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.

B2B Gifting Survey Finds Personal & Memorable Score ROI

Acculist USA supports many clients marketing in the corporate gifting space, with a focus on food and wine gift baskets and catalogs. We recently ran across some interesting data from a study by Knack, a Seattle gifting company, that should help gift suppliers to craft the most appealing packages and business gift buyers to maximize gift effectiveness.

The C-suite Believes in Gifting ROI

The good news from the Knack “Business Gift Satisfaction Survey” is that corporate gifting works well when it is done well: 57% of respondents said that “gifts can impact their opinion of a business partner both positively and negatively.” In fact, over 80% of C-suite executives surveyed said they believe that business gifts generate measurable positive ROI in addition to intangible benefits. Since there’s a huge investment involved annually, with the market for non-cash business gifts estimated at $125 billion, getting the most positives and fewest negatives is clearly vital.

Well-Packaged, Personal & Memorable Score Best

Return-on-investment for a business gift to high-value targets, such as C-suite executives, is highest if the gift tells a story and facilitates a deeper personal connection, per the survey. Quality is more important than the quantity spent to achieve that personal connection; the survey finds that the right amount to spend per gift is between $50 to $150. What defines quality? The best impression comes from good presentation/packaging and the kind of personalization that logo items and gift cards lack, per gift recipients. A memorable gift will seem selected just for the recipient; will include a personal message and will have “value attributes,” such as a handmade/artisan item or a gift supporting an appropriate cause, such as ecological sustainability or made-in-U.S.A.

A Fail-Safe Business Gifting Checklist

Based on 1,000 business gift recipients’ responses, here is the survey’s checklist for fail-safe business gifting:

  • Give a useful item, something practical and that everyone can use.
  • Surround the useful item with shareable items, such as gourmet food in line with the gift theme. Stress quality over quantity.
  • Aim for a “value attribute,” such as made-in-the-U.S. items. Specific causes might be polarizing but “Made in USA” is universally favored as a top value attribute.
  • Spend between $50-$150. Spend for junior-level business partners in the $50-$65 range and for most clients and manager/director-level associates in the $75-$100 range. Spend up to $140-$160 for C-suite execs, VPs and most valued clients.
  • Always include a personally addressed note with the gift! 

Get more details from the Knack study on corporate gifting.

Is Your E-mail Optimized for Best 2019 Performance?

E-mail marketing is constantly evolving, and AccuList USA tries to keep our e-mail list and e-mail marketing services clients up-to-date on the latest tactics and best practices. A good overview of trends for 2019 was recently supplied in a Business2Community post by Rohit Munipally.

Targeted, Segmented and Automated Marketing

The value of e-mail targeting and list segmentation is so clear that it will be a given for smart marketers in 2019. Munipally cites HubSpot research showing that e-mails that are relevantly segmented and targeted account for 58% of all e-mail earnings and increase profits up to 18 times more. When combined with automation, e-mail content power is further enhanced. Munipally gives examples of how e-mail marketers can track behavior to boost response and conversion. For example, if a contact hasn’t opened an e-mail for an extended period, the contact can be dropped from deployments, while a contact who has visited a web page several times or opened multiple e-mails can receive relevant automated e-mails prompting action. In fact, global automated e-mail marketing alone is expected to account for $2.7 billion in spending by 2025, Munipally reports.

Text-Only, Interactive & Story Content

Watch for acceleration of the trend away from graphics-heavy e-mail designs in 2019. Research shows e-mail users prefer plain text over HTML-style e-mails because plain text e-mails resemble a personal message that would be sent by a family member or friend. So marketers now use plain-text e-mails to create a more personable, sincere and less sales-oriented brand. Also expect to see interactivity dominate over product display and sales pitches in e-mails next year. Response data favors interactive e-mails that encourage engagement through quizzes, surveys, games, contests, GIFs, and call-to-action messaging that lets recipients shop, edit an order, update a wish list, send a shipping confirmation, etc. Story-telling also has proved itself as another content-engagement tool. E-mails that begin with a story that grabs the reader and then leads into the value and services/products offering have been shown to be highly influential–if delivered to a relevant audience (again underscoring the value of targeting and segmentation).

Focus on Mobile, Personalization and AI

Mobile optimization of e-mail will be essential for success in 2019, with 53% of e-mails opened via mobile devices and 75% of gmail users viewing accounts on mobile devices. Meanwhile, consumers demand content that is relevant and personalized whether they view it on a computer or mobile device, which means using data to go beyond the first name in the second paragraph to delivery of information unique to the reader’s account or buyer persona. Plus, next year should see growing use of AI for everything from targeting, subject line choice, image selection, unsubscribe prevention and more. To illustrate the power of AI, Munipally reports that Adobe recently developed an AI technology with a series of sophisticated algorithms based on e-mail campaigns and audience behaviors, resulting in e-mail users opening nearly 80% of work and 60% of personal e-mails.

For the complete post, see https://www.business2community.com/email-marketing/7-email-marketing-trends-for-2019-02120824

 

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.

How to Boost E-mail Lead Gen for B2B Publishers, Marketers

E-mail is a favorite lead gen channel for business-to-business publishers and marketers that AccuList USA supports with e-mail lists and database services. It’s no surprise that close to 90% of B2B marketers use e-mail to generate new leads when the latest data from the DMA shows e-mail marketing delivers an average $43 return for every $1 spent. But that doesn’t mean B2B e-mails are a guaranteed success. B2B e-mailers may want to benchmark their efforts against a recent infographic from EmailMonks that offers proven ways to help boost those all-important open and click rates. Some of those include:

Personalizing, Segmentation & Preferences

Marketers personalize e-mails because 91% get better open and click rates when they do, and that means going beyond using a first name to targeted, personalized content based on demographics, purchase and browsing history, subscriber interests, etc. Achieving that quality targeted personalization requires good list segmentation; blasting a one-size-fits-all message to the whole e-mail list is a recipe for low response. Segmenting by age, gender, preferences, purchase history and more delivers 14.31% higher opens and 100.95% higher clicks than non-segmented list campaigns, notes the EmailMonks infographic. Executing that personal touch also means permission-based e-mail that respects recipient preferences for how often and when they are contacted, so give subscribers the chance to manage the number and timing of e-mails. But what about before they  subscribe? Data shows that the average B2B recipient is most likely to open a 10 a.m. Saturday e-mail, to click on a 10 a.m. Tuesday e-mail, and to respond to an 8 a.m. Tuesday e-mail. Entrepreneurs and workaholics open, click and respond best to those Saturday morning e-mails!

Winning Subject Lines & CTAs

As the infographic points out, 35% of e-mails are opened based on the subject line alone. What makes up a winning subject line? Brevity is the soul of subject line wit; with 54% of e-mails opened on a mobile device, a subject line of around three words scores higher since most mobile devices can show only four to seven words across the screen. Personalization counts big, too; personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than general ones. And finally, the content counts; it’s less about click-bait attention grabbing than about a topic that matters to the recipient. Once the e-mail is opened, the crafting of a good call-to-action (CTA) will drive more click-throughs. The CTA should be noticeable and  “above-the fold”; in fact most brands prefer to place a CTA in the top third of an e-mail, and 48% match the CTA colors to their brand logos. Oh, and make sure the CTA links to an effective, mobile-optmized landing page, too.

B2B E-mails to Emulate

Looking for specific examples? SuperOffice, a CRM supplier, offers 17 B2B e-mail templates based on actual successful e-mails for B2B marketers to emulate. The templates include welcome e-mails, curated content e-mails, company announcement e-mails, new article e-mails, video e-mails, product update e-mails, reactivation e-mails, gated content e-mails, webinar e-mails, event invitation e-mails, case study e-mails and more. See https://www.superoffice.com/blog/b2b-email-marketing-examples/

 

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

Purchase the whole report or see a free summary article for more data.

B2B Sales Trends Boost Mobile-Friendly Online Acquisition

With Forrester Research forecasting steady growth in B2B e-commerce, reaching $1.2 trillion in sales, or 13.1% of all B2B sales, by 2021, smart e-commerce marketing is more essential than ever for AccuList USA’s B2B catalog and e-commerce clients. A recent bigcommerce.com blog post highlighted many important trends for B2B e-commerce, but we’ll focus on three marketing-related takeaways.

Acquisition Is the New Online Focus

The days are gone when B2B online strategy could succeed by putting up a website as a customer service portal, a place for existing account re-orders or a passive catalog display. Online selling is becoming a core part of B2B business and sales strategy, argues bigcommerce.com post author Jillian Hufford, marketing analyst at nChannel, a multi-channel integration provider. B2B marketers should start by profiling customers to better target online and offline promotions to find high-ROI traffic. Note that a robust SEO/SEM strategy, coupled with website search tools, is essential given that 74% of B2B buyers report researching at least part of their work purchases online. Easy, seamless cross-channel ordering is another basic of online customer acquisition now. Plus, an investment in online content marketing, coupled with SEO strategy, can leverage educational and expert content on the website to attract searchers and win Google rank.

Online and Print Catalogs Work in Tandem

Five years ago, more than two-thirds of B2B sellers thought they would stop mailing paper catalogs. That hasn’t happened, but many B2B merchants are using an integrated multi-channel effort to balance smaller or less frequent print catalogs with more interactive online catalogs. For success with print-plus-online, the online catalog cannot merely mimic the print version. E-commerce means investing in interactive online tools that allow customizing, sharing, distributing, ordering and tracking, all supported by integrated back-end technology.

Mobile-Friendly Means Revenue-Friendly

Ever-expanding B2B mobile use is driving big marketing changes. Google and BCG research data from 2017 shows why: 80% of B2B buyers are using mobile at work; 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase; and 60% of B2B buyers expect to continue to increase their mobile usage. B2B retailers who are dragging their feet on mobile-friendly adaptation risk dragging down their own revenues; BCG research found that brands that are “mobile leaders” earn more traffic, more leads and more revenue than “mobile laggards.”

For more B2B e-commerce trends, and examples of real-life company online successes, see Hufford’s attached blog post.

P&C Insurance Embraces Direct Mail Response

Direct mail by property and casualty insurance clients continues as a staple of AccuList USA’s list brokerage and data services business, and so we were pleased to see a Valentine’s Day love note to P&C direct mail from the marketing consultants at IWCO Direct.

P&C Insurance Industry Loves Direct Mail

The IWCO post notes that nearly 400 insurance companies mailed more than 5.7 billion pieces of mail in 2017, according to Comperemedia. The property and casualty insurance category accounted for 53% of that volume, with more than 3 billion pieces of direct mail mailed by 110 companies. Of those direct mail packages, 95% were Marketing Mail (formerly called Standard Mail), mainly for acquisition (89%).

Mailings Reflect Ongoing Promotional Trends

Comperemedia and Competiscan data highlighted trends revealed by those direct mail packages, too.  With 55% of policyholders likely to shop around for insurance as a policy comes up for renewal, smart insurance providers are taking a proactive approach and contacting policyholders in advance to remind them why they should remain with their current P&C insurance provider. Also to woo shoppers, both in acquisition and renewal, insurance promotions are direct about savings messages and competitor pricing comparisons. Finally, the industry’s continued embrace of direct mail does not ignore the digital revolution; in fact, direct mail packages are highlighting the industry’s growing self-service digital functionality for policyholders.

Basic Direct Mail Tactics That Up Response

Leveraging industry trends and success stories, IWCO lists three basic tactics proven to boost response for P&C acquisition and cross-sell mailings: 1) Comparison charts touting coverage benefits over those of top competitors, and an offer to match coverage pricing and benefits upon policy review if appropriate; 2) Promotional cards with a clear call-to-action via website, mobile app, and/or toll-free phone; and 3) An eye-catching personalized tagline. See https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/02/14/pc-insurance-marketing-trends-valentines-day/