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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%).

 

Want E-mail Marketing Success? Here Are Some Basics

E-mail is a key part of most omnichannel marketing strategies, and AccuList USA supplies data and support for a growing list of e-mail marketing clients. Yet dodging spam filters and reeling in responses from crowded inboxes is an ongoing challenge. A recent Direct Marketing News article laid out some basic tips on how to get the most out of e-mail marketing:

Data Is Key to Deliverability, Targeting

As a data broker, AccuList USA naturally stresses that data matters. The DM News article listed data last among its tips, but we’ll put it first. Even the most well-crafted e-mail will end up in spam folders if delivered to an e-mail list with too many duplicates, outdated addresses, missing permission hygiene, spam traps, etc. Quality e-mail data is essential to deliverability, which means regular cleaning and updating of house lists, or carefully vetted rental lists (sponsored e-mails) for prospecting. Quality data is also key to the targeting that maximizes response, using segmentation and personalization to tailor offers and messaging to specific audiences and individuals.

Make Good First and Last Impressions

Once an e-mail lands in the inbox, the subject line, a brand’s first impression, impacts open rates.  While there are few absolute guidelines, be aware that 50-70 characters in length is the “sweet spot” for readability, per the article. In those few characters, the subject line needs to quickly convey an offer/value and tone that intrigue the audience. Beyond avoiding words and symbols likely to trigger spam filters, A/B testing is usually the best way to find which subject line leads to higher open and click rates, as the article advises. While focusing on a first impression, too many e-mail marketers forget the importance of a closing impression. For example, after gaining response and conversion, marketers can use transactional e-mails (e-mails acknowledging a purchase, donation, sign-up, etc.) to expand customer/donor value by offering a reward (discount on next purchase as an example), a loyalty program, a newsletter, social links and more.

Design With Mobile in Mind

When it comes to design, the key to success today is the ability to translate across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Remember, research shows that more than two-thirds of consumers access e-mail through their smartphones! Other common general guidelines include formatting within standard dimensions and fonts, creating a layout with quick-scan logic and clear call to action, optimally sized images with alt text in case of blocking, and personalized or even dynamic content.

Embrace Social Media and Sociability

E-mail isn’t usually the only method for connecting with an audience, or necessarily the channel preference of all recipients. That’s why e-mails also should highlight social media buttons, invite readers to share content, or urge them to visit appropriate social pages and profiles, notes the article. Meanwhile, with personalization, humanization and authenticity as benchmarks of today’s marketing, e-mail marketers should avoid generic messaging and deliver content in a tone that speaks to the target audience yet remains in line with a consistent brand voice across channels.

For more detail, see the complete article at https://www.dmnews.com/channel-marketing/email/article/13034539/6-email-marketing-tips-to-stand-out-in-the-inbox

What’s the Secret to Better E-mail Deliverability? Your Reputation

Deliverability is the first step to e-mail marketing success. If your e-mail never hits the inbox, all those subject line and content tactics to drive up open and click rates are useless. So why do the top e-mail marketers get a 90% deliverability rate, while others languish below 50%? A deciding factor is reputation, as measured by a “sender score,” according to Return Path’s annual “Sender Score Benchmark Report” analysis of 4 trillion e-mail messages.

Sender Reputation Is Key to Inbox Placement

A sender’s reputation score is a number, calculated from 0–100, that mailbox providers use to evaluate whether or not e-mail sent by a particular IP address is likely to be legitimate and wanted. A marketer that sends too much unwanted or spam e-mail is likely to see their reputation drop and their e-mail filtered out of inboxes. Return Path’s analysis finds that e-mail senders with a reputation score above 90 saw an average of 92% of their e-mails reach the intended recipient, but e-mail deliverability drops to 72% for senders scoring between 81-90 and just 45% for senders with a score between 71 and 80. By the way, Gmail and Microsoft were identified as the mailbox providers with the strictest deliverability requirements, and the global inbox placement average is only 80%, or 20% of e-mail wasted. Don’t join the crowd.

Boost Your Sender Score With Good Data

So what are the things to do, and not do, to get and keep a strong reputation score? A recent post by Krista Barrack, for the sendinblue blog, cites six ways you could be damaging your sender score, starting with e-mail list issues. One common error is collecting invalid e-mail addresses in your house list (often caused by typos, especially from mobile users). These create hard bounces to erode your sender score. A second mistake is using purchased e-mail data where people have no opt-in relationship with your brand and so don’t engage or mark your message as spam, hurting your score. That’s why, as responsible data brokers, we don’t sell e-mail data and instead broker list rentals so messages are sent by the list owner with valid recipient opt-ins. A third house list problem is allowing outdated, unmailed addresses to accumulate and become invalid, again leading to score-harming hard bounces. To deal with the problem, set up a program of regular communication and hygiene to prune your list frequently.

Spammer Tactics Tank Reputation

Sender scores not only suffer from poor data quality but also poor content quality. If your e-mail message is not mobile-optimized, is loaded with spam words, is plagued by faulty links, and/or is not relevant or honest, recipients are either not going to open it, will label it as spam or will opt-out. Timing matters, too, and while failure to communicate is marketing folly, the more common sin is embrace of a spammer’s excess frequency. Note that studies show read rates drop with increased weekly frequency–and opt-outs and complaints rise to cut your sender score. Finally, watch for spam traps hiding in your e-mail list. These can get you blacklisted! Spam traps come in two flavors. One type is an e-mail address purposely created by ESPs or blacklist organizers and posted online, which gets in your list via data sources “scraped” or “harvested” from the web without opt-in. (So work with a reputable data broker!) The other type of trap is an ESP-deactivated e-mail address that the ESP recycles months later; if you failed to remove the deactivated address as a hard bounce per best practices, the ESP catches you when you re-send to it.

For more insight on e-mailer reputation, get a copy of the Return Path 2017 Sender Score Benchmark Report.