5 Direct Mail “Must Dos”

Want to ensure that your direct mail is in line with today’s best practices? Here are 5 items that should be on every marketer’s “must do” list.

1. Focus on relevance, not volume: Marketers are moving away from commoditized, undifferentiated direct mail. They are leveraging customer demographics, purchase patterns, and preferences to increase response rates and drive revenue growth. According to a March 2014 study from Adobe,[1] “personalization” ranked #1 on marketers’ lists of priorities this year.

2. Sometimes less is more: By focus on creating relevance, not volume, this often means smaller, more targeted mailings. Only with personalized, relevance-based marketing can you mail less and get more.

3. Think efficiency: Better data cleansing and updating of mailing lists (eliminating UAA, or “undeliverable as addressed” mail) not only increases marketing efficiency, but it saves on postage, too.

4. Use triggered mail: Marketing effectiveness increases when you are mailing at the very time the customer is ready to buy. “Triggered” messaging does just that. Take an automotive manufacturer that sends out 1:1 mailers to alert customers when their vehicles are due for scheduled maintenance based on their last service call. Or a florist that advertises discounts to customers with family members with birthdays or anniversaries that week. Triggered mail magnifies the impact of personalization.

5. Be willing to stretch yourself: Don’t get stuck in a rut. In the same Adobe study, 54% of marketers said they believe the ideal marketer should take more risks and 45% hope to take more risks themselves. How will you know what works best for you if you don’t stretch yourself by trying something new once in awhile?

Talk to us about new ideas and new techniques for personalizing, using triggers, and increasing the relevance of your campaigns to boost your results.

1 “Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves” (Adobe, March 2014)


Some Customers Still Hard to Reach by Email

Did you know that, even in today’s multichannel media environment, some customer segments are more difficult to reach by email than others? For example . . .

  • 41% of U.S. consumers aged 65+ still do not have Internet access.
  • 53% of U.S. consumers in this group do not have broadband.
  • 18% of these consumers do not have smartphones.[1]

Particularly for older retirees in lower income households, print remains a critical part of the multichannel mix. For many, it may be the only way to reach them. Even those who do go online may require text-only emails rather than the HTML versions many marketers are geared up to send.

But before you write off U.S. retirees as non-email-reading, non-Internet using consumers, remember that not all consumer segments look the same. In fact, among younger, more affluent, and more educated retirees, 90% have Internet access and 82% have broadband. That’s higher than the U.S. adult population overall. For this segment, email is an important tool for marketing communication, both as a primary means of messaging or as a follow-up to print communications.

So before you reach out, know your audience, their media use, and their channel preferences. It can have a critical impact on your multichannel mix.

Need help figuring it out? Give us a call.

[1] Pew Research Center (April 2014)

3 Steps to Staying Sane Waiting for Design

Once you have agreed on a design concept, it’s time for your designer to sit down and plan the work. This entails thinking about what grids, master pages, style sheets, fonts, and image files are required to produce the finished file. If your designer can move from artistic design to engineered production within your schedule, that’s ideal, but it doesn’t always happen. In the meantime, the waiting process can be hard.

Here are a few ideas for helping you stay patient (and sane) as you are waiting for final design.

1. Expect the unexpected.

Plans are perfect only until the work begins. Designers will inevitably miss something. That is not only okay, it is expected.  Don’t get upset when it happens.

2. Pad your timeline.

The unforeseen will always occur. Make sure to pad your timeline to account for it. Once you create a timeline for the project, pad it by 1.5 to 3 times. When the project is finished, do a post mortem and assess how close your estimates were. If necessary, add a larger fudge factor next time.

3. Communicate often.

Regularly ask the designer questions like, “How is the work going? Do you need anything?” This will keep you appraised of the situation and let your designer know that you care about the challenges he or she is experiencing.  (Ask—don’t pester!)

Remember that you aren’t the only one waiting. Other stakeholders can get anxious, too. That creates pressure on everyone. Send e-mails to different stakeholders in the company (marketing, product development, executive team) updating them on your progress. Keeping people in the loop tends to ease pressure, even if the schedule is running behind.

Next time the files go to design, don’t fret about how long the process will take. Expect delays, pad the timeline, and communicate with all of the stakeholders regularly. You might be surprised how much more smoother the process seems, even if nothing actually changes in the world of design!

Use Third-Party Content to Boost Credibility

When marketing any type of products and services, your customers trust third-party content more than they trust data provided by your company. They want information that they consider to be credible and objective.

While this is something we may intuitively understand, new data from inPowered and Nielsen confirms it.

According to the study, consumers rely on third-party content (surveys, product reviews, other data) more than branded content or even user reviews when making purchase decisions. In fact, the study showed that expert content was the only content type to exhibit a strong lift in all three areas of the purchase cycle.

On average, expert content . . .

  • lifted brand familiarity 88% more than branded content and 50% more than user reviews;
  • lifted brand affinity 50% more than branded content and 20% more than user reviews; and
  • lifted purchase intent 38% more than branded content and 83% more than user reviews.

How do you benefit from expert third-party content for your products and services?

Add expert reviews to your marketing and public relations “to do” list. Once you have this content, add the most compelling snippets to your print marketing materials. Reprint them on your website. Link to them in your emails. Use QR Codes to point to them on your product packaging. You might also want to print some of this content in your in-house newsletters so your sales and customer service teams can tap into it when talking to customers.

It’s great when you, your customers, and your employees can rave about your products and services. But when experts do it, it’s even better!

3 Ways to Measure Success

It is always critical to quantify the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. But how do you define success? Particularly with 1:1 printing, you have to use the right yardstick. If you are like most marketers, you might be used to thinking in terms of response rates, but let’s look at three less commonly used (but more critical) metrics to keep in mind.

1. Cost per lead. Typically, marketers are used to thinking about cost per piece, and with traditional direct mail in the $.10 range, it’s hard for 1:1 print marketing to compete on a cost basis. But everything changes when you look at what your program costs per lead rather than per piece.

If you mail 100,000 postcards at $.25 each (including postage), that’s a project cost of $25,000. If that campaign achieves a 1% response rate, that’s 250 leads at a cost of $100 per lead. On the other hand, if you mail 25,000 1:1 postcards at a cost of $1.00 each, that is still a project cost of $25,000. But if you achieve a 12% response rate, that’s 3,000 leads. Now your cost per lead drops to $8.33!

2. Cost per sale. Not all leads translate into sales. Divide the number of people who actually make a purchase into your total costs and this will give you the cost per sale. If only 33% of respondents to these hypothetical campaigns make a purchase, your cost per sale is $300 for the static campaign, while for the 1:1 campaign, it is $25.00.

3. Lifetime customer value. The value of the sale often goes beyond the initial purchase. If 1:1 personalization woos the buyer of one make of car to another, and if that customer becomes loyal to that brand, the return on investment from that piece includes the value of every car purchased by that customer over his or her lifetime. This is an important metric for marketers of long-term purchases, such as automobiles, financial products, and insurance.

The bottom line? Before you measure your results in any print campaign, make sure you understand all of the available measuring sticks, then use the one(s) that are the most impactful for you.

Can 1:1 Printing Save You Money? Yes!

Most marketers define the success of a print marketing campaign in terms of what they gain — responses, conversions, or dollars flowing into the cash register. But you can also define success by the money you save. Let’s look at three ways 1:1 printing can improve the bottom line through cost savings, not just boosting responses and revenues.

1. Lower cost of attrition. If your goal is to prevent customer attrition, you can evaluate the success of your campaign based on what sales stay rather than what sales merely come in. One marketer of high-end vacations saved millions, for example, by sending vacationers 100% personalized booklets that reinforce their vacation choices. Its cancellation rates plummeted, and it kept customer sales where they belonged — in its pockets.

2. Less handholding. What if you could use 1:1 printing to reduce calls to your customer service team? Questions about invoicing and payment cost real money. By personalizing its tax letters, for example, one state government’s tax bureau made these letters easier to read. The result was a noticeable drop in calls to its call centers, and the state saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3. Faster response times. The faster customers pay, the better your cash flow. Take the example above. By using personalized printing to make its statements easier to read, this state government not only reduced the number of taxpayer calls, but it started receiving its revenues days earlier. As a result, it significantly boosted its earnings from interest.

Not included in this case study but very real to most marketers is the fact that more on-time payments also mean less time and money spent on duplicate invoicing and follow-up calls for non-payment.

Reducing customer attrition and making their invoices and customer statements easier to read and understand are not the “sexy” benefits of 1:1 printing we hear about the most, but they are real, bottom-line benefits that do not get talked about enough!


Want Attention? Use Surprise!

Every year, we look forward to the Superbowl. For the ads, of course. Superbowl ads are known for their funny twists — the element of surprise.

You can use the same technique in your own marketing. This topic was recently covered by MarketingProfs, which offered techniques marketers can use to hook and engage readers with their blogs, tweets, and marketing copy.  We’ll look at some of their suggestions with our own twist thrown in for good measure.

1. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

By definition, surprise takes us out of the box. Don’t be afraid to be edgy . . . but keep the material appropriate to your target audience.

2. Jump on current events.

Create your own twist on newsworthy events. MarketingProfs used the example of Oreo, which immediately capitalized on the power outage in last year’s Superbowl by tweeting, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

3. Pick up on small things.

Listen to your audience. Know the things they care about. If you see a higher than usual number of comments to a blog post, for example, you know that’s something your customers care about. Find a way to integrate that back into the conversation.

4. Bring in new voices.

Considering adding in some new voices to the discussion. Sometimes being surprising requires a fresh look at the content. Bring in some of the younger members of your staff and ask them to present their ideas. You have a wealth of humor and antics at your disposal. Tap it!

5. Take chances.

Taking calculated risks is part of great marketing. Test something new, take the pulse, and either stay the course or change directions. You won’t know what works until you step out of the box and try it.

Happy surprising!

Content, Optimization Top Priorities for In-House Marketers

What are marketers making their top priorities in 2013? In a recent survey of 700+ marketers covering both offline (print) and online strategies, new research finds that marketers’ top priorities revolve around content marketing, conversion rate optimization, and targeting.

Econsultancy’s eighth annual Digital Intelligence Briefing, “Digital Trends for 2013,” produced in partnership with Adobe, found that content marketing and conversion rate optimization tied for top place in marketers’ priority lists, with 39% of respondents citing these as top priorities for them.

Content marketing is up 10% from one year ago when 29% cited this as a top priority. Content has become the center of the marketing universe in offline channels like direct mail, printed newsletters, and marketing collateral, as well as online channels like email, social media, and mobile. Content is also driving the larger goal of viral marketing (26%), with the goal of providing content so great that people share it with others. How often do we see posters, point-of-sale, or table tents that say, “Like us on Facebook and 10% off next time you come in”?

Conversion rate optimization, which ties content marketing for marketers’ focus and attention, is likewise shaping the way people think about marketing. You can have a 30% response rate to a direct mail campaign, but if you are converting only 5% of respondents, something is amiss. Conversely, you might be getting a 12% response rate, but if you are getting a 30% conversion rate, you’re likely doing something right.

Social media engagement came in a close second (38%), followed by targeting/personalization and content optimization. Nearly one-quarter (24%) also cited joining online and offline data. The more you can target your customers, the better your conversion rates will be. The broader, more comprehensive view (often called 360-degree view) of the customer, the more effective your targeting. It’s not surprising that these scored so high.

Other priorities scored high, as well, including mobile optimization, viral marketing, and social media—all ways of optimizing investment in content in order to distribute it through as many channels and to as many recipients as possible.

How are you optimizing your content to more deeply engage your customers and prospects, increase conversions, and encourage people to share that content with others? Need help? Give us a call.

Using the “Describe and Predict” Model

Want to knock your 1:1 (personalized) printing campaign out of the park? Do more than personalize the document. Use your data to describe and predict.

The process starts with understanding what your customers look like. Do a basic database analysis. What is their mix of ages, incomes, genders, and races? Where do they live? Then filter this customer information through general demographic and psychographic patterns to predict their behavior. Let’s look at a simplified example.

Say you are an auto dealership and discover that your lease customers fall into three basic categories: young singles, families, and retirees.

Because these are all current customers, you know their ages, incomes and ages of their children (if any) at the time of initial lease. You know their current vehicles and the options selected. This allows you to match appropriate upsells and cross-sells based on the likely needs of each group.

  • In the young singles category, for example, it would be reasonable to assume that, after five years, they might have higher earning power. At the end of a five-year lease, you might be able to trade them up to the next class of vehicle with more options.
  • In the families with young children category, you might assume that, after five years, they might have had more children. If they currently lease a sedan, they might need to move into something larger like a minivan or crossover vehicle. Families with older children might need to move into a vehicle with greater towing and storage capacity.
  • In the retiree category, customers might be looking to downsize. Those with higher levels of disposable income might be looking for sportier cars or luxury vehicles.

In all cases, you know when the customer will act—at the end of the lease period. This information in hand, you can craft marketing campaigns with appropriate messages, offers and incentives.

Your customer base might look different than the one described here, of course, but you can use this process against your own customer mix. Just remember the letters “d” and “p”: describe, then predict.

Best Practices in 1:1 Printing

If you want great marketing results, it’s important to personalize text, images, and other content based on what you know about the recipient. But just dropping in data-driven content doesn’t guarantee success. Sometimes other factors can dull your results. Maybe the offer is great, but the design is so uninteresting that nobody reads it. Or the headline is snappy and the design is great, but there is no incentive for people to respond.

Let’s look at three best practices that need to be the foundation of any 1:1 print marketing campaign.

  • Traditional marketing rules apply. 1:1 might be personalized marketing, but traditional rules hold firm. Ultimately, all of the elements — creative, message (including personalization), offer, segmentation, call to action, and incentive —need to come together to determine success. 
  • Focus on relevance, not “personalization.” It doesn’t matter how “personalized” a document is. If it isn’t relevant, it is worthless. Take the shoe market. Clearly, you don’t want to market orthopedic shoes to teenagers. You can deck out the mailer with text messaging terms, pictures of X-Games, and use all the contemporary lingo, but it’s not a relevant message unless a teen needs to purchase a birthday present for grandpa.
  • Know your customers, then market to what you know. When the National Hockey League began 1:1 communication with its customers, it asked them to fill out a survey that indicated that 40% of the of NHL’s fan base lives outside their favorite team’s home market. That means these fans can’t easily go to games or access highlights. Imagine the opportunity for the league! So ask yourself, what don’t you know about your customers now that might allow you to create relevance in a more powerful way later? Do a customer mail or email survey. Use what you find out to speak directly to the needs and interests of your customers.

Investing in your marketing database and developing an intimate understanding of your customers takes time, dedicated resources, and manpower, but it is one of the most important investments you can make. Personalization is a powerful tool, but to get the big pay-off, it cannot work alone.