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Direct Mail Lead Gen Doesn’t Have to Bust the Budget

Many direct marketing articles tout digital tactics for generating sales leads. But at AccuList USA, we can attest to the continued lead-gen effectiveness of traditional direct mail for a range of our clients, including online retail and publications. Direct mail has higher response rates while avoiding some of the challenges of SEO, social media and e-mail, such as rapidly changing rules, deliverability/visibility issues and a crowded competitive space. But what about the cost of direct mail?  As a recent MarketingProfs post highlighted, there are direct mail options that can effectively deliver leads without busting the marketing budget!

Sales Letters Are Proven Workhorses

A No. 10 envelope that includes a one- or two-page letter and a reply card is an expensive, simple and effective way to reach prospects with something likely to be opened and read (unlike many e-mails). Of course, response depends on the proper targeting of the prospect lists and the personalized content of the letter. The letter should identify a problem, present a solution and offer a “freebie” of value, such as a brochure, sample, demo, evaluation, information kit or anything else that will get a response so that salespeople can follow up with qualified prospects.

Postcards and Flyers Are Lower Cost Options

A postcard is an inexpensive alternative to a letter, with low print costs and lower postage rates, as long as you stay within the minimum size of 3.5″ x 5″ and the maximum of 4.25″ x 6″. Because there is less room for the sales message, offer copy needs to be simple with a clear call to action. And because there is no additional response device, postcards need to stress a website address or a phone number. To drive traffic to a retail store, make room for directions or a map. Similarly, flyers are cheap and great options for local small businesses or businesses that want to appear small (read less expensive). Printed on ordinary paper, folded in thirds with a tab to hold it closed, and addressed with a mailing label and stamp, the result doesn’t have to be beautiful to be effective. Put the main message on the inside and teasers and mailing information on the outside so that, when you read the address, the folded side is on the bottom and the tab is on the top.

Court Attention With Invitations and Special Delivery

An invitation doesn’t have to be printed in formal lettering on cream card stock in a fancy hand-addressed envelope. You can draw people to an event or offer in a way that seems more personal and important just by using the words “You are invited…” An invitation can use a letter, a postcard or a flyer for an open house, special sale, product demonstration, etc. The key is to make the event seem exclusive and the invitees special in some way. Another way to make a mailing seem special is to use FedEx or other quick delivery service. The package content can range from a simple personal letter to a video or product sample. A special delivery package is a guaranteed open, but, because the delivery method is more expensive, it is usually limited to a smaller group of select targets.

For the complete article, see http://www.marketingprofs.com/8/cheap-direct-mail-tools-generate-sales-leads-fast-rieck.asp

Publisher Mistakes Undermine Online Subscription Efforts

Subscription marketing is a goal for most of our B2B and B2C publishing clients, so we wanted to pass along a recent Publishing Executive (PE) magazine article warning of some common online errors by publishers that are undermining circulation marketing investments.

Use Premium Content to Lure Subscribers

Access to premium content should be online but limited to subscribers, urges PE author Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of eMedia Strategist. After all, why subscribe if you can go to the website and see all content for free? Unfortunately, some publishers are so baffled by the technology of locking down content as subscriber-only that they don’t even put their premium content online–losing a big selling point with digital traffic. Others are worried about reducing Google search traffic or ad impression dollars by limiting content access, but they are not factoring in the cost of lost subscribers, argues Shanfelt. Of course, for success with subscriber-only premium content, the website must then prominently promote that premium content and its subscriber-only status via clear incentives and calls-to-action, he adds.

Quick, Easy Subscription Pages Need to SELL

A website or mobile subscription page should not be just an order form, Shanfelt advises. Remember that most people who visit a subscription page are just considering subscribing. They need to be sold. Visitors should clearly see the benefits of subscribing and what they get (deliverables). Plus the page should generate a sense of urgency to sign up and use FOMO (fear of missing out) to push orders. Equally important, the subscription process should be quick and easy.  Make the subscription link easy to see and navigation simple by putting an obvious menu item and widget on every website page, with a link directly to a single-page subscription form, not a multi-step process. And finally, make sure the subscription page is not only secure but loads quickly on desktop or mobile. If it doesn’t load in 2-3 seconds, up to 50% of potential subscribers could be lost, warns Shanfelt.

Invest in Data Tracking and Integration

In order to test and adjust marketing tactics, online subscription and confirmation pages should use Google Analytics for e-commerce conversion tracking and cross-domain tracking to see how people get to subscription pages and how well they convert from different sources. Subscription/confirmation pages should also use tracking pixels from Facebook, Google, Bing and other digital sources, as well as from customer data platforms and e-mail systems.  More important, circulation data needs to be integrated with the website subscription pages and any e-mail or marketing automation systems. For effectiveness, that circulation data should be updated automatically in real-time or, at a minimum, manually once a month. If the website is synchronized with the circulation system, people can log into the site by authenticating against subscriber data to get access to premium content, for example. Integration also allows for conditional content blocks in follow-up e-mails to upsell non-subscriber leads, for sending of automatic renewal reminders, and even for a sync of subscriber lists with programmatic ad networks.

For more tips, see the full article.

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/

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/

 

 

 

 

 

For Direct Mail, What’s Old Can Be New (& Effective) Again

AccuList USA offers mailing lists, data services and direct marketing services to direct mailers in many business and nonprofit arenas, and that requires us to keep up with the latest options combining print and digital technologies. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the tried-and-true, pre-digital tactics that still deliver response! Real-life examples noted in recent Target Marketing magazine articles underscore that point.

Envelopes That Grab Attention

Thank Paul Bobnak, director of Who’s Mailing What!, for sifting through mail volumes to spot some successful new takes on old tricks for attention-getting envelopes. In his recent Target Marketing article, he noted the reappearance of four “old-school” tactics. One is an envelope highlighting Yes-No-Maybe stickers, once a favorite of subscription drives. The prospect is given three options on the reply form, with a sticker for each. Bobnak cites a recent mail piece from UPMC, a healthcare system: The Yes-No stickers are visible in an outer envelope window, while the “Maybe” is inside for recipients to self-qualify for follow-up mailer persuasion. Posting an outer envelope quiz is another proven way to intrigue prospects and get them to open a mailing to learn more–a ploy often used for health care and financial services offers. Bobnak shows how a few qualifying envelope questions work well today for the Harvard Health Letter as an example from publication marketing. The interoffice-routing-style envelope is an old trick for catching the attention of office workers and has been a go-to for B2B. Despite e-mail’s workplace dominance, interoffice paper still exists, and Bobnak notes the recent engaging nonprofit marketing use of an interoffice envelope by Sacred Heart Southern Missions, a social ministry. Then there’s the photo lab envelope, seemingly obsolete in this digital photo age. But high-quality printed photos still come in envelopes, Bobnak reminds, and that syncs with the creative services message of Dissolve, a stock footage agency, which recently prospected with a photo lab envelope containing quality photos from its collections.

Letters That Drive Response

Once recipients open the envelope–although use of QR, AR, PURLs, etc., are great new digital tools to boost response–the old-school marketing basics of the letter copy offer still matter. In another recent Target Marketing magazine article, Summer Gould highlighted seven items required for a great direct mail letter. With a few of our own additions, the seven key elements are: a first sentence that hooks the reader; an offer that is attractive (yes, a freebie or discount still entices); a story line that engages and pulls important emotional triggers (such as the well-known marketing motivators of fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, and need for approval); flattery that convinces the reader he or she is special and appreciated, which today requires more personalization than just a greeting name; questions that qualify the prospect or customer (just make sure you expect the answers based on your data); a problem solved by your product or service; and benefits that matter to the prospect or customer. Why the reminder of what seems like marketing common sense? Because it’s unfortunately not always common practice! Dazzling dimensional creative will not make up for an offer misfire.

Combining proven marketing tactics with technology, “snail mail” continues to deliver a response rate ahead of other channels. To see physical examples of what Bobnak describes, go to www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/4-old-school-direct-mail-tactics-still-work/

Subscription Marketing Basics Still Create Winning Formulas

Despite modern publishing’s multi-platform environment (print, web, mobile), many long-time subscription marketing rules retain their relevance. A recent post from Bill Dugan, for niche magazine consulting firm Mequoda, stressed just that point by reminding audience development pros of the fundamentals for price, offer and creative. As a list brokerage with many paid or controlled circulation clients, AccuList USA would, of course, add another important component: quality data

Price, Offer, Creative

As Dugan stresses, the art and science of pricing still counts. In pricing, whether for print, online, tablet or combination packages, subscription marketers actually have an edge over many other products by being able to sell the same product at different prices each time it’s purchased, from a new subscriber to each subsequent renewal. Pricing strategies can include 1) simply the same price at every stage of buying or renewing; 2) giving the more price-sensitive new subscriber an introductory discount and then selling renewals at full price; 3) maximizing response and profitability with a step-up program from a low introductory price through gradual renewal increases to maximum; and 4) rewarding subscribers with a lower monthly price for selecting a longer (annual) term. Next, marketers can build a range of offers. Based on testing, Dugan reports that the best response is earned by a “soft offer,” meaning a trial free issue or more, plus a premium and a bill-me-later for a full subscription. The lowest response offer is the old-fashioned hard offer, requesting up-front credit card payment with no trial or premium,per his testing. And finally, direct marketing success requires wrapping the offer in effective creative. A key to creative response today, whether direct mail or e-mail, is personalization that focuses on the target customers’ needs.

And Market-Tested, Targeted Lists!

Of course, effective personalization requires targeted, quality data! So while Dugan didn’t talk about the paramount importance of data, we remind marketers of the continuing relevance of either the 40-40-20 rule (40% of response success from audience/list, 40% from offer and 20% for creative) or the 60-30-10 formula (60% from targeted audience/list). Bottom line, good audience data is key. To support digital and print publishers, AccuList USA turns to its proprietary research on market-tested data and selection parameters most likely to boost response. That means lists such as those targeting active subscribers to trade or consumer publications; book buyers having specific interests; digital or print edition subscribers; known subscribers at work, home, or waiting room address; or subscribers with Facebook profiles.

For the complete Mequoda article, see http://www.mequoda.com/articles/subscription_websites/subscription-marketing-the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same/

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.

Growing Magazine Audiences Continue Shift Toward Mobile

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

Desktop/Laptop Viewing Loses Traction to Mobile

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

Print’s Lead Role Endures

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

And the Winners Are…

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

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