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Personalization Is Now Key to Insurance Marketing ROI

Personalization has become a mantra for all direct marketers, but it is especially relevant to AccuList’s insurance marketing clients. According to an Accenture 2018 study, 80% of insurance consumers are willing to share data to get more personalized offers, messages, pricing and recommendations from auto, home and life insurance providers. Although over 70% of insurance marketing campaigns claim to use some personalization, surveys show marketers are not doing enough to satisfy that customer demand. As a result, marketers can miss out on personalization’s proven power to improve response and ROI, lower acquisition costs, and enhance cross-selling.

Personalization Revs Mail’s Acquisition Power

While digital data often leads conversations, the importance of personalization in traditional direct mail, still an insurance workhorse, should not be ignored. After all, direct mail is considered more personal than digital by 69% of recipients, giving personalized content extra power. Direct mail also gets an average 9% response rate for house lists and 5% for prospects, per 2018 DMA/ANA data, compared with 1% or lower for other channels. Plus, for the digitally addicted, adding direct mail to digital bumps up conversion by 28%. A recent article on insurance marketing from agency Ballantine advised on top ways to maximize mail ROI, and, no surprise, personalization dominated—assuming clean, up-to-date mailing lists with important targeting parameters. First, marketers can use variable data printing and database parameters to personalize content and images to match the consumer’s life stage, so, for example, auto policy creative targeting a young single first-time car buyer differs in messaging and images from the creative for an older couple with a minivan. Next, marketers can personalize rates by taking into account factors such as the age and gender of the targeted recipient. And they can tap personal interests by leveraging affinity relationships, such as a specific sports team or association affiliation, via targeted discounts. Personalization shouldn’t stop with the mailing package but should then continue through the customer journey. Marketers can study the sales funnel to find when leads are most likely to drop out so that processes can be simplified, streamlined and further personalized to boost conversion. Simple examples include pre-filled forms and postage-paid return envelopes.

It’s All About Prospect and Policyholder Data

Meanwhile, One Inc., an insurance software company, offers a helpful roadmap to digital personalization. As with direct mail, marketing begins with quality consumer data and analysis, taking a step beyond age, gender and location to parameters that identify unmet needs and customer value for targeting and prioritization—such as a recent move, a new home, a new baby or an upcoming policy expiration date. Next, marketers need to track lead and policyholder actions to decide on the specific digital behaviors that will trigger a personalized response, say following up an online request for information with a series of lead-nurture e-mails. Then, marketers can design and test small campaigns of personalized content and process before expanding to more channels and audiences. Once strategies and processes have been developed and tested, an investment in marketing automation technology can follow, including AI algorithms using real-time data and behavior to tailor offers, customer service, cross-selling, lead scoring and more. Indeed, the advent of AI in the digital world is accelerating consumers’ personalization expectations, and the impact on the insurance industry is expected to keep rising in 2019, per articles.

Retention Relies on Smart Personalization, Too

Meanwhile, studies show personalization is also essential to cost-effective policyholder retention. One Inc. provides this example: An auto policyholder has a documented poor experience when filing a claim, putting the client in a “high risk” category for churn. Based on industry data that policyholders typically shop roughly two months (60 days) prior to policy expiration and that roughly one-third of shoppers switch carriers, marketers use the policy expiration date and contact information to send a letter 60 days before the policy is set to expire, personalized by the policyholder’s name, of course. The letter includes a personal note that acknowledges the poor experience and pledges to do better, an offer of a discount for renewing early, and rep contact information for quick response to questions or concerns.


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

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.

Power Up Holiday E-mail With Segmentation, Offers

AccuList USA’s e-mail list clients, especially those in e-commerce and multi-channel retailing, are beginning their holiday e-mail campaigns. What strategies will make for optimum results?

Segment to Maximize Response, Order Value

From decades as data brokers and e-mail support providers, we can attest that targeting and smart segmentation are essential to holiday e-mail success. Of course, the house list can single out the active buyers and segment by basics such as location (no ice to Eskimos) and gender. But more sophisticated segmentation looks at purchase history in terms of product interest, in-store vs. web store, abandoned carts, purchase frequency, etc. For example, to maximize customer value, you can segment by average purchase (separating high-priced buyers from discount buyers) and send targeted e-mails with offers slightly over average order value. You can also reward and stimulate more sales from the most loyal buyers, segmented by purchase frequency or referrals etc., by e-mailing them unique holiday specials and freebies. The holiday season is also a great time to revive inactive customers, such as the previous year’s holiday buyers who haven’t been active since. Send them special offers to woo them back to the brand. Prior-holiday gift card buyers are a good sub-segment for a reminder e-mail about this convenient option. You can also target the most recent opt-ins who haven’t converted to buyers with offers and creative most likely inspire clicks. And don’t neglect to match your e-mail list to Facebook, YouTube or third-party newsletters to extend your reach via those vehicles! Although rented e-mail lists will not have the same intimate customer knowledge, you can still select by location, gender, age, product interest, and more.

Get Creative With Holiday Offers

Holiday e-mails have to grab attention in crowded inboxes, and that means you need to get creative with offers that drive opens and clicks. Constant Contact recently surveyed its small business clients and gathered 30 successful holiday e-mail ideas that may help inspire your marketing. Here are just the lucky top seven: a holiday preview sale, a campaign to drive traffic to your Cyber Monday specials, a free shipping offer, a gift card or gift certificate bonus offer, a holiday gift guide, the tried-and-true holiday coupon, a holiday sample sale (good for food and drink retail). Go to the Constant Contact post to see examples and read about all 30 holiday e-mail ideas.

Use Key Direct Marketing KPIs to Gird 2018 Plans

The busy year-end holiday season, especially for fundraisers and retailers, should not distract direct marketers from the working on the analytics they need to finalize next year’s marketing plans and ROI. A recent post by the Digital Dog Direct agency helpfully offers a checklist of basic marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Spending and Lead Generation

Marketing ROI is about effective spending and requires tracking results by channel and campaign. KPIs use actual annual outlay for direct mail marketing (lists, print, lettershop, creative, postage), digital marketing (e-mail, SEO/SEM, landing pages, social media and creative), as well as spending on PR/events/brand/content marketing.  Marketers must keep a tally of the number of outbound leads attributed to direct mail or e-mail campaigns, as well as the inbound leads generated by efforts such as SEO, blog content or PR. Then a cost per lead acquired can be calculated by dividing annual expenditure by the number of leads generated. Since the ultimate goal is sales not merely leads, the percentage of leads that become paying customers and the dollar sales per lead are key measures.

Multi-channel Performance Rates

Beyond evaluating general performance, marketing planners should use measurement to fine-tune future marketing plans and budgets. This means identifying the response rates and conversion rates for each channel, for each direct mail and digital campaign, and for tests of creative, timing, frequency, lists and segments. Performance rates should be measured not only for campaigns to acquire new leads/customers but also targeting of existing customers and reactivation of dormant customers. Website traffic reports from Google Analytics can not only show online ad and SEM effectiveness but also track spikes around direct mail or e-mail promotions to give a fuller picture of response. A simple ratio of the annual return on marketing investment, or ROI by channel and campaign, can be calculated by adding up incremental sales from marketing and subtracting marketing amount spent, and then dividing the result by amount spent on marketing.

Long-term Growth of High-Value Customers

But remember that a focus on annual or campaign results can be myopic since these do not necessarily deliver long-term growth–for example if attrition is high so more customers are lost than added. Marketers need to look at customer and prospect databases to make sure they are growing year-over-year. Because acquiring a single sale per lead also is less profitable long-term than acquiring a repeat customer, measuring average customer lifetime value is a vital KPI and is calculated by multiplying average dollar sale per customer by the average number of purchases per year and the average retention time in years.

See the full article for the KPI checklist.

 

Always Be Testing: Even the Best Mail Control Gets Tired

AccuList USA’s successful direct mail marketers seek to optimize response by constantly testing creative (as well as lists), because they know that even the best control package can lose its punch and need refurbishing or replacing.

Understanding the Sources of Control Success and Fatigue

Since direct mail testing can be expensive, especially multivariate testing where each variable tested needs a large enough mailed group for statistically valid results, it is important to think through why response to a proven control can flag and what changes are worth testing. A recent Target Marketing magazine article, by direct marketing consultant Gary Hennerberg, addresses the issue by reminding marketers of basics: The control has succeeded better than other mailing packages because, using the right list, the marketer has matched the offer’s emotional hot buttons and unique selling proposition to the prospects’ awareness of both their problem and the marketer’s solution at the time. But that alignment between prospect and promotion is not static.

As Brand Awareness Grows, Control Effectiveness Can Shrink

After mailing the same direct mail control package over and over (or using the same digital message), the majority of targeted prospects have either seen your pitch or been educated by other media, so your message may no longer fit with their knowledge and needs. “If you don’t stay on top of this changing awareness and understanding, your direct mail control package, or messaging in other channels, fatigues, and you’ll wonder why,” Hennerberg warns. He suggests that marketers commit to a program 1) assessing prospect awareness of the problem solved by the marketed product or service; 2) creating multiple creative approaches that align with different prospect awareness levels; and 3) testing creatives (headlines, leads, formats, etc.) against each other and the control to find the sweet spot. An important caveat: If a mail package seems to go over the heads of the current market, consider re-testing in future when the time may be ripe in terms of prospect interest.

For a basic overview of direct mail testing, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/direct-mail-ab-test/

 

 

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/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Direct Mail Retains Its Place in Marketing Tool Chests

Direct mail, perhaps because of its proven workhorse status, keeps a low profile in marketing trend articles, except for the periodic “direct mail isn’t dead” reminder. Yet, despite growing use of digital channels–web, e-mail, social, mobile–AccuList USA and its many mailing list and direct marketing clients join the majority of marketers in continuing to rely on direct mail. Why? Marketing data backs up direct mail’s proven response power and ROI.

Data Proves Mail’s Staying Power

In fact, Target Marketing magazine’s latest study “Marketing Mix Trends 2010-2016” shows that 69% of marketers surveyed either increased or held steady on direct mail spending in 2016. The 6% of marketers decreasing their mail budgets were the smallest group since 2010. A reason for direct mail’s survival as a go-to marketing channel can be seen in the the Data & Marketing Association’s 2016 “Response Rate Report.”  The report showed 2016 direct mail response rates leaping to 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, the highest DMA-tracked response rates since 2003. By comparison, 2015’s reported rates were 3.7% and 1.0%, respectively. More significantly, no other channel in 2016 had response rates over 1%! Direct mail response allows it to compete in ROI despite higher costs, coming in third at 27%, close to social media’s 28% (e-mail leads ROI).

Basic Tactics Keep Winning for Direct Mail

Bottom line, direct mail’s evergreen power lies in delivering on direct marketing basics. To that end, industry pros–agencies, data brokers, printers, mailing houses and creative services–still need to guide clients toward success. Rather than exploring the diverse creative and tech-savvy ways to meet direct mail goals, it is easier to focus on a few big mail “don’ts,” and that’s the tack recently taken by Summer Gould of Target Marketing magazine in “5 Things Not to Do in Direct Mail.” Obviously there are more than five missteps out there, but Gould chooses key, highly avoidable pitfalls: a hard-to-read font (yes, point size matters); dishonesty (seeking a sale at the cost of long-term customers and reputation); old, bad data in mailing lists (one of our bugaboos); a missing or unclear call-to-action (a response killer); and a promotional focus on features over benefits (a basic marketing no-no). Direct mail–no matter how loaded with interactive QR codes, variable data printing personalization and multi-channel customer analytics–will miss the mark if it misses on these basics! For more, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/5-things-not-to-do-in-direct-mail/