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.

 

 

 

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.