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These Tech Trends Likely to Drive 2018 Direct Mail Success

Because direct mail data and support services are at the heart of AccuList USA’s expertise, we are always delighted to pass along tips on how to use direct mail more successfully in multi-channel marketing strategy. A blog post by Postalytics, a self-serve direct mail automation tool, recently mined multiple expert sources for the most influential direct mail trends of 2018, ranging from creative to technology to mailing strategy. If you have any lingering doubt over adding interactive technology to traditional snail mail, just take a look at the article’s top mail technology trends for this year.

Automation and Integration: Speedy, Targeted Production

Unsurprisingly, automation purveyor Postalytics puts mail automation software at the top of the list, but they get plenty of industry support. Automation allows marketers to quickly generate high-quality, personalized and trackable letters and postcards by leveraging templates, digital cues and automated workflows, cutting direct mail production cycles from 4-6 weeks down to 1 week. That automation also allows marketers to maximize response by integrating triggered direct mail into any step in the buyer’s journey, online or offline, so that mail delivery taps into the appropriate timing, content and call-to-action.

Linking Offline to Online: AR, QR and PURL

Interactive, mobile-scanned Augmented Reality apps and QR codes, as well as personal urls (PURLs) linked to targeted content-specific landing pages, allow direct mailers to connect offline marketing’s printed paper with online marketing’s digital pages, images, animations and videos. Studies show that combining snail mail with interactive digital is key to greater overall campaign response and ROI.

Enhanced Data Targeting and Personalization

The magic wand of quality, enhanced data can be waved over direct mail to match the right message to the right people at the right time. Good mailing list data allows for targeting based on shopping habits and needs, retargeting and cross-selling, recapturing and reactivating of lost prospects and customers, leveraging of trigger events and personal preferences, and more–provided there is a commitment to quality database hygiene and processing. Customer and prospect data lists need to be up-to-date, de-duped and accurate, and mailings must use cost-effective advanced postal address hygiene and pre-sorting. In addition to cost-effective, high-response targeting, good mailing data allows for sophisticated content personalization far beyond simply inserting a name, the kind of personalization that has become a basic expectation of customers. Marketers can even create personalized coupon codes that deliver a much higher ROI than generic coupon codes; these unique codes make customers feel valued on an individual level.

For 2018 direct mail trends in creative design and mailing strategies, see https://www.postalytics.com/blog/direct-mail-marketing-trends-for-2018/ 

 

 

 

E-mail Earns Top Digital ROI Via Personalization, Mobile Strategies

To support our e-mail list brokerage clients, AccuList USA keeps up with e-mail strategy benchmarks, such as those cited in the “2017 Email Marketing Industry Census” from Adestra, in association with Econsultancy.

E-mail Tops Digital ROI Rankings

E-mail marketers will be happy to know that, per the census, e-mail outpaces other digital channels in terms of reported return on investment, ahead of SEO, content marketing, paid search, and social media.  E-mail ROI was rated as good to excellent by 73% of marketers surveyed, just edging out SEO, with 72% giving SEO a good to excellent ROI rating. Content marketing slipped to third place, with 63% calling its ROI good to excellent. Paid search followed with 60% ranking its ROI as good to excellent, and social media trailed (44%). But the report also raised questions about how accurately marketers assess e-mail impact. The majority of marketers are using click-through rate (91%), open rate (80%) and conversion rate (62%) to track e-mail performance, while other important metrics, such as bounce rate, delivery rate and list growth rate, are used by a minority. List segmentation is another challenge that may be impeding even higher ROI, falling midway in the ranking of best practices even though those who carry out advanced segmentation are more than twice as likely to report “excellent” ROI from e-mail marketing as those who don’t segment.

Personalization Leads Marketers’ Best Practices

What practices do marketers use to push e-mail opens and clicks? The census found that sending personalized and relevant messaging led the list of e-mail best practices reported; 80% of marketers are already doing this and 14% are planning for it. Personalization was followed by mobile-optimizing of e-mail (73% doing and 19% planning to start), regular list cleaning (57% doing and 24% planning), and promoting social content sharing (49% doing and 22% planning on it). Looking ahead, personalization also is the area of e-mail marketing where most respondents (30%) say they need to focus in 2017, even ahead of automated campaigns (cited by 28%).

Mobile Optimizing Faces Cross-Device Challenges

With data from other studies showing that 56% of e-mail users prefer opening e-mails on mobile devices (and that 42% delete an email if it doesn’t display correctly), e-mail marketers have embraced the mobile-first imperative, and mobile optimization won second place in the ranking of best practices. But challenges remain for optimizing across devices. Although 90% of respondents report some strategy for optimizing e-mail for different devices, just 22% of marketers describe their approach as “quite” or “very” advanced.

To download the full report, see http://www.adestra.com/resources/downloadable-reports/2017-email-marketing-industry-census/

Marketers Win by Catering to Millennial Direct Mail Fans

Remember when marketing gurus were calling direct mail “dead,” drowned by a wave of digital, mobile, and social technologies? Well, research keeps resurrecting mail from its low-tech tomb. In fact, recent studies find that Millennials–the 22- to 36-year-old, tech-savvy generation supposedly addicted to mobile devices and digital networking–are bigger fans of direct mail than older generations in some ways!  That’s information that printers, mailing services, and a list broker and direct marketing consultant like AccuList USA can use to convince clients who hesitate over direct mail spending.

Millennials Like Direct Mail in General

For example, a recent study by InfoTrends and Prinova found that response rates for direct mail remain high for all demographics, including Millennials, who open direct mail received at the same high rate of 66% as recipients overall. More significantly, Milennials as a group respond faster to mail–within 2.4 months–which is less than the average response time for all respondents. Plus, the InfoTrends research found that a big 63% of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within that three-month period actually made a purchase! Along similar lines, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conducted a survey on direct mail’s political impact on Millennials and found that at least 42% of Millennials prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, that twice as many thoroughly read political mail, and that Millennials are more likely to be prompted to action by mail, with 66% likely to research the candidate and 54% visiting the candidate’s website after receiving mail.

But Millennials Also Prefer Specific Mail Tactics

However, research also shows that all mail pieces are not created equal. Mailings that resonate best with Millennials are targeted and personalized, per research. Luckily, sophisticated targeting and personalization are possible with today’s variable printing, programmatic and automation programs, and database segmentation and analytics. Millennials demand printing quality as well, with one quarter of surveyed 25- to 34-year-olds saying they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality. Mailers going beyond the standard No. 10 envelope–including 3-D dimensional mailers, pop-ups and intricately folded pieces–are playing to this audience that appreciates visual creativity. Plus, engaging copy counts, with 25% of that same surveyed group saying they consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. That doesn’t mean that printed mail can be divorced from Millennials’ digital lifestyle. Data in eMarketer’s survey report “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” shows that Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in stores, and are comfortable with mobile shopping. The Millennial preference for digital/mobile shopping means that integrating print and digital–via QR, AR, or PURL–can significantly boost response, as shown in multiple studies. Research also shows that video is a response-getter for Millennials’ digital promotions. And now mailers have the printing technology to jump on the video bandwagon with audio players and video screens incorporated in direct mail.

For a good overview of recent data on direct mail and Millennials, see this article from The Financial Brand.

Push Your Event Marketing E-mails Ahead of the Pack

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

Benchmarks to Emulate

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

Copy & Design to Boost Click-to-Open Rates

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

Target, Test, Automate, Integrate

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

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

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.

E-mail Regaining Its Lead Role in Fundraising Digital Strategy

In 2017, e-mail is expected to regain its lead role in the digital efforts of nonprofit fundraisers, per numerous nonprofit marketing pros. Certainly, AccuList USA is ready to support that trend with a proprietary compilation of the top fundraising direct mail and opt-in e-mail lists  (check out our free download). In addition to smart list selection, fundraisers and fundraising consultants can make the most of a renewed e-mail focus with tactics like those provided in a recent post for thedatabank.com by Michael Stein, a nonprofit consultant and digital strategist.

Plan for a Successful E-mail Reboot

To maximize response, e-mail outreach in 2017 may require nonprofits to reboot, refresh and rethink, says Stein.  He urges marketers to address four basic issues before blasting out e-mails: Check to see if your e-mail template or e-newsletter needs a creative refresh; make sure the e-mail works well for mobile viewers; consider a rewrite of your welcome e-mail to new subscribers for better engagement; and develop new creative and messaging ideas to test for boosted e-mail fundraising appeal.

‘Mobilize,’ Personalize, Automate

Mobile readiness is essential for wooing donors, especially given, as Stein cites, the recent Movable Ink report that, across industries, 69% of e-mail opens were on a mobile device. A good mobile experience should extend from the e-mail subject line to the website landing page and, most importantly, to the donation page, advises Stein. Personalizing is another proven way to maximize e-mail response, and that means more than dropping in a first-name greeting. It means digital messaging with relevant, timely content based on smart e-mail list segmentation, using data such as event attendance, website downloads, and donation amount or frequency. Finally, marketers need e-mail automation, especially for timely engagement of new e-mail subscribers and donors. Automated responses should include key transactions such as e-mail subscription, event signups, and online giving, since these are often the most opened and read e-mails, says Stein.

Make It Graphic & Multi-channel

Testing by nonprofits has shown that use of graphics and video significantly boosts fundraising response rates. So write fewer words and show more images, urges Stein. Use a graphic to present a call to action or embed a video to replace a paragraph, for example. Finally, e-mail’s fundraising effectiveness is higher when it is part of an integrated multi-channel effort. That should include social media platforms since including social media advertising in digital campaigns often delivers a lift in revenues taken in by e-mails and websites.

For more advice from Stein, go to https://www.thedatabank.com/2017/03/harness-the-latest-giving-trends-for-digital-fundraising-success/ And if you like infographics and want benchmark data on what other nonprofits are doing with e-mail, check out http://blog.winspireme.com/nonprofit-email-marketing-infographic-ebook.