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Why Direct Mail Remains Buoyant in Digital Flood

In the tidal wave of digital marketing options, prospects for our direct mail lists and support services sometimes worry about investing in an “old-fashioned” mail channel soon to be washed away by changing preferences and digital efficiency. So we like to keep providing data to show that direct mail is actually riding atop the digital crest.

Businesses Have Solid Reasons to Direct Mail Today

For example, a recent business.com post by entrepreneur Brian Roberts cites five basic reasons businesses should use “snail mail.” No. 1, thanks to a drop in mail volumes, mailers today enjoy much less competition for audience attention in physical mailboxes compared with spam-jammed e-mail inboxes or ad-laden web platforms. Plus, No. 2, those mailed communications aren’t going to be culled out by high-tech spam filters as is so much of today’s e-mail. No. 3, once delivered, a physical mail piece is a lot likelier to be opened than an e-mail message. As data firm Experian recently reported, 70% to 80% of direct mail recipients say they open their mail, and, per InfoTrends’ most recent data, a third of U.S. consumers report they read direct mail marketing more than e-mail marketing, and another 34% read both with equal frequency.  No. 4, direct mail allows a lot more creative freedom, unlimited by file size, spam filter triggers or flat visuals. Mail can be dimensional, digitally interactive, multi-sensory, immediately gratifying with promotional rewards, and more. Now that personalization is key, direct mail also outdoes digital, with 70% of Americans saying physical mail is “more personal” than e-mail, per Experian. Finally, at  No. 5, mail is great for geo-targeting and driving traffic to physical locations, with in-store-only promotions at retail stores as an example. Plus, it can drive digital traffic; 60% of direct mail recipients visit a website mentioned in direct mail, Experian reports.

Trends Prove Direct Mail’s Continued Business Appeal

A study by the Boston Consulting Group confirms that total spending on direct mail is expected to rise from 11% to 12% by 2020. The simple reason for snail mail’s survival is its continued marketing power. U.S. Postal Service surveys have found that consumers who receive direct mail spend 28% more than those who don’t, for example. As we’ve noted before, the Data & Marketing Association’s 2016 “Response Rate Report” put direct mail response rates at 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest DMA-tracked response rates since 2003, and far higher than the less than 1% of various digital channels. That is what sustains mail’s strong ROI. For a great summary of direct mail trends and stats, see the Experian infographic at https://www.edq.com/resources/data-quality-infographics/how-direct-mail-is-winning-in-the-age-of-the-internet/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USPS & Science Encourage Merger of Digital & Mail Efforts

For any direct marketers who haven’t committed to combining direct mail with digital media, 2017 is a perfect year for experimentation. At AccuList USA, we have seen the positive impact on direct marketing clients’ results (and have developed our Digital2Direct program in support). And now  “brain science” and U.S. Postal Service incentives further increase the attractions of a mail-digital marriage.

Brain Science Shows Impact of Mail-Digital Mating

For example, an article from The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently highlighted the “neuromarketing” evidence for mail-digital pairings.  (Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing.) ANA cites a recent study by Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General, “Tuned In: The Brain’s Response to Ad Sequencing.” The research explores the relative effectiveness of physical mail and digital advertising in cross-media marketing campaigns, using not only self-reported responses but actual MRIs of participant brain activity while viewing ads. A key finding: Consumer “willingness to pay” was significantly higher when media was delivered across both digital and physical channels rather than a single channel. Another notable study, “A Bias for Action: The Neuroscience Behind the Response-Driving Power of Direct Mail,” comes from a partnership between the Canada Post and True Impact Marketing, a leading neuromarketing research and strategy firm. Their study seeks to quantify the effectiveness of physical (direct mail) and digital (e-mail and display) media by focusing on two key indicators of media effectiveness: ease of understanding and persuasiveness. The results indicate that while digital media provide key platforms for customer interaction, direct mail is actually better at closing the marketing-sales loop. So for marketers, a mail-digital combination offers the best of both worlds and helps bridge the gap between interaction and action.

USPS Promotes Enhancing Mail With Digital Power

Why wait to reap the benefits? Especially now that the U.S. Postal Service is offering a range of 2017 programs that make the economic decision easier. The new Informed Delivery program, which inserts mail into consumers’ daily digital routines, is one example. Informed Delivery users receive e-mails that capture grayscale images of the address side of their mail. Currently, preview images are for letter-sized mailings processed through automated equipment, but flat mailings, such as magazines and catalogs, can be displayed if the mailer supplies a color image to be included in the Informed Delivery notifications. Under the program, marketers can take advantage of three potential touchpoints with one mail piece: an advance preview via e-mail/app, actually delivery in the mailbox, and inclusion of a unique URL in the digital preview to drive trackable traffic to a website. Plus, the USPS has two more promotions supporting mail-digital pairing. The Emerging & Advanced Technology Promotion (March 1 – Aug. 31, 2017) encourages mailers to integrate direct mail with advances in mobile technology using NFC technology, Video in Print (ViP), Beacon technology, “Enhanced” Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality (newly included this year) or, as of 2017, use of Digital to Direct Mail to boost response with dynamically printed, personalized messaging automatically triggered by digital interaction. Mail-digital pairing is also rewarded by the Mobile Shopping Promotion (Aug. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017), which encourages mailers to invest in technologies that take recipients directly from the mail piece to a mobile-optimized online shopping experience via Quick Response (QR) Codes, Snap Tags, Watermarks and other technologies. For details on these and other USPS promotions, see https://ribbs.usps.gov/mailingpromotions/documents/tech_guides/2017PromotionsCalendar.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

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/

Harnessing Social Media to Drive Nonprofit Success

At the upcoming Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 2017 Conference, we expect to hear a lot about nonprofit social media strategy and will be offering AccuList USA support with our Social Media Users List of Lists and Digital2Direct program combining highly-targeted direct mail with social media advertising on Facebook. Of course, social media success is a moving target, so we wondered what social media trends will impact fundraising this year. Here are some insights:

Be More Visual, Personal, Responsive

A 2017 Redstart Creative blog post identified several noteworthy nonprofit social media trends. As in the rest of the digital universe, video is the new response-getting must, and now nonprofits can use live video to boost reach and engagement via tools such as new Facebook features allowing live video to be pushed to followers in notifications or timelines. As social media algorithms reduce organic reach and ad competition intensifies, Redstart advises uncluttered “less is more,” quality-over-quantity content that focuses on resonating with the target audience. “Reply and engage” should be a new mantra, too, especially since major platform Facebook began keeping score publicly on all brand pages last year by adding a notification that tells viewers how quickly the page replies to messages. For nonprofits, trying to woo and keep donors today means storytelling content and engaging personality, Redstart stresses; so don’t be afraid to embrace video, memes, emojis and gifs.

Polish the Art of Engaging

Need some tips for donor engagement on social media? A recent NonProfitPRO post by Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, founder of Goodworld, cited three basic steps–and she included images of real-life digital successes. Step No. 1: Respond quickly. As Pfeifer notes, 83% of Twitter users and 71% of Facebook users expect a brand to respond to their posts within 24 hours, and more than half of Twitter users expect a brand to respond within 2 hours! Social-media monitoring tools like Google Alerts and Mention can help keep track of responses to supporters. Step No. 2: Get personal. Responses can include a personal touch, but less time-consuming tactics include tagging supporters in thanks, or a simple “like” or “share” of comments. Step 3: Honor your donors. Even if thank-yous can’t be personalized, you can make donors feel special on social media by posting a “thank you” message after a successful fundraising post. Plus, part of honoring donors is transparency, Pfeiffer adds. Post organization news, fundraising goals and impacts; making donors part of the success story will build engagement, loyalty and a desire to give more.

Tap the Power of Social Influencers

“Influencer marketing” is a buzzword at the top of marketers’ agendas in 2017. A recent post on npENGAGE by Jeanette Russell, marketing director of the social engagement platform Attentive.ly, underscores the power of influencers to greatly extend the reach of fundraising campaigns.  Attentive.ly evaluated 90 of its nonprofit customers and found that the top 5% of influencers on a nonprofit’s e-mail list of 140,000 can reach an average of 34 million people, or 85% the total reach of e-mail and Twitter combined. Wow! So how do you identify influencers? You use a social scoring methodology, such as Klout’s algorithm, to assign a score based on measurable factors: reach/number of followers, engagement of followers, relevancy, post frequency, and relationship with the organization. Then you segment the influencers and their messaging into three main categories, Russell advises: VIPs (such as entertainment stars or politicians) who need high-touch, major-donor-style treatment; Media (Blogger) Influencers who can be recruited to post or Tweet to pools of followers, either on their own or as part of investment in a blogging program/network; and Everyday Influencers, who form the largest group and are already on nonprofit e-mail lists so they can be quickly energized by e-mails asking them to share or post easily accessible content.

For examples of successful nonprofit influencer efforts, as well as tips on crafting effective influencer e-mail campaigns, see the the full article at https://npengage.com/nonprofit-marketing/socialmediainfluencers/

How E-mail Response Can Survive the Spam Filter Gauntlet

For e-mail marketers to deliver those open-worthy, click-inspiring e-mail messages, they must pass through a gauntlet of spam filters determined to weed out irrelevant, unsolicited inbox clutter and scam. That’s why, as an e-mail list brokerage, AccuList USA works to not only vet the opt-in e-mail rental lists we recommend but also to insure success by advising on CAN-SPAM compliance, privacy policies, creative and deliverability issues. We’re glad to pass along a recent Target Marketing magazine article with some basic tactics that may help prevent spam filters from draining the response of your next e-mail campaign.

Do You Look Like Spam?

The first step to making sure your e-mail campaign doesn’t run afoul of spam filters is to understand the basics of U.S. anti-spam legislation (CAN-SPAM): no use of deceptive headers, sender names, reply-to addresses, or subject lines; provision, without exception, of an unsubscribe link that remains working for at least 30 days after sending; and inclusion of a physical address. ISPs use spam filters to try to net out potential e-mail offenders and reduce spam complaints. The filters scrutinize and score a range of e-mail elements, and prevent e-mails with high “spam” scores from reaching inboxes. The challenge for e-mailers is that different mail servers use different scoring algorithms, the algorithms are confidential, and filter criteria may periodically change.

Tactics to Get Past Spam Filters

Despite those challenges, Target Marketing article author Michael Lundberg suggests several ways for e-mails to avoid being netted out by spam filters. Since permission-based e-mail is an essential requirement, spam filters try to insure that the sender and recipient are acquainted; this is why personalization of the “to” field, sending from a verified domain, and asking recipients to add your e-mail address to approved contacts are all smart policies. Content counts in spam filter scoring, but the filter algorithms’ exact triggers in terms of specific text or images are unknown, so the best policy is to have a clear, engaging template sent to those who have opted in to receive e-mail, Lundberg advises. Sloppy code and extra tags can flag spam to filters, so use popular e-mail templates or work with an experienced e-mail designer. To avoid the risk of putting all your apples in one e-mail design basket, use A/B or multivariate testing to find the best combination of content and targeting for filter-proofed delivery and inbox engagement, suggests Lundberg. We would add that a high rate of undeliverables and bounces in an e-mail deployment also signals spam to ISPs, so make sure any e-mail list–house database or prospecting effort–meets industry standards in its permission policies and hygiene, which are priorities in AccuList USA rental recommendations.

For the complete article, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/know-avoid-spam-filters/

Cautionary Tales: Marketing Pros Share E-mail Mistakes and Fixes

To err is human, even for the best direct marketers. So it is instructive to learn from marketing pros when they admit mistakes and then share corrections and prevention advice. A recent Direct Marketing News magazine article asked 13 experienced marketers to share their biggest goofs, how they fixed them and lessons learned. Here we’ll share just their e-mail marketing stories since we have experience helping clients address the same issues via our e-mail list brokerage support and data services.

Data Blindness: Missing Segment Crossover Creates Confusing E-mail Flood

Guillaume Cabane, vice president of growth at Internet software firm Segment, relates how he failed to take segment crossover and duplication into account. He ended up e-mailing the same user five times in a week because the user appeared in multiple different data sets of people. The subscriber was not only irritated by the flood of e-mail but also confused by “similar but different” messages. The solution? Cabane notes that using data services to exclude recipients who have recently received other communications is one way to avoid the problem.

Honesty’s the Best Policy: Making Lemonade From Subject Line Lemons

The team at Return Path, a leading e-mail data solutions provider, cites several lessons from a failure to update an e-mailed webinar promotion post-testing so that the subject line “TEST” went to the entire subscriber list. The team needed to come up with an immediate fix. They decided to send a follow-up e-mail with the subject line “Oops,” and it performed so well they ended up doubling registrations. Besides learning the importance of double-checking subject line and content, the experience also showed that an unexpected subject line can sometimes intrigue and prompt more opens, and that subscribers appreciate honesty about errors (although it’s better to avoid them).

E-mail Etiquette: Avoiding Confusing, Frustrating Shortcuts

Melody Gambino, director of marketing at Grapeshot, which improves online ad targeting via advanced keyword technology, reminds that, in crafting e-mail content, the basics of e-mail etiquette count. Using acronyms, slang, abbreviated names/personalization, and shortcut instructions or explanations can cause confusion and frustration. Gambino is especially focused on the problem further down the B2B sales funnel, when customers or prospects may get a speedy but inadequate response from a company rep instead of the clear, thorough answer they seek. She advises a conscientious effort at being thorough in e-mail questions and instructions and limiting e-mail responses from mobile devices, where the shortcut temptation is greater.

To read about 10 more marketing mistakes and their fixes, go to http://www.dmnews.com/marketing-strategy/marketers-share-their-biggest-mistakes-and-how-they-fixed-them/article/505042/