our bugaboos); a missing or unclear call-to-action (a response killer); and a promotional focus on features over benefits (a basic marketing no-no). Direct mail–no matter how loaded with interactive QR codes, variable data printing personalization and multi-channel customer analytics–will miss the mark if it misses on these basics! For more, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/5-things-not-to-do-in-direct-mail/

 

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.

2017 Marketing Budgets Set to Shift More Dollars to Acquisition

Balancing marketing budget between acquisition and retention growth is a perennial conundrum. But if you take your cue from respondents to Target Marketing magazine’s annual “Media Usage Survey,” you’ll be more bullish on acquisition efforts this year. Half of the 725 respondents (42% B-to-B, 22% B-to-C and 36% claiming both business and consumer targets) said they would be boosting acquisition spending in 2017. That’s compared with only a third planning to add to retention dollars. Regardless of the choice of “finders vs. keepers,” optimism rules the year ahead; only 5% of respondents foresaw decreased acquisition or retention spending.

Direct Mail & E-mail Lead ROI Expectations

For the second year in a row, the survey found marketers giving direct mail and e-mail top marks for ROI in both acquisition and retention, which means more success stories from AccuList USA’s direct mail and e-mail list brokerage clients. In acquisition, 25% of marketers said e-mail is the method delivering best ROI and 15% cited direct mail, with third place going to search engine optimization. In retention, 46% gave e-mail top place for ROI and 14% chose direct mail, with 10% selecting social media engagement as best for retention ROI. Those 2017 percentage rankings by channel were pretty close to the 2016 survey results, but there were some shifts below the top ROI performers. For example, telemarketing was the top answer for more firms in 2017 than in 2016, especially as an acquisition vehicle (chosen by 8%), while webcasts and webinars, which were rated among the top five for acquisition and retention ROI in 2016, dropped below 5% this year.

More Channels in the Mix

If an expanded channel mix is part of your planning this year, join the crowd. Surveyed marketers embraced more channels for both acquisition and retention in 2017 than in 2016. Of note, some channels traditionally thought better suited to retention (such as e-mail and social media engagement) are now used by a majority of marketers to drive acquisition, with 87% planning to use e-mail and 69% opting for social media engagement. Although retention efforts can’t claim a marked channel preference, some channels are definitely more popular for acquisition than retention in 2017, notably online advertising, social media advertising and SEO, per the survey.

To see details of the survey, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/finders-keepers-2017-acquisition-retention-trends/