For 2019 Edge, Event Pros Should’t Overlook Direct Mail, SEO, Experiential Marketing

Per the latest industry surveys, AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketing clients can look forward to solid event industry growth in 2019–along with potential marketing strategy shifts in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Businesses Are Bullish on Event Marketing

Event software firm Bizzabo’s survey of over 1,000 mid- to senior-level marketers at major companies in 2018 found good news for the event industry: Most respondents (41%) consider live events to be the most critical marketing channel in achieving business outcomes (out of 9 possible channels), a 32% increase from 2017. Business execs are also doubling down on live events. Between 2017 to 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17%. Additionally, the vast majority of respondents (95%) believe in-person events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form connections in an increasingly digital world. This reflects a 12% increase compared to 2017.

E-mail & Social Media Remain Favored Promotion Channels

Meanwhile, Eventbrite, an online event management and ticketing firm, surveyed 1,200 event professionals last year to see how marketers are likely to spend in 2019. Word of mouth, an effective tactic for 63% of event marketers, is bolstered by investments in social media marketing, which 49% of event creators placed among the top three most effective drivers of ticket sales. They cited Facebook and Instagram as the top social platforms for reaching event-goers. E-mail rounded out the top marketing channels per those surveyed, with 38% of event professionals relying on it.

Trends Encourage Growth of SEO & Direct Mail Use

However, with 89% of attendees using search for purchase decisions, Eventbrite foresees a necessary expansion of SEO efforts. There’s definitely room for growth, with almost half (46%) of event professionals saying they aren’t using SEO. And, while e-mail is cited among the favored marketing channels, direct mail continues to turn in higher response for the 41% of event pros who use it. Eventbrite thinks the 50% who cite competition as their biggest challenge will want to reconsider the edge offered by adding mail to their arsenal, urging the hesitant to take a trial run by segmenting mailing lists and sending flyers or save-the-date cards to a test portion.

Experiential Marketing Is 2019’s Hot Buzzword

Experiential marketing is a hot new trend for trade show exhibit providers, brand marketers and event planners. It is a strategy that engages attendees by using branded experiences at an event, as part of an event, or in a pop-up activation not tied to any event. It’s all about immersing people in memorable live experiences to create more lasting and positive brand impressions. Yet Eventbrite found that close to 60% of event creators are not using experiential marketing. Acknowledging an intimidation factor, Eventbrite urges starting small, for example by promoting a pop-up shop (temporary retail space) grand opening at an event, by offering a smaller experiential activation like an on-site art installation, or by using a partner on-site sponsorship to enhance the event experience.

Download the Bizzabo report “2019 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends” for more details on event industry trends.

2019 Trends Open Doors for More Direct Mail Success

Direct mail lists and data services are core to AccuList USA’s business success, so each year we research which trends our direct mail marketing clients will want to embrace for maximum response–and which trends are fading in effectiveness.

Digital Ad Tune-outs Offer Mail Opportunities

Digital issues can create direct mail opportunities, points out direct mail agency Inkit, noting that customers are tuning out digital advertising, whether e-mails, banners or social media promos. In fact, eMarketer estimates that 30% of all Internet users will use ad blockers in 2019. One way to offset the drop in digital ad effectiveness is to beef up direct mail campaigns. Note that ANA-DMA research shows that 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail and 64% would rather scan for useful information in the mail than e-mail. Plus, 41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers report enjoying catalogs. That engagement translates into higher response rates for mail than for any other media, per the 2018 ANA-DMA Response Rate Report, with 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists.

Snail Mail Can Join the 2019 Video Boom

While digital ads are being ignored, digital video is booming; Inkit reports that Cisco projects video will encompass more than 85% of all Internet traffic in the U.S. by 2020! Direct mail doesn’t have to be left out. Thanks to print technology–QR, AR, Video-in-Print and Near Field Communication (NFC)–paper promotions can jump on the video bandwagon and further boost their own mail response.

2019 Demands Personalized, Cross-Channel Campaigns

Customers in 2019 will expect marketers to personalize offers and deliver a seamless experience across channels, Inkit asserts, requiring integration of online, e-mail, direct mail, social media, mobile, and in-store campaigns. In fact, retailing research recently found that close to 90% of retailers say integrated cross-channel or omnichannel marketing is key to success. AI is one way marketers are getting a handle on messaging across channels and at different points in the buyer journey, which can help decide timing and targeting of direct mail. Meanwhile, for mail, variable data content printing and enhanced database targeting and segmenting can deliver the personalized relevant messaging that will be a basic of 2019 marketing.

Take Variable Data Printing to the Next Level in 2019

Yet when it comes to printing and personalization, there are some popular direct mail practices that need to be ditched this year, advises direct marketing agency Darwill. For example, using a 4-color master shell on which variable content is laser-printed in black and white has become old-hat given that new inkjet presses can create endless 4-color versions for a more targeted and engaging campaign. Along the same lines, the custom maps laser-printed in black and white can be replaced by full-color variable maps that are more personalized, eye-catching, and likely to drive leads.

Use Envelopes to Intrigue Outside; Put Tailored Offers Inside

This year, instead of revealing all details of a promotional offer on the outside envelope to drive opens, Darwill advises that a promotional pitch that is visible but not fully revealed on the envelope is likely to work better–a sneak peek at a personalized offer. Then once the recipient opens the envelope, he or she better not find one-size-fits-all content! Luckily, with today’s full-color inkjet technology, a letter or a coupon can now be varied based on a recipient’s past shopping patterns or demographics.

 

 

 

Despite Doubters, 2018 Direct Mail Ups Response, ROI, Usage

AccuList USA’s direct mail marketing clients received lots of encouraging news in the 2018 “ANA-DMA Response Rate Report.”  Direct mail improved its usage ranking to tie with social media as the second most-used medium (57%), for example, and continued to deliver the best response rates of any medium. In fact, “snail mail” even improved on its response success by doubling median response rates over last year to 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists in 2018. Mail’s Return on Investment (ROI) also leaped by 12 percentage points to beat out online display this year.

While Marketers Forecast Mail Decline, Usage Tells a Different Story

The only negative in the report is that those surveyed continue to doubt the future of direct mail, with 19% saying they plan to decrease usage in the coming 12 months. But if the report participants follow their behavior after previous surveys, which similarly predicted mail declines, direct mail usage will remain buoyant, which allowed it to rise in 2018 despite planned cuts. One drag on direct mail continues to be its Cost Per Action/Acquisition, which is the highest CPA of any medium and puts budget pressure on mail volume, which did decline for both house and prospect lists compared with the 2017 study.

Direct Mail Usage Dominates Most Industry Segments

However, high response rates, competitive ROI, online tracking and print-tech advances are keeping marketers loyal to “traditional” mail in a digital world. In fact, direct mail usage for marketing campaigns equals or exceeds 50% for most of the 11 industry segments cited in the study. In usage, direct mail leaders were travel or hospitality (80%), nonprofits (75%), publishing or media (71%), and financial services/banks/credit (67%). Only Technology (44%), Retail (44%), and B2B Services (34%) came in below the 50% usage mark. 

B2B, B2C Split on Formats As Response Tracking Goes Digital

When it comes to direct mail creative format, postcards tend to produce the best overall response in combined B2B and B2C data, with a 13% median response rate for house files and 10% for prospecting files. Letter-size envelope formats turned in rates of 10% for house lists and 4% for prospecting, and oversize envelope mail garnered 11% for both house and prospect lists. Format results are different for B2B versus B2C, however. Looking only at B2B, limited data indicates the letter-size envelope format outperforms with a combined median response for house and prospect lists of 15%-40%, compared with postcards’ 14%-16%. For B2C, responses show oversize envelopes actually turning in the best 9%-12% median response for house and prospect lists combined, compared with postcards at 9% and letter envelopes at 4%. In tracking those response rates, marketers have definitely gone digital, with over half of surveyed marketers (53%) saying they use online tracking capabilities, such as PURLs, followed in popularity by the use of codes or coupons (45%) and call center or telephone inquiries (41%).

 

Industrial Marketers Bet More on 2018 Direct & Digital

AccuList USA has a long track record of helping warehouse, industrial and back-office product marketers via data brokerage, predictive analytics and multi-channel direct marketing, and we’ve learned some important lessons along the way.

Industrial & Tech Marketing Budgets Expand in 2018

The good news is that many industrial marketers were inspired to expand investment in 2018. According to the “2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing” report published by engineering.com, industrial marketing budgets in 2018 are expected to hit “the highest levels of growth (45%) and the lowest reported levels of shrinking budgets (4%), of any of the last five years.” More than half (54%) of manufacturing marketers expect their budget to be larger in 2018.

Quality, Targeted Data Is Key to B2B Direct Marketing

But expanded multi-channel spending still needs to be smart spending. As data brokers, we can’t overemphasize that successful B2B direct marketing–including direct mail, print catalogs and e-mail campaigns–starts with quality, targeted data. Marketers can boost response by using predictive analytics and buyer profiles to target–and then opt for the rental lists of active product inquirers/buyers that our proprietary list research finds to be top performers in each vertical. Targeting the right message to decision-makers in the buying process is also key; with product and industry factors affecting whether to select a chief engineer, purchasing manager, warehouse manager, human resources chief, or C-suite executive in mailing lists.

A Digital Strategy Is Now Essential for Leads and Sales

While direct mail continues its response leadership, there’s no denying that most B2B buyers are digital shoppers today. Research by Acquity Group finds 94% of B2B buyers say they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product, for example. Forrester Research has found that 59% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep, and 74% find buying from a website more convenient. That makes digital catalog sites into essential sales tools, giving customers the option to browse product, pricing, and inventory information in real-time and then self-serve. Of course, online traffic-building requires a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy given that 73% of global traffic to B2B companies comes from search engine results. But most successful B2B marketers also invest in paid digital efforts. In fact, a 2015 study by Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Fathom found that manufacturers ranked search engine marketing highest among paid marketing options in terms of efficacy (52%) and promoted social media posts came in second (39%).  For social media ads, B2B marketers see video as a top response tactic, which is why manufacturers in the study ranked YouTube as the most effective social media site, followed by LinkedIn ads, which AccuList USA supports. Take a deeper dive into the core elements of digital industrial marketing with this post by gorilla76, a B2B consulting firm.

 

 

 

Honoring Channel Preference Delivers Fundraising Wins

Donor control of communications channels is important for efficient fundraising contends DonorVoice’s The Agitator in a recent blog post worth passing along to AccuList USA’s fundraiser and fundraising consultant clients.

Cutting Costs and Boosting Deliverability

Fundraisers fret over opt-out rates in their efforts to grow donor files. Yet failing to learn and honor channel preference not only leads to higher opt-out rates but to wasteful marketing as well. People who opt out of telemarketing or e-mail channels are unlikely to give through that channel, so the resulting file reduction is actually a savings, cutting spending that annoys rather than produces. Plus sending e-mails to people who routinely don’t open them lowers overall e-mail deliverability, reducing e-mails that might get through to those who do want them, for another real but hidden cost.

Increasing Opt-ins and Donor Value

Giving channel control to donors can produce more quality file growth. DonorVoice has done two different tests of what causes people to opt in, and both show that donor communications control is the single biggest factor in whether someone will want to learn more from a nonprofit. Plus, another recent study by DonorVoice and the DMA Nonprofit Federation found that allowing donors control of their communications makes them more likely to donate, and that donors who provide and receive a communications preference tend to be more valuable donors. For example, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare coded people who requested less mail and sent them half as many appeals as those who stated no preference.  Those donors who requested and received half as many contacts actually gave more than the group that didn’t express a preference, per the DonorVoice article.  Catholic Relief Services also found that donors who requested a specific mail preference gave 6 to 8 times more per year, notes the same blog post. By asking for communications preference and honoring it, fundraisers identify more quality donors and make them more likely to stay.

Direct Mail Channel Still Leads With Donors

Despite the growth of online giving, channel preferences continue to favor direct mail, which is one reason it is still alive and kicking as a fundraising tool.  In fact, 73% of consumers say they prefer mail for brand communications, and that includes nonprofits, and 62% like checking the mail, per Epsilon research. Plus, mail gives nonprofits an edge in getting their message across since “brain science” research shows that printed appeals leave a deeper impression and stimulate more emotional processing. Plus, direct mail donors have higher retention rates; 31% of first-time offline donors are retained compared with 25% of new online donors, according to Blackbaud. For more on the case for fundraising direct mail, see this DonorVoice blog post.

Trust Message Takes Center Stage in 2018 Insurance Marketing

Earlier in the year, Mintel Comperemedia identified four insurance marketing trends for 2018: courting consumer trust; fighting commoditization by redefining scope and repackaging; building AI savings and speed into underwriting, customer engagement and more; and competition via supplementary service and risk mitigation. AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients will be interested in Mintel’s recent update on two of those predictions: trust messaging and expanded product scope.

Life Insurance Ad Campaigns & Direct Mail Woo Consumer Trust

While all types of personal insurance lines showed shifts in messaging to win consumer trust via simplification, education and transparency, Mintel especially notes life insurance efforts to close the financial literacy gap through content marketing, such as Allstate’s launch of an advertising campaign in July 2018 that reminded viewers “truth today is hard to find” and concluded TV ads with “Now that you know the truth, are you in Good Hands?” Likewise, insurers Humana, Gerber Life, Kaiser Permanente, State Farm, John Hancock and Mutual of Omaha revamped direct mail messaging with some form of the line “insurance can be confusing” and then offered simplified language to which consumers could more easily relate. Meanwhile, on-demand coverage from Trov, Duuo, Cuvva and Slice addressed consumers’ product transparency demand by offering real-time coverage for what consumers want when they want it.

Partnerships Offer More to Health Insurance Shoppers

The marketing landscape for health insurance saw major changes in terms of insurance scope this year.  For example, the CVS pharmacy acquisition of Aetna opens the door to a one-stop-shop health care experience, including better digital customer service. Similarly, Mintel notes the Amazon acquisition of PillPack and the partnership between Walmart and Anthem as opportunities for established insurance products to expand and redefine the digital-age customer journey. Meanwhile, insurance marketers are watching to see how much the Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway collaboration to offer independent employee health care will shake up the status quo. For the full blog post, see http://www.mintel.com/blog/insurance/insurance-marketing-trends-2018-howd-we-do

New Marketing Trends Bolster Food Gifting Growth

One of AccuList USA’s areas of specialization is providing mailing lists, data services and marketing support for the food and wine gift market, and so we keep an eye on emerging trends in this growth industry. In fact, food gift sales will approach $20 billion in 2018, up 4% over last year, per the “Food Gifting in the U.S.: Consumer and Corporate” report for 2018-2020 by research firm Packaged Facts.

Holiday Sales Dominate, But New Trends Push Overall Growth

Marketing dollars will naturally focus on year-end sales, since, while consumers and businesses are giving food baskets across a wider variety of occasions today, ranging from anniversaries to graduations to birthdays, Christmas is still the food and wine gifting mainstay. More than half of the 130 million consumer food gifters purchasing in the last 12 months bought during the winter holiday season. But how can food gift marketers push sales growth year-round? One key factor will be continued innovation that creates exclusivity and artisanship, avoiding the commoditization that drains profit with discounting, notes the report. To support that kind of brand power, marketing efforts will need to embrace the kind of story telling that creates a sense of authenticity and uniqueness and builds a gourmet brand image. Capturing the high-end boutique buyer can require a softer sales approach that aims at building knowledge and trust, say via featured recipes as an example. Food gift marketers also need to continue expanding gifting occasions beyond holidays, not only for consumers but also for the lucrative corporate market, by pushing work anniversary and thank-you gestures for example. Finally, while the food gifting market is heavily dependent on older, high-income consumers, tapping into millennials will require a more omnichannel approach that takes into account millennial ordering preferences, stresses the Packaged Facts report.

Embracing Omnichannel Marketing Options

An omnichannel wooing of millennials will combine direct mail/catalogs with e-mail, social media and e-commerce strategies. While traditional direct mail continues as a food gifting workhorse, a strong online presence and SEO strategy is especially essential. Luxury biscuit gift company Biscuiteers provides an example of how it matters: The company increased their website traffic from new customers by 90% and SEO revenue by 77% in 6 months by optimizing category landing pages for different types of food gift buyer and season. E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with a good e-mail strategy. For example, the venerable Hickory Farms brand decided to improve the quality of its customer data and create a more agile e-mail campaign process by integrating its marketing and commerce tech to trigger consumer journeys and automated e-mail sends. E-mail inbox placement this year rose to 94%, almost 10% above industry standard, plus e-mail list growth improved. Hickory Farms CMO Judy Ransford explained to CMO magazine that the smarter list management “helps us deliver e-mails at the frequency customers want, and to make sure the content quality is better. This year we’ve seen a huge improvement and not such high attrition rates as a result.” Social media also has become a must-have for food gifting via leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram for consumers and LinkedIn for corporate prospecting. That should increase gift-basket marketer interest in AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct program, which is designed to link targeted direct mail with Facebook ads or e-mails to the same recipients.

Who’s Winning in 2018 Gift Basket Ratings?

By the way, marketers looking for successful food gifting models should check out Top Ten Reviews’ 2018 ratings. We’re happy to note that our client Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Gourmet Choice Gift Basket was awarded best overall value for 2018 in a test of 11 gift baskets from the leading gift basket companies. Top-rated winners delivered on value for the price in terms of food and wine taste; presentation; ease of payment; delivery speed, options and geographic coverage; range of baskets; special options such as kosher, vegan and organic; offers of extras such as add-on wine, tea, books, puzzles, etc; and, of course, quality customer support. To read more, see the review of best gift baskets of 2018.

 

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

Promotional Product Marketers Can Hone Proven Tools

AccuList USA recently completed a proprietary analysis of the top-performing direct mail and e-mail lists for promotional products companies to help buttress the continued success of this evergreen marketing tool.

A Message About Proven Success

Promotional product providers already have some powerful arguments in wooing business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers. For example, per industry surveys, eight in 10 consumers have one to 10 promotional products, 53% use the giveaways at least once a week, and 60% retain the products for up to two years. Before receiving a promotional product, 55% surveyed had done business with the advertiser, but after receiving a promotional product, 85% did business with the advertiser. With promotional products delivering such regular, repeated brand exposure and enhanced outreach, it’s no wonder the U.S. promotional products industry is forecast to generate $24 billion in 2018, growing at 2.5 % annually.

Many Industries Worth Wooing

Plus, while not every industry is a good target for a promotional product pitch, prospective buyers abound. A recent post by Designhill, a graphic design platform, cited some top promotional users they have supported. Real estate promotions lead in distributing branded notepads, keychains, calendars, magnets, door hangers and more, for example. The education sector often offers writing instruments, apparel, water bottles, folders, and frisbees at college fairs, seminars, expos and open houses. In today’s competitive healthcare market, clinics, hospitals, outpatient clinics and surgery centers go beyond branded tote bags to first-aid kits and custom ice packs. Nonprofits are big consumers of tumblers, tote bags, wristbands and lanyards, while banks, credit unions and insurance firms opt to reward both employees and new accounts with everything from travel bags and mugs to fidget spinners. With the midterm elections ahead, don’t forget that political candidates are a big market for flags, stickers, decals, apparel and hats (following in MAGA footsteps). On a global basis, the top 25 promotional products purchasers include seven from the consumer-goods industry, six from the communications industry, and a dozen more from pharmaceutical, technology and automotive industries.

Targeted Data Available for Mail, Digital & Social

The key to success is targeted data. Promotional products are visual sales, which is why direct mail and catalogs using targeted mailing lists have such a role in the industry. Now social media options such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn also allow for visual, targeted promotions, including video. And tools like AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct can link highly targeted direct mail with social media advertising on Facebook, or send direct mail with timely opt-in e-mail to the same recipients. In a digital world, house e-mail databases, enhanced by LinkedIn connections, lead capture forms or event contacts, are very cost-effective marketing tools for promotional products—as long as the e-mail database is accurate, up-to-date and targeted, which is among the data support services that AccuList USA also offers promotional product clients.