Thinking Direct Mail? Think Timing

When we think about the benefits of direct mail, we think of tangibility, message retention, and breaking through the clutter. But when GrayHair Software thinks about direct mail, it thinks about timing.

In a recent e-book, GrayHair, which provides software for postal tracking and multichannel marketing services, described multiple benefits of direct mail in a multichannel marketing strategy based on the timing benefits direct mail provides. Let’s look at three of them.

1) Gain control and greater visibility.

Direct mail tracking allows you to determine the precise time that your mailer arrives at the target destination. This can provide you with critical insights.

Let’s say you mail out a postcard intended to drive traffic for your weekend sale. Most of the customers arrive on Saturday, which is day two of the sale. Did they arrive on Saturday because the extra hot weather on Friday kept them away from the stores or because your mailer simply did not arrive on time? Mail tracking helps you figure it out.

2) Boost response with timed email delivery.

If you know what date the direct mail offer hits, you can time an email follow-up for the next day or the following day to reinforce the message and spur recipients to action.

3) Determine the best channel for delivery.

Using A/B testing across both print and digital channels, you can test the effectiveness of marketing channels the same way you test offers, messaging, and other marketing components. Don’t assume you know which channel your customers will best respond to. Test it!

With mail tracking, you can think about direct mail in a whole new — and testable — way. Want to see how postal tracking and tighter channel integration can benefit your marketing campaigns? Let us help!

How Do You Spell Success? C-O-N-V-E-R-S-I-O-N

When you think about evaluating the success of a marketing campaign, what comes to mind? For many marketers, it’s response rates. However, that just because someone “responds” by contacting you doesn’t mean that the campaign was profitable. The true measure of success is whether they actually buy something. That’s why one of your most important measures should be conversion rate.

Let’s say you’re a gourmet store in the heart of a college community. You just launched a line of breakfast items that includes pastries, breads, and gourmet omelets. You develop a campaign of 10,000 direct mailers that invite students to request an email- or text-back coupon for 25% off one of the new items. As an incentive, you offer a chance to win concert tickets to see the band Little Mix, which soon will be performing in the area.

Initially, you’re thrilled by the response rate. A whopping 32% of students requested the coupon. Then the excitement fades. Although more than one-third of students responded, only 3% actually visited the store and redeemed the coupon. When you work out your ROI, you didn’t even break even.

Let’s say you had targeted the local community instead. Let’s say the response rate is lower—8%—but it’s an affluent community with a high percentage of recipients working in and around the university. Of those who do respond, 32% redeem the coupon and try the new breakfast. From this pool, the number of conversions is 150% higher than the college student pool. Your cost to produce the campaign is the same, but your ROI is vastly different.

This simple example illustrates the power of the conversion rate. Initially, who wouldn’t prefer 32% response rate over 8%? But the conversion on the back end ends up being the deciding factor in the profitability of the campaign.

So don’t think response rate — think conversion!

Better Copy Gets Better Results

When writing marketing copy for your direct mail, email, and other marketing communications, do you focus on features and benefits? If so, you might want to think again. Increasingly, marketers are using emotional and psychological triggers instead.

One of the gurus of marketing copywriting is Denny Hatch. In his e-book “Secrets of Emotional, Hot-Button Copywriting,” he looks at seven triggers that tip readers over the edge and get them to act. These are fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation, and flattery.

Let’s look at five of them more closely.

  • Fear is often used to sell insurance products. “What happens if there is a disaster? Will your family be protected?”
  • Anger is a powerful tool in fundraising. “How can millions of children go hungry in right here in America? Isn’t anyone doing anything about it?”
  • Guilt is a powerful motivator for selling to busy moms. “Don’t have time to cook dinner for your family? Our frozen dinners taste so much like homemade your kids will never know!”
  • Exclusivity is staple in selling to affluent consumers. “Become a Platinum member and enjoy exclusive benefits, including our prestigious ‘After Hours’ party on the aquarium grounds!”
  • Flattery appeals to those feeling they are missing out on the good life. “Treat yourself! Don’t you deserve the best?”

These seven emotional hot buttons appeal to a wide variety of consumers and can motivate even the most reticent to pull the trigger. Sprinkle them throughout your marketing copy and watch the results pour in.

 

 

Does Your Marketing Content Sound Human?

Whether you are writing text for direct mail, email, blog posts, or any other type of marketing material, ask yourself, “Does my content sound human? Does it sound like something a person might actually want to read?”

When competition is fierce, it’s tempting to throw in every feature and benefit to make your positioning clear. But readers are still people first. You have to catch their attention and draw them in. You won’t do that with copy that reads like a spec sheet.

Effective marketing copy should sound human, and it should speak to real needs, priorities, and challenges. It should sound like it’s written by a real person for a real person.

When it comes time to write your next direct mail piece or e-newsletter, keep the following in mind:

1. Use natural language. Instead of “Helps you optimize efficiency and maximize organizational control,” say “Helps you get done faster—and done right.”

2. Use humor. Target audiences don’t have a sense of humor. People do. If you’re a car dealer promoting the newest models, rather than talking about trim options and leather interiors, try something like, “Your new car will look so good that you’ll have to remodel your garage!”

3. Speak to personalities, not demographics. As blogging expert Jeff Bullas has written, “Demographics have ages, an assigned gender and even a college degree. [People] have personalities, they have fears, wants and passions.”

Next time you sit down to write marketing copy, be real. Be relatable, and you’ll find yourself with an audience that is more highly engaged.

 

What Dictates the Meaning of Color?

When designing marketing materials, whether print or online, do you fall prey to the temptation to rely on traditional meanings for color? If it’s a luxury product, you use black. To bring excitement, you use red. If it’s a premium product, it must be gold.

While we do tend to associate colors with certain meanings, color also works like a palette. How those colors work together can be a more accurate reflection of the meaning those colors convey.

“For example, orange is seen as playful and youthful—think ‘Finding Nemo,’ but it can also be utilitarian (traffic cones and life rings),” says Jack Bredenfoerder color and marketing design consultant and Director of BV Color Strategy. “Red is associated with love and lusciousness, but it can also be a color of blood and carnage. Yellow is a happy color, but it can also mean caution (yield, caution signs). Green can represent fresh and natural, but when paired with different partners, the very same color can seem slimy and old.”

Cultural context dictates the perception of color, as well. In the United States, for example, white is associated with weddings, but in China, weddings are most often associated with red. Colors of state, colors of religion, and colors associated with professional sports teams, corporations, or colleges and universities also influence our perception of what certain colors mean.

So take a cue from the experts. When planning your next print or email project, step back from traditional perceptions. Think more broadly about the full palette of color and how the full array impacts the message you want to convey.

Drawn from “Tactics of Color Strategy” (PaperSpecs webinar February 2015)

Snatch Customers Before Your Competitors Do!

Investing in direct mail for customer acquisition? Your competitors are! As their efforts become more proactive and strategic, how do you plan to attract those same customers before your competitors do? Here are three proven strategies for grabbing attention in the mailbox.

1. Use dimensional mail.

In a stack of envelopes, a padded envelope, a package, or some other three-dimensional mailer gets attention. Usually, these are opened first. While dimensional mailers cost more than flat mailers, they get response rates that can make your mouth water. According to the Direct Marketing Association, dimensional mailers receive response rates 200% – 300% higher than flat mailers. So when your marketing ideas take shape, make it a literal shape!

2. Try out unusual finishes, folds, and bindings.

Tangible elements are what make the print channel stand out. Consider using some of the many spot coatings, textured coatings, die cuts, pop-outs, and foldouts that your customers don’t see every day. If you have been meaning to investigate fresh new options and still haven’t had an excuse to do it, now you do.

3. Try new mailing formats.

Not all mailing formats are created equal. There are many different formats available: postcards, folded mailers, mailers placed into envelopes, envelopes that are personalized, envelopes that are not personalized, window envelopes, and more. Envelopes and mailers can be different sizes, thicknesses, and colors. Experiment with colored substrates, clear envelopes, and on-envelope personalization.

It’s time to get noticed! If you need some ideas or want to test new formats, substrates, and finishing options, just ask.

 

Print Bests Digital for Driving Purchases

Want proof that print drives sales? Just ask the researchers at Temple University, who found that print has more impact than digital when it comes to increasing reader engagement, recall, and ultimately, purchases.

The study was sponsored by the Postal Service Inspector General’s office (OIG) in conjunction with Temple’s Center for Neural Decision Making. The study found that print ads are more effective than online ads in five of nine categories and equal in two of them.

Researchers found that, while digital ads grab attention more quickly, readers lose interest in them more quickly, too. Print holds attention longer, which translates into greater emotional response and absorption of the message. This, in turns, leads to more sales.

The categories in which print bests digital?

  • Review time  (amount of time a reader spends with an ad)
  • Stimulation (emotional reaction to an ad)
  • Memory speed and confidence (how quickly and confidently a reader remembers the advertising source and content)
  • Desirability (subconscious desire for the product or service)
  • Valuation (the subconscious value a reader places on the product or service)

If you’ve been tempted to buy into the hype that digital ads are superior to traditional print marketing, think again. Try adding targeting and segmentation for an even more effective combination.

The Summertime Marketing Opportunity

Have you ever noticed that your mailbox gets emptier in the summer? That retail POP displays don’t turn as frequently? As the weather heats up, marketing typically slows down. The good news is, as your competitors take a break from marketing, this opens a window of opportunity for you.

Summer is an excellent time to nurture leads and fine-tune your marketing strategies. With less in the mailbox, you get bigger bang for your buck, especially when your competitors are asleep on the job.

Here are three ideas for maximizing your impact:

1. Dive into the world of QR Codes. The U.S. Post Office regularly offers postal discount for marketers using QR Codes on their marketing materials, whether either inside or outside the envelope. If you’ve been mulling the opportunities offered by print-to-mobile strategies, now is the time to put them into action.

2. Crank up the volume. Do you need to update your mailing list? Been thinking about launching a customer newsletter or creating new in-store displays? Summer is a great time to invest in creative print marketing because the results will really stand out. Can you imagine your target audiences going to their mailboxes and finding nothing but a direct mail piece from you?

3. Invest in a redesign. Is your stationery looking a little outdated? Is your marketing collateral a little stale? Use this time to freshen up your image and bust out with something new!

Take advantage of the summer window to nurture leads, stand out in the mailbox, and make a major impact in your “mindshare of customer.” See where the possibilities take you!

Want to Personalize? Don’t Do This

When marketers talk about producing “personalized printing” or 1:1 printing, they are talking about printing that communicates with a customer in a way that static direct mail cannot. By definition, this approach is based on knowing something about each customer, even if it’s just name and address.

When done correctly, however, 1:1 printing is more than just “personalizing” a document. After all, you can personalize something well or you can personalize it badly.

There is an industry pundit who is fond of telling the story of receiving a personalized marketing pitch from a hotel in Las Vegas. The mailer was fully personalized based on the details of his recent visit. In personalizing the piece, however, the hotel assumed that the man stayed in the hotel alone because he was single. In fact, he was married, and his stay there had been tied to an industry event. When the mailer arrived, it featured a scantily clad woman on the front of the card, paired with a salacious invitation. Unfortunately for the marketer, the pundit’s wife collected the mail that day. Needless to say, the invitation never made it inside the house.

Personalization alone doesn’t create relationships or sell products. Relationships are developed by knowing your customers and sending relevant communications that pair your products with the needs of your customers in an appropriate and beneficial way.

Something as simple as a quick list append to identify marital status would have saved this hotel’s mailing. There are other pieces of demographic information that can help improve, not just the “personal” nature of a mailing, but its relevance, as well. What additional pieces of data might help improve your next personalized mailing?

Tricks for Increasing Your Envelope Open Rate

Even the best written sales letter will be ineffective if it’s never read. This is why the envelope can be the key determining whether your direct mail gets opened or tossed. Here are some ideas for making your envelopes more enticing:

Oversize it. Anything outside of the standard #10 envelope will set your piece apart. Make sure the envelope is at least ¼” larger than your largest insert.

Stay clear of window envelopes. This makes your mailer look like a bill or bulk mail.

Get creative with envelope stock. Smooth, heavier stocks show off your color designs, while textured stocks, such as linen or laid, offer a high-end feel.  Explore the myriad of options available, such as vellum, glassine, and polybag-type envelopes.

Use on-envelope messaging. Consider placing dynamic messaging on the front, back, and even inside of the envelope. Your copy should provoke curiosity, but not give everything away.

Change it up. While it’s important to keep the design consistent with your other printed materials, using the same envelope design for multiple mailings may work against you. Even a friendly prospect might assume he’s already heard the message inside.

Personalize it. Adding unique messaging for each recipientincreases response rates, whether it’s through variable-data messaging, using a legible script font, or actual handwriting.

Use a real stamp. Postage stamps add another personal touch but may not be practical for larger mailings.

Use timing to your advantage. Envelopes have the best chance of getting opened if they are delivered on Tuesday, the lightest postal delivery day, or Wednesday, the second lightest day. Stay away from Mondays, the heaviest delivery day.

Don’t over-mail. Six weeks is a good interval between mailings. You want to stay fresh in your prospect’s mind without becoming a nuisance.

The abundance of creative options makes envelopes a versatile and highly effective vehicle for presenting your message. Get creative, personalize the experience, and change things up once in awhile!