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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/

 

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.

Subscription Marketing Basics Still Create Winning Formulas

Despite modern publishing’s multi-platform environment (print, web, mobile), many long-time subscription marketing rules retain their relevance. A recent post from Bill Dugan, for niche magazine consulting firm Mequoda, stressed just that point by reminding audience development pros of the fundamentals for price, offer and creative. As a list brokerage with many paid or controlled circulation clients, AccuList USA would, of course, add another important component: quality data

Price, Offer, Creative

As Dugan stresses, the art and science of pricing still counts. In pricing, whether for print, online, tablet or combination packages, subscription marketers actually have an edge over many other products by being able to sell the same product at different prices each time it’s purchased, from a new subscriber to each subsequent renewal. Pricing strategies can include 1) simply the same price at every stage of buying or renewing; 2) giving the more price-sensitive new subscriber an introductory discount and then selling renewals at full price; 3) maximizing response and profitability with a step-up program from a low introductory price through gradual renewal increases to maximum; and 4) rewarding subscribers with a lower monthly price for selecting a longer (annual) term. Next, marketers can build a range of offers. Based on testing, Dugan reports that the best response is earned by a “soft offer,” meaning a trial free issue or more, plus a premium and a bill-me-later for a full subscription. The lowest response offer is the old-fashioned hard offer, requesting up-front credit card payment with no trial or premium,per his testing. And finally, direct marketing success requires wrapping the offer in effective creative. A key to creative response today, whether direct mail or e-mail, is personalization that focuses on the target customers’ needs.

And Market-Tested, Targeted Lists!

Of course, effective personalization requires targeted, quality data! So while Dugan didn’t talk about the paramount importance of data, we remind marketers of the continuing relevance of either the 40-40-20 rule (40% of response success from audience/list, 40% from offer and 20% for creative) or the 60-30-10 formula (60% from targeted audience/list). Bottom line, good audience data is key. To support digital and print publishers, AccuList USA turns to its proprietary research on market-tested data and selection parameters most likely to boost response. That means lists such as those targeting active subscribers to trade or consumer publications; book buyers having specific interests; digital or print edition subscribers; known subscribers at work, home, or waiting room address; or subscribers with Facebook profiles.

For the complete Mequoda article, see http://www.mequoda.com/articles/subscription_websites/subscription-marketing-the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same/

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.

Fundraising Pros Forecast 2017 Trends for Direct Mail

For nonprofits, 2017 offers an avalanche of political and technological changes, yet we don’t see any trend sweeping direct mail or e-mail out from under fundraising marketers just yet. Certainly, AccuList USA’s top fundraising mailing lists, based on proprietary research, continue to deliver donors and dollars to clients.

In fact, NonProfit PRO magazine recently found relevant mailing insights when it asked nonprofit pros nationwide for 2017 fundraising trend predictions. A few nuggets from its “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017” include:

Digital & Analog Can Grow Together

Marketers should see digital and non-digital communications as symbiotic rather than competitive. Indeed, Roger Craver and Tom Belford, editors of The Agitator, predicted that the continued rise of digital technology and data will paradoxically foster an increase in “old fashioned” pre-digital methods of communication and relationship building, such as direct mail, printed “thank you” notes, personal phone calls and print newsletters. Why? Because old-fashioned non-digital communications “provide a key—and currently missing—fundraising ingredient: a human, real-life interaction between an organization and its donors.”

Integrating Not Just Multiplying Channels

Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, principal of Clairification, advised nonprofits to recognize that they are now dealing with an all-encompassing “Generation Connected” (GenC) and must be in multiple spaces simultaneously—but with consistent and integrated messaging. Merely fundraising through multiple channels does not equal integration from the consumer’s perspective, she warns;  integration requires coordinated images, messages and offers across channels to avoid muddling the brand.

Going for Mailing Depth Over Volume

Direct mail is still a top fundraising tool—but not if used as a blunt instrument. Nick Ellinger, vice president of marketing strategy at DonorVoice, noted recent Dutch research that found 63% of the revenues of an additional nonprofit mailing aren’t new revenues but rather cannibalized from the revenues of other communications. However, by investing in donor knowledge and targeting, customization and personalization rather than just mail volume, test programs report stable gross revenue and a significant increase in net revenue in year one (or year two at worst), Ellinger reported.

Direct Mail’s Not Dead & Neither Is E-mail

Eric Rardin, vice president of business development for Care2, predicted that e-mail will only increase in importance in 2017. While social tools and platforms proliferate and compete, e-mail emerges as a digital tool that best allows marketers to push traffic and engagement online, he noted, so the value of an e-mail address, with permission to mail, will continue to increase year over year.

Use Technology to Kick Up Results

Though “old-fashioned” mail still drives donations, it may do a better job if paired with new technology. Shari Mason, vice president, marketing communications of Smile Train, suggested embracing 3D-printing initiatives, virtual reality experiences and social-good fundraising platforms to improve giving-impact communications, message sharing, call to action, and cause awareness. Leigh Kessler, vice president of communications for CharityEngine, even urged testing mobile device voice intelligence technology (Siri, Cordera, Google Now)—for example with a direct mail piece that says, “If you have Amazon Echo, just say ‘Alexa, I’d like to Give $25 to customURLnonprofit.org.'”

For more trends, read NonProfit PRO‘s “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017.”

Creating Powerful Synergy With Paid, Owned & Earned Media

When budgets are tight, it’s tempting to focus on earned and owned media over paid media promotion. But marketers need to know the growth penalty of that strategy. Brands that use paid media typically grow three times faster than those that rely on owned and earned media alone, according to recent international research from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), as reported by The Drum.

Synergy From Paid, Owned & Earned Media

At the same time, paid media is more effective when coupled with earned and owned media. IPA research shows that owned media, which includes brand websites, blogs and social media sites, typically increases the effectiveness of a paid ad campaign by 13%. Meanwhile,  earned media, which includes online mentions, shares, re-posts and reviews, increases the effectiveness of a paid campaign by a larger 26%.

The Emotional Power of Video

The IPA examination of media marketing further finds that emotion is a vital ingredient to success, and that television advertising continues to be the most powerful in delivering emotional engagement. Researchers report that adding television advertising increases a promotional campaign’s effectiveness by 40% and is also the best for generating  the top-line growth that drives profit, with a 2.6% average market share point gained per year when using television advertising. The growing use of video-on-demand and online video has turbocharged video impact: IPA’s research shows a 54% increase in the average number of “very large” business effects from adding television and online video together, versus 32% for television only and 25% for online video only.

Finding the Golden 60:40 Balance

When it comes to the optimal combination of paid, earned and owned media, and the best balance of brand-building vs. targeted sales ads, IPA results show that the most profitable campaigns have a 60:40 ratio of long-term brand-building (broad reach, highly emotive) to short-term sales activation (tightly targeted and information rich). For help with media strategy tailored to your budget and market, don’t hesitate to call on AccuList USA’s multi-channel marketing expertise, from social engagement and online ads to e-mail and pay-for-performance TV. And for more on IPA research, see http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/10/31/brands-use-paid-media-grow-three-times-faster-those-just-rely-earned-and-owned-finds

Direct Mail Finds Revived Power With Multi-Channel Marketing

In today’s digital environment, focused on delivering the right message to the right customer in real time, some may mistakenly see direct mail as a clumsy marketing relic. Yet at AccuList USA, we see a re-energized role for direct mail among many clients of our data-driven marketing support services. Why? A recent blog post by Patrick Groover, Solutions Consultant at Marketo, highlights just three ways multi-channel data and automation platforms are actually boosting the power and relevancy of direct mail.

Direct Mail Personalizing

Maybe you’ve received a “happy birthday” mailer with a relevant, personalized coupon offer. That’s a simple example of how direct mail can integrate with a marketing automation platform through software APIs (application program interfaces) to use information about a customer’s specific demographics and behavior to print timely personalized content. With pre-configured creative, Groover points out, it’s easy to call up the right template, add elements of personalization, and print and mail on the same day. Multi-dimensional mailers can pre-stock materials and send out batches according to agreed protocols. Such timely, personalized offers delivered in unique, tangible formats are proven response drivers.

Direct Mail Nurturing

Many marketers engage in time-released nurturing campaigns with customers, often via a series of e-mails. Why not integrate direct mail into a multi-channel nurturing campaign? By adding a direct mail step with dynamic personalization to create relevant, specific messaging geared to the buying cycle, marketers increase their tangible, personal outreach and make the audience feel more hand-selected and valuable. Guaranteed to be seen in the mailbox, a mailed nurturing contact may reconnect in a way missed by e-mails lost to crowded inboxes and spam filters.

Direct Mail High-Value Targeting

Direct mail is pricier than e-mail (especially dimensional mail), which is why it makes sense to reduce risk by targeting direct mail to the most valuable audiences. Multi-channel data and marketing technology make that targeting easier today. Groover suggests using marketing automation to quickly identify the most valuable leads, create self-sustaining high-value lists, and trigger timely mailings of relevant collateral. This is clearly a boon for B2B account-based marketing. As one example, Groover notes how mailers can target prospects at higher education institutions by sending a piece only after the prospect downloads a specific website asset.

For the complete article, see http://blog.marketo.com/2016/10/3-effective-ways-to-incorporate-direct-mail-into-your-multi-channel-campaigns.html