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

 

 

Nonprofits’ Crucial Year-End Fundraising Drives Have Begun

AccuList USA works with big and small nonprofits on their key year-end fundraising campaigns. With a third of annual giving occurring in December, over half of nonprofits starting year-end plans in October, and direct mail the leading fundraising channel, October often sees final tweaks to direct marketing plans (and mailing lists).

Planning for Year-End Fundraising Success

For example, nonprofit marketers may want to check their current plans against the four-step master plan recently offered by fundraising consultant Gail Perry on her blog. Step 1: Set goals for each donor segment, and don’t forget lucrative leading-donor annual gifts, lapsed donors and board members. Step 2: Select channels for a multi-pronged appeal, integrating direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, social media, website, and video creative–and design a consistent message for all. Step 3: Gather resources and set a budget. Step 4: Set a timeline and calendar. Read the complete article by Perry for details and tips.

How Small Nonprofits Can Punch Above Their Weight

Of course, smaller fundraisers often bemoan budget limitations at this point. A guest post by Damian O’Broin for the Institute of Fundraising offers a bracing response. Greatness is not a function of size, it’s a function of attitude, he argues, citing donor surveys. The things that matter most to donors don’t depend on big budgets and lots of staff but on good, donor-centric fundraising practices: thanking promptly and properly; showing progress and impact; getting to know supporters and responding to their needs; empowering supporters; and asking consistently. “Because what we found from these surveys is that the best way to improve donor commitment is with great donor service. Responding to e-mails. Dealing effectively with queries when your donors call you. Thanking donors promptly–and just as importantly–making donors feel thanked,” he says. Even modest direct marketing campaigns, assuming they are well targeted, can use these practices to boost response.

 

Survey: Mismatches in Event Marketing Channels, Attendee Interest

Where should trade show and conference marketers go fishing for potential audience? In a multi-channel world, it can be challenging to balance online, e-mail, print and social media for best results. Now a recent survey by XING Events, as reported by MarketingProfs, shows interesting gaps between where event marketers are casting their nets and where potential attendees pool to research events.

Event Attendees Are Drawn by Word-of-Mouth & E-mail

According the the XING Events study, which is based on a global survey of 2,621 event attendees and 1,630 event organizers, event attendees most often learn about work-related events through word-of-mouth mention by friends and acquaintances (66%) and via e-mail newsletters (59%). Fewer event attendees (20%) report being influenced by ads for print and online professional publishing. Online search has more impact when the audience is already aware of the event; for example, 49% say they use online search to find details about trade shows or conferences they already have heard about (via word-of-mouth, e-mail or print). Just 22% learn about an event by doing keyword searches. However, an even smaller portion (16%) of event attendees report that they use social media to research events.

Event Marketers Focus on Websites, E-mail & Social Media

Event marketers don’t exactly mirror attendees’ preferences. About 89% of surveyed event organizers say they market their events through their own websites, culling search traffic. Some 76% say they market through e-mail newsletters, which is in line with attendee activity. The surprise is that 73% of event pros say they promote via social media even though it is not where most of the audience is currently looking for event information.  And about 47% use traditional print channels.

Event Planners Foresee Social Media Expansion

Despite its current lower usage among event attendees, social media is the marketing channel that most event marketers plan to grow in future. Some 65% of organizers say they would like to use social media more frequently in the future. The next most popular target for expanded investment is their own websites (48%) and e-mail (41%). Although “influencer marketing” is a trendy topic, only 33% of event pros plan to increase influencer or multiplicator marketing to pump word-of-mouth.

For more study results, see https://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2017/32765/how-events-are-marketed-to-and-found-by-attendees?adref=nlt091817

 

 

Use Digital Donation to Turbocharge Fundraising Direct Mail

AccuList USA would like to pass along some key facts to marketers planning fundraising direct mail: 1) 35% of all donors say they like to respond to direct mail by giving online (with 50% of Millennials and Gen Xers saying they prefer online response); 2) 51% of website visits are made via mobile device, and 3) mobile devices are now used by the majority to read e-mail (54% of opens) and access social networks (80% of social time spent). Bottom line, if you want to get the most from your nonprofit direct mail (still the best channel for capturing donor dollars), a multi-channel, mobile-optimized approach is essential.

How Nonprofits Miss Mail-to-Online Giving Opportunities

MobileCause has developed a powerful infographic laying out the case for a nonprofit direct mail-digital marriage. Unfortunately, many fundraisers fail to make an easy connection between direct mail and online response, and are discouraging donations as a result. As the infographic points out, 84% of donation pages are not mobile-friendly, 73% of nonprofits do not offer social sharing, and 65% of nonprofits require three or more digital clicks to donate.

Smart Practices Give Mail Multi-Channel Power

At the same time, the infographic data highlight ways to correct that digital lacuna in fundraising direct mail. First, commit to making direct mail part of a multi-channel campaign–because donors are 50% more likely to give when they receive multiple reinforcing messages via multiple channels. Fundraisers can even optimize response by catering to generational preferences: Millennials like text reminders, Gen Xers like e-mail reminders and Boomers like call reminders, per MobileCause. But for goodness sake, mobile-optimize e-mails, landing pages and donation pages! Then maximize donations by promoting QR codes, shortlinks and texting keywords across channels (and let the U.S. Postal Service reward that mailer QR code with a discount). Plus, data shows that by branding landing/donation pages to promote a specific mailer campaign or gift rather than a generic message, there’s a 38% increase in donation amount and a 66% likelihood that the donor will return and give again. Of course, don’t forget the basics: Make the call-to-action clear and giving easy to execute, whether by check or online.

Download the infographic for more tips.

Effective Cross-Channel Marketing Requires New Tactics

AccuList USA embraces multi-channel marketing for broader, deeper and more nuanced audience reach–but we also recognize that, without careful planning, there is a risk of counterproductive ad frequency and confusion.

Untangling Cross-Channel Confusion

At the recent 2017 Google Marketing Next conference, Bill Kee, Google’s group product manager for attribution, is quoted giving a powerful illustration of how a multi-channel campaign can saturate the market: “If I am on three devices, and if I see your ad five times, it means you’ve reached me 15 times….believe me I get it.” So how can marketers improve performance given today’s complex, interconnected channel usage? In a recent Direct Marketing News article, Pierre DeBois, founder of digital analytics firm Zimana, suggests several tactics for better cross-device/cross-channel effectiveness. First, DeBois recommends using cross-channel/cross-device analytics in place of traditional last-click attribution or channel-to-channel comparison. The goal should be to see the complete picture of channel contributions to ROI at each step of the customer journey, he advises. An example is Google’s new Unique Reach report that displays digital ad frequency metrics across devices, campaigns, and formats to measure how many times a person views a given ad. The report combines attribution influences from AdWords, DoubleClick and Google Analytics.

Content Curating and Chatbot Support

It is a new marketing axiom that videos and images are great response-getters for digital media. But multiple cross-channel/cross-device campaigns can visually overwhelm and confuse customers, too. DeBois advises marketers to locate videos and images in a content mapping strategy so they can understand how their media aligns with each step of the customer journey. Plus, they should curate media by carefully selecting and orchestrating images, videos and messages in order to help customers understand products and services. One helpful curating tool is the “image story” feature on social media platforms, including Pinterest Lens, Instagram Stories, and Twitter Moments. Another option for providing a consistent customer story across channels is to employ chatbots, DeBois suggests. Chatbots offer programmable assistance, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, to interact with customers via a chat interface, auditory or textual. Chatbots are often found in recommendation engines and can increase customer engagement through a series of questions and responses. Among the many chatbot services, DeBois points to those built for Facebook Messenger as most useful for businesses with a strong social media audience. Amazon Lex is another option for building and managing conversation bots. To read his article: http://www.dmnews.com/mobile-marketing/how-to-make-media-more-effective-for-cross-device-marketing/article/669602/  

USPS & Science Encourage Merger of Digital & Mail Efforts

For any direct marketers who haven’t committed to combining direct mail with digital media, 2017 is a perfect year for experimentation. At AccuList USA, we have seen the positive impact on direct marketing clients’ results (and have developed our Digital2Direct program in support). And now  “brain science” and U.S. Postal Service incentives further increase the attractions of a mail-digital marriage.

Brain Science Shows Impact of Mail-Digital Mating

For example, an article from The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently highlighted the “neuromarketing” evidence for mail-digital pairings.  (Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing.) ANA cites a recent study by Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General, “Tuned In: The Brain’s Response to Ad Sequencing.” The research explores the relative effectiveness of physical mail and digital advertising in cross-media marketing campaigns, using not only self-reported responses but actual MRIs of participant brain activity while viewing ads. A key finding: Consumer “willingness to pay” was significantly higher when media was delivered across both digital and physical channels rather than a single channel. Another notable study, “A Bias for Action: The Neuroscience Behind the Response-Driving Power of Direct Mail,” comes from a partnership between the Canada Post and True Impact Marketing, a leading neuromarketing research and strategy firm. Their study seeks to quantify the effectiveness of physical (direct mail) and digital (e-mail and display) media by focusing on two key indicators of media effectiveness: ease of understanding and persuasiveness. The results indicate that while digital media provide key platforms for customer interaction, direct mail is actually better at closing the marketing-sales loop. So for marketers, a mail-digital combination offers the best of both worlds and helps bridge the gap between interaction and action.

USPS Promotes Enhancing Mail With Digital Power

Why wait to reap the benefits? Especially now that the U.S. Postal Service is offering a range of 2017 programs that make the economic decision easier. The new Informed Delivery program, which inserts mail into consumers’ daily digital routines, is one example. Informed Delivery users receive e-mails that capture grayscale images of the address side of their mail. Currently, preview images are for letter-sized mailings processed through automated equipment, but flat mailings, such as magazines and catalogs, can be displayed if the mailer supplies a color image to be included in the Informed Delivery notifications. Under the program, marketers can take advantage of three potential touchpoints with one mail piece: an advance preview via e-mail/app, actually delivery in the mailbox, and inclusion of a unique URL in the digital preview to drive trackable traffic to a website. Plus, the USPS has two more promotions supporting mail-digital pairing. The Emerging & Advanced Technology Promotion (March 1 – Aug. 31, 2017) encourages mailers to integrate direct mail with advances in mobile technology using NFC technology, Video in Print (ViP), Beacon technology, “Enhanced” Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality (newly included this year) or, as of 2017, use of Digital to Direct Mail to boost response with dynamically printed, personalized messaging automatically triggered by digital interaction. Mail-digital pairing is also rewarded by the Mobile Shopping Promotion (Aug. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017), which encourages mailers to invest in technologies that take recipients directly from the mail piece to a mobile-optimized online shopping experience via Quick Response (QR) Codes, Snap Tags, Watermarks and other technologies. For details on these and other USPS promotions, see https://ribbs.usps.gov/mailingpromotions/documents/tech_guides/2017PromotionsCalendar.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Data & Content Are Keys to Profitable Audience Building

After long experience supporting publishers and media owners in circulation/audience growth, AccuList USA can affirm that, in the age of big data and exploding digital content, targeted data quality and database management are more essential than ever to profitable audience development.

It’s All in the Data

A recent Marketo blog post backs up that assertion with their advice. Demographics and firmographics are a key starting point, but now media owners also can mine transactional data, behavioral data, and psychographics/interests across channels, the post notes. Smart use of first-, second- and third-party data allows for tailored content, offers and channel targeting. As the Marketo article explains, “For example, you may know that a reader is a part of a cohort that is female, between 18-35 years old, with a household income between $64-96K….But what could you do–in terms of engagement–if you learn through her content consumption patterns that she’s interested in football, responds to sponsored content from travel brands, and mostly responds to content that’s shared on Facebook?”

And Data Management

Yet more data from multiple sources–web, print, mail, e-mail, social media–also presents challenges, and Marketo cites Folio’s recent survey of publishing leaders, which found 71% citing data management as a top priority for creating and monetizing media products. The solution is a single hub for audience data and automated cross-channel processing in real-time, the post advises. With a complete data profile of the audience, the focus can turn to delivering the right message at the right time to the right target. And we would add that an effective database will require strategies and support for data hygiene, database appending, analytics, and segmentation as well as automated triggering of messages across channels. Automation doesn’t apply only to digital messaging, by the way; marketers can capitalize on direct mail’s top response and brand engagement with automated mail triggering based on digital activity.

Commitment to Content

In publication/media marketing even more than other brand marketing, content counts. Faced with ever-growing digital content noise, media owners must work even harder to deliver content that interests and engages the target audience. To that end, a helpful Content Marketing Institute article by Neil Patel recently listed four common mistakes. No. 1 is offering content of more interest to the brand/publisher (and its advertisers/partners) than to the audience. Only audience-centric content builds audience. No. 2 is to focus only on selling in marketing messages, especially if poorly targeted. The long-term value of authenticity and relationship building suffers when the sales pitch is obvious and not personalized. No. 3 is an SEO addiction to the point of stuffing keyword phrases and irrelevant links into content, which can turn off and confuse readers and even earn search engine penalties. And No. 4 is an obsession with content quantity over quality. Simply delivering more content more often than competitors, especially if it is unwanted, sloppy and self-serving, is likely to turn off audiences. For good content marketing examples, go to Patel’s content marketing article.

E-mail Regaining Its Lead Role in Fundraising Digital Strategy

In 2017, e-mail is expected to regain its lead role in the digital efforts of nonprofit fundraisers, per numerous nonprofit marketing pros. Certainly, AccuList USA is ready to support that trend with a proprietary compilation of the top fundraising direct mail and opt-in e-mail lists  (check out our free download). In addition to smart list selection, fundraisers and fundraising consultants can make the most of a renewed e-mail focus with tactics like those provided in a recent post for thedatabank.com by Michael Stein, a nonprofit consultant and digital strategist.

Plan for a Successful E-mail Reboot

To maximize response, e-mail outreach in 2017 may require nonprofits to reboot, refresh and rethink, says Stein.  He urges marketers to address four basic issues before blasting out e-mails: Check to see if your e-mail template or e-newsletter needs a creative refresh; make sure the e-mail works well for mobile viewers; consider a rewrite of your welcome e-mail to new subscribers for better engagement; and develop new creative and messaging ideas to test for boosted e-mail fundraising appeal.

‘Mobilize,’ Personalize, Automate

Mobile readiness is essential for wooing donors, especially given, as Stein cites, the recent Movable Ink report that, across industries, 69% of e-mail opens were on a mobile device. A good mobile experience should extend from the e-mail subject line to the website landing page and, most importantly, to the donation page, advises Stein. Personalizing is another proven way to maximize e-mail response, and that means more than dropping in a first-name greeting. It means digital messaging with relevant, timely content based on smart e-mail list segmentation, using data such as event attendance, website downloads, and donation amount or frequency. Finally, marketers need e-mail automation, especially for timely engagement of new e-mail subscribers and donors. Automated responses should include key transactions such as e-mail subscription, event signups, and online giving, since these are often the most opened and read e-mails, says Stein.

Make It Graphic & Multi-channel

Testing by nonprofits has shown that use of graphics and video significantly boosts fundraising response rates. So write fewer words and show more images, urges Stein. Use a graphic to present a call to action or embed a video to replace a paragraph, for example. Finally, e-mail’s fundraising effectiveness is higher when it is part of an integrated multi-channel effort. That should include social media platforms since including social media advertising in digital campaigns often delivers a lift in revenues taken in by e-mails and websites.

For more advice from Stein, go to https://www.thedatabank.com/2017/03/harness-the-latest-giving-trends-for-digital-fundraising-success/ And if you like infographics and want benchmark data on what other nonprofits are doing with e-mail, check out http://blog.winspireme.com/nonprofit-email-marketing-infographic-ebook.

 

Fundraising Pros Forecast 2017 Trends for Direct Mail

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

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

Digital & Analog Can Grow Together

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

Integrating Not Just Multiplying Channels

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

Going for Mailing Depth Over Volume

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

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

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

Use Technology to Kick Up Results

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

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