Always Be Testing: Even the Best Mail Control Gets Tired

AccuList USA’s successful direct mail marketers seek to optimize response by constantly testing creative (as well as lists), because they know that even the best control package can lose its punch and need refurbishing or replacing.

Understanding the Sources of Control Success and Fatigue

Since direct mail testing can be expensive, especially multivariate testing where each variable tested needs a large enough mailed group for statistically valid results, it is important to think through why response to a proven control can flag and what changes are worth testing. A recent Target Marketing magazine article, by direct marketing consultant Gary Hennerberg, addresses the issue by reminding marketers of basics: The control has succeeded better than other mailing packages because, using the right list, the marketer has matched the offer’s emotional hot buttons and unique selling proposition to the prospects’ awareness of both their problem and the marketer’s solution at the time. But that alignment between prospect and promotion is not static.

As Brand Awareness Grows, Control Effectiveness Can Shrink

After mailing the same direct mail control package over and over (or using the same digital message), the majority of targeted prospects have either seen your pitch or been educated by other media, so your message may no longer fit with their knowledge and needs. “If you don’t stay on top of this changing awareness and understanding, your direct mail control package, or messaging in other channels, fatigues, and you’ll wonder why,” Hennerberg warns. He suggests that marketers commit to a program 1) assessing prospect awareness of the problem solved by the marketed product or service; 2) creating multiple creative approaches that align with different prospect awareness levels; and 3) testing creatives (headlines, leads, formats, etc.) against each other and the control to find the sweet spot. An important caveat: If a mail package seems to go over the heads of the current market, consider re-testing in future when the time may be ripe in terms of prospect interest.

For a basic overview of direct mail testing, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/direct-mail-ab-test/

 

 

How Acquisition Mailing Won With Price, Premium, Benefits Copy

While many of our direct mail clients recently have focused on the secret to millennial response, AccuList USA’s direct mail consulting keeps a close eye on mail tactics that work well with older and general audiences, too. A case in point is a recent Target Marketing magazine case study sharing the Mayo Clinic Health Letter’s expertise in testing toward maximum acquisition response for its control. With its huge 2 million to 5 million mail pieces per quarter, Mayo has a lot of room for testing and 17 years of success to back up its results!

Pricing & Premiums Lift Response

Targeting an older audience (age 70 and up), the Mayo Clinic mailer has long used an oversized kraft outer envelope with a simple teaser that appeals to the older market preference for courtesy: “Please favor us with a reply within 10 days.” Successfully tested changes include shifting the envelope size from 11″x 14″ to a 10″ x 14″ to save money, but other inside-package tweaks have delivered the response boosts.  For example, the letter now leads with pricing, a “tough times” stress on the per issue $1.97 over an annual savings. A spot-glued lift note with a testimonial segues into a personalized, boxed reference to that testimonial on the first page of the letter.  But one of the most significant response-getters has been the addition of a premium in the form of existing internal special reports–on weight loss or arthritis, for example–offered for free.

Long, Easy-Read Letter Targets Seniors

The control has also increased its lift by moving to an eight-page letter, up from the original four-page pitch. The results are proof that longer copy can outdo short copy when it comes to self-help offers and older markets. For one, the long-form letter allows marketers to pack in more benefits. Second, it allows for a larger type size. For example, the Mayo letter has shifted to a 14-point type as a boon to aging eyesight and a way to distinguish its approach as more personal and less corporate. And the package includes a full page on “The Mayo Clinic Story” of pioneering research and patient care to build brand awareness and value validation.

A 3-in-1 Response Device Packs a Punch

The mailer’s reply card page has three-in-one power: reply form, premium stuffer and a BRE, in yellow to stand out in the package. Other smart tweaks include a “No-Risk Certificate” reply card numbered to show exclusivity. Plus, to keep recipients from losing focus while searching for a pen and laboring over a form, the bill-me-only reply uses involvement stickers. To download the complete case study, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/resource/acquisition-mail-case-study-editorial-premiums-benefit-filled-copy/

 

 

 

 

 

Push Your Event Marketing E-mails Ahead of the Pack

During close to 30 years of direct marketing to help trade shows and conferences boost attendance and sell exhibitor space, clients often have asked for guidance on event industry response for e-mail campaigns. Now we can enhance data pulled from our proprietary research and experience with Eventbrite’s new “2017 Event E-mail Benchmarking Report,” comparing survey responses from over 340 event organizers across the U.S. and U.K. for a range of event types and sizes.

Benchmarks to Emulate

If you’re an event marketer with a fuzzy notion of the basic response measure of click-to-open rate (CTOR), you’re not alone. The benchmark report found that 39% of respondents said they didn’t know their average CTOR. That’s an ignorance that these event pros need to remedy if they hope to catch up with even average e-mail results. The rest of the U.S. event organizers surveyed reported an average CTOR of 12%. That was higher than their U.K. brethren, who only cited a 9% average, but far behind the enviable 17% in the U.S. who reported a CTOR of 21% or higher! Festivals scored the best average e-mail CTOR (14%), while classes and workshops had the lowest (9%).

Copy & Design to Boost Click-to-Open Rates

Event marketers who want to improve CTOR can commit to a number of basic creative tactics. First, they can revisit layouts and make sure they direct recipients to a compelling and clear call-to-action. Then, copy should be relevant, personalized and spam-filter avoidant, running from a great subject line that entices opens to copy that wins clicks. Obviously, mobile-optimization is a must now that the majority of e-mails are opened on mobile devices. Note that the most effective e-mails today also include an engaging image. E-mail research has found that e-mail campaigns with imagery have a 42% higher CTOR than campaigns without images, for example. (Don’t forget to comply with CAN-SPAM opt-out and privacy regulations, of course.)

Target, Test, Automate, Integrate

As data brokers, we must remind that response is even more dependent on the quality of targeted opt-in e-mail data, whether house or rental lists, and use of professional software and database support for list segmentation, updating and permission management as well as results tracking, testing and analysis. Indeed, regardless of carefully crafted e-mail creative, results measurement and analytics are essential to a direct marketing basic: testing of creative, lists and targeting to find what works best. Automation of event updates and confirmation/thank-you e-mails has also proven its value in maximizing click-through rates and conversions/registrations. And, finally, e-mail gains the most reach as part of a consistently branded, multi-channel effort, leveraging social media’s e-mail list building strategies, for example, as well as the proven marketing power of direct mail. (Ask us about our Digital2Direct marketing program that matches postal and opt-in e-mail records to send targeted mail and e-mail to the same recipients.)

For more metrics from the new event e-mail benchmarking survey, get the free report at https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/academy/2017-event-email-benchmarking-report/

How Direct Mail Testing Factors Differ by Product Stage

Direct mail success is all about testing — lists, offer, creative, and, of course, the product/service itself. While there’s no single formula that applies to all our direct mail consulting clients, Malcolm Decker’s excellent article “How to Test Your Direct Mail” in Target Marketing magazine’s resource section offers some useful guidelines.

Testing for a New Product

Decker differentiates the weight given the various direct mail testing parameters by a product’s life cycle–new product testing; honing success of an existing product; and testing to revive a mature product. For example, his ideal new-product test is mailed to 120,000 names, with the house list providing less than 20% of names mailed, and testing of 15 different lists, three different prices/offers, and three different creative packages. In looking at the relative contributions of testing factors, he notes that even the most well-researched new product can impact results by 30% plus or minus. Mailing lists–ranging from tightly targeted response lists to larger, broader and thus riskier lists–will contribute another plus or minus 30% to success, based on Decker’s experience. Then the price/offer will deliver another 30% up or down. And last, the creative factor for a new product can move the testing needle by another plus or minus 10%. Decker assumes proper timing since the difference between the peak season and the trough in demand is a whopping 40% of response (check Who’s Mailing What! archives and seasonality tables if unsure).

Honing Success and Maturity Challenges

Once marketers have a couple of years of mailing results to help determine price elasticity, list universe, creative preference, premium impacts, etc., Decker notes that the 30-30-30-10 relationship of start-up testing has shifted. The product can’t add much to response unless it is revised. The list universe is substantially explored, so new, more effective list contributions are scarcer; lists now potentially improve results by just 10% up or down. New offer twists, on the other hand, can goose interest in a well-known product by plus or minus 40%, and creative changes in copy and design can help re-position and expand markets for a potential 50% either way. Once a mature product’s proven marketing choices face the challenges of competition or changing tastes and demographics, the key factors shift once more. Testing now may involve a restaged product for widened appeal, which can deliver a 20% shift in either direction. Plus, a restaged product can open up the known list universe to new lists and improved results from existing or marginal lists, for another 20% difference. And a retooled product will require more price/offer testing that can shift results another 30% up or down. Finally, new creative strategy can breathe life into response for a potential 30% gain (or dip).

A Caveat on Formulas

Decker’s exposition is a quick guide for allotting effort and resources in direct mail testing at each stage in a product’s life cycle, but marketers should realize that formulas are sometimes contradicted by market experience, Decker warns. As he notes, the strongest list among 15 may produce 20 times the revenue of the weakest list! New creative can beat a proven control by a 100% bump in response. And no formula applies equally to all product types, from computers to cornflakes. Download the whole article at  http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/resource/how-to-test-your-direct-mail/