Most Nonprofits Upbeat on 2019 Fundraising Growth

The most recent survey of nonprofits and donors by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), a coalition of professional fundraising associations, finds that 60% of respondents expect to raise more money this year than they did in 2018! That’s encouraging news for AccuList’s many fundraising clients as they head into their key year-end giving campaigns.

Tax Law Impact Not As Averse As Expected

Many fundraisers feared the new tax law would undercut giving, but the survey found that only a 17% minority reported a negative impact from the tax changes, and only 16% of donors said they would change the amount or method of their gift this year because of changes to the tax law. It is true that certain continuing tax trends prove challenging for fundraisers, such as bundling or bunching, in which donors provide multiyear support but give a large donation for an itemized filing in just one tax year and then skip contributions in the following year or years. Since most nonprofits rely heavily on year-end gifts from loyal donors, the bunching is problematic. Still, only 30% of nonprofit respondents reported that some donors were bundling.

Feared Donation Drop Doesn’t Materialize

Based on various reports of reduced giving, many nonprofits were concerned about fundraising growth, yet the NRC online survey of individual donors in March of this year found 56% said they gave the same amount in 2018 as in 2017, 33% gave more, and only 11% gave less. As a result, 63% of fundraisers said their charities did raise more money in 2018 than the previous year. Overall, 73% said they met their 2018 fundraising goals. It’s no wonder most fundraisers (60%) are confident they will raise even more in 2019. Not all charities participated equally in 2018 growth, of course. Charities with budgets of $3 million to $49 million reported the most fundraising increases in 2018 over 2017 levels. And environmental and animal charities in particular were most likely to meet 2018 fundraising goals.

Multi-Channel, Multi-Contact Strategy Remains Key

Melissa Brown, author of the report and manager of the NRC, stresses that the upbeat forecast for fundraising needs to be undergirded by targeted, relevant, engaging direct mail and e-mail contacts. While most channels remained essentially flat in 2018 in terms of dollars raised compared with prior years, direct mail fundraising growth dipped slightly, with 41% of charity respondents saying they saw growth in fundraising through direct mail compared with 50% in 2017. Overall, the survey supports both the need for a multi-channel fundraising strategy and frequent contacts with donors. On average, after the first gift, organizations send about 3 more appeals by mail, an average of 4 appeals by e-mail, and invitations to events, including stewardship/recognition activities. However, both direct mail and digital communications are most effective when they go beyond dollar demands to provide meaningful connections with the mission and explanation of the impact of a gift, per the survey “One of the biggest reasons people stop giving is they feel like they’re becoming ATMs instead of being partners,” Brown warns. See the full survey 

Insert Media Offer Cost-Effective Marketing Options

Insert media, direct mail’s less glamorous relative, is also a proven way to reach new customers, and AccuList helps clients place offers in a range of printed insert options such as package inserts; publication “blow-in,” “bind-in” and onsert programs; postcard decks; statement stuffers; and cooperative mailing programs. In the digital space, there also are webserts to qualified online buyers.

Insert Media Virtues: Targeting, Co-Branding, Savings

Insert media programs may seem old-fashioned, but younger recipients actually embrace them. For example, Quad/Graphics research has found that 49% of millennials said they ignored Internet ads, and 48% said they ignored e-mail, but only 25% ignored retail inserts! Or on the flip side, 73% said they paid attention to retail inserts vs. 48% who paid attention to mobile text. Plus, insert media have a number of virtues that make them attractive to direct marketers: They leverage co-branding since offers “ride along” with material from an already trusted source; they avoid postage costs and save on printing expenses; and they offer a targeted audience. So here are some tips for those who want to add insert media to their direct marketing.

The Basics Still Apply: Target and Test

In choosing insert media, the first step is to consider your desired target audience and its match with the demographics and purchase history/interests of the host program. Next, as with any direct marketing effort, test and re-test. Start by testing small but in large enough batches for an accurate reading of response, and make sure there is a large enough universe for future rollout. You can test for both creative/offer and audience category, but if finding the right audience and host program is the goal and the budget is limited, it’s probably better to test four different audience groups/programs rather than four creatives to the same audience/program. Of course, even once a control is developed for rollout, continue to test against it. And be wary of potential audience duplication: Using different programs with the same owner, a package insert and a statement insert for example, might reach the same recipients at different times.

Multi-channel Response and Multi-channel Tracking

Insert media today are usually part of an omnichannel strategy, and recipients of printed materials often prefer to respond by other channels. That means inserts should provide more than one response option: business reply card, 800 number, URL, and mobile QR code. And it means tracking and analyzing results across channels. So make sure to provide a unique code on pieces to track response by program, offer, audience category, insert month/timing. etc. And if you use a mobile QR code, with links to an offer/purchase landing page or a reply/request page, be sure that the online pages are mobile optimized! Because inserts are competing for attention with other offers, your creative needs to stand out in design and messaging, with a clear call to action. Plus, in scheduling insert media, remember that you are at the mercy of the host program’s timings and availability. Plan with seasonality in mind and build in adequate lead times; most insert media campaigns will need to be produced and delivered weeks in advance of program distribution. The payoff in cost-effective reach can definitely make the planning worthwhile, however, as noted in a 2019 article on the value of insert media for niche businesses.

Is Your Direct Marketing Realizing Personalization’s Potential?

Every direct marketing effort today starts with an assumption of personalization. In fact, with today’s tech advances in digital data, marketing automation, AI, variable data printing and more, the simple “Dear FirstName” personalization of yesteryear has been replaced by goals such as “hyper-personalization” and “personalizaton at scale.” Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative recently put together an infographic for MarketingProfs to illustrate the potential of personalized marketing for those who still think appealing to “FirstName” is enough.

It All Starts With Good Data

Before summarizing Feldman’s infographic, we would point out that, as data brokers and data services providers, AccuList is especially interested because personalized marketing relies on up-to-date, enhanced, accurate data to deliver on the promise—the right message, to the right person, at the right time—whether for customers or prospects. Customer outreach and the customer-based analytics for targeting prospects require collecting data from as many sources as possible: CRM, web activity, e-mail, direct mail, mobile apps, second- and third-party demographics, social media, and multichannel advertising. And then that data must be combined and maintained in a regularly hygiened customer data platform. Haven’t gotten there yet? You’re not alone. Only 5% of marketers have attained a single customer-data view that allows launching personalization across channels, per the infographic.

Why Invest in Personalization? Buyers Demand It

So why worry about an edge gained by just 5% of competitors? When 78% of Internet users say personally relevant content increases their purchase intent, and 81% of consumers say they want brands to know them better and to know when (and when not) to approach them, any brand that is ignoring that demand for personalization is ignoring the bulk of their potential market. What do customers and prospects want? Feldman’s infographic breaks it down into “four R’s” based on research: Recognize, Remember, Relevance and Recommend. People expect to be recognized by name and to have their preferences remembered so that brands can make suitable recommendations and send relevant offers.

The Payoff Is Big in Financial and Brand Clout

The bottom line shows why the “four R’s” matter. Studies find that personalization can cut acquisition costs by up to 50%, lift revenues by 5%-15%, and increase the efficiency of the marketing spend by 10% to 30%, per the infographic’s sources. Plus, in a competitive market, personalization will woo the 60% of shoppers who prefer to do business with brands that provide personalized, real-time offers and promotions. This is especially true if the customer experience is consistent across channels. With omnichannel personalization, studies show that marketers can achieve the multiple goals of boosting response, improving customer experience, increasing brand loyalty, driving revenue and delivering creative consistency across channels.

Omnichannel Personalization Includes Direct Mail

While discussions of one-to-one marketing often focus on digital efforts, traditional direct mail also has benefited from the technology trends driving personalization. Of course, a postcard or an envelope are, in a sense, always personalized by name and address for delivery, but inside the envelope or mailer, a letter, reply card, lift note, coupon, etc. can be personalized even more extensively. For example, a personalized pre-filled reply card has the advantages of both increasing response by cutting recipient effort and ensuring reply completeness and accuracy. More important, with enough quality data on recipients and modern variable data printing (VDP), messaging can be modified for each recipient based on database/list information such as purchase history, demographics/firmographics and online activity. A business-to-business campaign can be tailored by industry, title, association membership, online visits and more. A retailer can use product purchase history to craft discount offers, up-sales and cross-sales. An auto insurance mailer can leverage policy expire date, owner age, vehicle information, online quote requests, etc. to create a timely, personalized offer. VDP can even tailor graphics to fit individualized content. Plus, printing a personalized url (PURL) is one option that can take a curious recipient to a personalized online landing page with a pre-populated form and select offers. Or unique QR codes can be printed to take each recipient to a custom, personalized web page. There’s no reason for direct mail to remain stuck in the “Dear FirstName” era of personalization!

Avoid Segmentation Missteps to Boost List ROI

List segmentation is key in targeted direct marketing, which is why the AccuList team offers clients help in defining best-performing customer segments via predictive analytics services and data management services. Over the years, we’ve learned that the secret to success is as much a matter of strategic mindset as technical expertise. A recent MarketingProfs article by Mitch Markel, a partner in Benenson Strategy Group, makes that point by identifying some of the common strategic errors that can trip up a segmentation effort.

Obvious Parameters and Old Strategies Dig a Rut

Marketers need to be aware that segmentation models can slip into an ROI rut. Use of obvious profiling parameters and assumptions is one reason. Certainly, demographics (or firmographics), stated needs, and past purchase behavior are essential in grouping for likely response and lifetime value, but people don’t make decisions solely based on these factors. Markel urges research that also looks at fears, values, motivations and other psychographics in order to segment customers or prospects not just as lookalikes but also as “thinkalikes,” which can be especially helpful in crafting personalized content and messaging. Markel cites the examples of car buyers grouped by whether they value safety over performance, and food purchasers sorted for whether they stress healthy lifestyle or convenience. Past success is another reason segmentation can get stuck in a rut. Because segmentation requires an upfront investment, marketers tend to want to stick with proven targeting once the segmentation study is completed. But today’s hyper-personalized, digital environment has accelerated the pace of change in markets, perhaps shifting customer expectations and preferences away from an existing segmentation model. Markel advises an annual “look under the hood” of the segmentation engine to see if segments are still valid or need appending/updating. An annual audit can avoid the expense of a broader overhaul down the road.

Big Data Blindness Ignores Potential Audiences

One outcome of segmentation based on existing customers is blindness to potential audiences. Segmentation research often uses the existing customer base and surveys of people that marketers assume should be targeted. This can create marketing campaigns that miss groups that Markel calls “ghost segments,” people who could be among a brand’s best prospective customers. Markel suggests a periodic look at non-customers for conversion potential as one way to capture these “ghosts.” And, of course, if a new product or service is in the works, research should ask whether it will attract new groups differing from the existing customer profile. Another reason ghost segments are common is that marketers, overwhelmed by the task of sifting “big data,” fall back on whatever data sets are handy. Markel suggests that it would be better to bring in big data at the tail end of segmentation. He advises analysts to start by creating segments using primary research, add existing customer “big data” to target those segments more efficiently, and then plug segments into a data management platform for insights on other products, services, interests, and media that may correlate.

Analytics Miss Without a Companywide Strategy

Finally, Markel stresses that a segmentation study that ends up residing only with a few marketing decision-makers will fail to live up to its ROI potential. Customer and prospect insights have relevance for multiple departments and teams, from sales to customer service to finance. In order to deliver a seamless, personalized customer experience, Markel suggests creating 360-degree customer personas and promoting them throughout the organization. Management can start with workshops to educate employees on the use and importance of those personas both for their departments and the organization, and then can schedule check-ins to show team members the resulting benefits of segmentation and targeting implementation. If segments are made relatable, it will ensure they are used and embraced across the organization.

Predictive Analytics Can Harness Data for Marketing ROI

Beyond list brokerage, AccuList can support direct marketing clients with “predictive analytics,” meaning scientific analysis that leverages customer and donor data to predict future prospect and customer actions. It will scientifically “cherry-pick” names from overwhelming “big data” lists and other files. For example, AccuList’s experienced statisticians build customized Good Customer Match Models and Mail Match Models to optimize direct mail results for prospect lists, as well as one-on-one models for list owners to help acquire more new customers or donors. Plus, predictive models aid other marketing goals, such as retention, relationship management, reactivation, cross-sell, upsell and content marketing. Below are some key ways predictive analytics will harness data for better marketing ROI.

More Swift, Efficient and Effective Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is too often a sales and marketing collaboration, in which salespeople provide marketers with their criteria for a “good” lead and marketers score incoming responses, either automatically or manually, for contact or further nurturing. Predictive analytics will remove anecdotal/gut evaluation in favor of more accurate scoring based on data such as demographics/firmographics, actual behavior and sales value. It also speeds the scoring process, especially when combined with automation, so that “hot” leads get more immediate contact. And it allows for segmentation of scored leads so that they can be put on custom nurturing tracks more likely to promote conversion and sales.

Better List Segmentation for Prospecting, Retention and Messaging

With predictive analytics, list records can be segmented to achieve multiple goals. The most likely to respond can be prioritized in a direct mail campaign to increase cost-efficiency. Even more helpful for campaign ROI, predictive analytics can look at the lifetime value of current customers or donors and develop prospect matching so mailings capture higher-value new customers. Predictive analytics also can tailor content marketing and creative by analyzing which messages and images resonate with which customer segments, identified by demographics and behavior, in order to send the right creative to the right audience. Finally, analytics can develop house file segmentation for retention and reduced churn, looking at lapsed customers or donors to identify the data profiles, timing inflection points and warning signs that trigger outreach and nurturing campaigns.

Optimizing for Channel and Product/Services Offer

Data analysis and modeling can also be used to improve future marketing ROI in terms of channel preferences and even product/services development. By studying customer or donor response and behavior after acquisition, analytics can identify the most appropriate promotion and response channels, communication types, and preferred contact timing by target audience. Plus, a customer model can match demographics, psychographics and behavior with product and offer choices to tailor prospecting, as well as upsell or cross-sell opportunities, to boost future results.

Committing to a Good, Clean Customer Database

Reliable predictions require a database of clean, updated existing customer or donor records, with enough necessary demographics/firmographcs and transactional behavior for modeling. So, to prevent garbage-in-garbage-out results, AccuList also supports clients with list hygiene and management, including hygiene matching for DO NOT MAIL, NCOA and more, data appending of variables from outside lists, merge-purge eliminating duplicates and faulty records, response tracking with match-back, and more advanced list screening options.

Why Participate in Modeled Cooperative Databases?

Today’s modeled cooperative databases offer big advantages for B2C and B2B direct marketers, which is why AccuList now represents 18 private modeled cooperative databases that clients can use to optimize direct mail results. These databases include millions of merged, deduped, and “modeled and scored” hotline names from thousands of commercial and nonprofit participants.  At no charge, each can match the client’s database, model client postal addresses, and deliver optimized “look-alike” names.  The database will prioritize those modeled names by decile or quintile to help clients further identify targets most likely to respond to an offer or fundraising appeal.

Fear of Sharing Misses Optimizing Opportunities

Marketers sometimes hesitate to participate because of unfounded fears of sharing exclusive/unique customers, catalog buyers, subscribers or donors with membership-based database participants. Note that these databases generally match a marketer’s names against the cooperative database files and share transactional data. If there are matches, only transactional information is added to the cooperative database records; and if there are no matches, the unique names are not added to the pool.  Why do cooperative databases opt to incorporate only multi-occurring or duplicate records? Because that is data that tends to be far more predictive, with proven response. Plus, the reality is that very few names are unique to a firm, publication or fundraiser. About 80% to 90% of consumer prospects are multi-buyers and so are in the database already, and 90% of nonprofit donors give to two or more organizations and so also are already included in cooperative data. On the other hand, by participating to access a huge pool of names rich with demographic and transactional information, marketers can tap many more optimized prospects, improve list segmentation and testing, bump up response and conversion, hone creative and offer targeting, and increase mailing efficiency.

Modeled Data Offers Cost-Effective Prospect and House Mailing

Acquisition campaigns clearly can benefit from netting look-alike prospects from the large cooperative database pool, a real boon for regional or niche mailers who struggle to find acquisition volume. The large universe also allows for more segmentation to target not only higher response groups but more valuable response segments. In the case of nonprofits, that could be high-dollar donors, for example. Profiling and modeling can create better results from house names, too. Instead of mailing the whole house file, current customers, subscribers or donors can be flagged for likelihood of response and upsell, for channel and messaging preference, for risk of lapse/attrition, and more. Plus, modeled databases offer cost efficiency via an attractive list CPM; recent, clean, deduped records that lower mailing costs; and optimization selects (or deselects) that also boost mailing efficiency and ROI. Check out these arguments for nonprofit participation in modeled cooperative databases, as well as these useful best-practices tips for commercial mailers from Chief Marketer and Target Marketing magazine posts.

Choosing One (or More) Modeled Cooperative Databases

As an industry-recognized list brokerage, AccuList now represents a long list of private modeled cooperative databases, some specializing in B2C, some in B2B, and many offering modeled names for both B2B and B2C campaigns. In addition, as a value-added option, some modeled cooperative databases feature omnichannel targeting services that allow matching of optimized direct mail names with digital media, including Facebook. We can help you choose the right solution to fit your marketing goals with the following leading cooperative databases:

  • Abacus Alliance
  • Alliant
  • American List Exchange (ALEXA)
  • Apogee
  • Dataline
  • DonorBase® (Founding Member)
  • Enertex
  • I-Behavior
  • MeritBase B2B Cooperative Database
  • OmniChannelBASE®
  • PATH2RESPONSE
  • Pinnacle Business Buyer Database
  • Pinnacle Prospect Plus
  • Prefer Network
  • Prospector Consumer Fundraising Database
  • Target Analytics
  • TRG Arts
  • Wiland

Targeted E-mail Expands Museums’ Direct Marketing Options

While previous AccuList posts focused on direct mail strategies for our museum marketing clients, e-mail marketing is also an area where our expertise can help museums reach new members, event participants, or donors, as well as improve the performance of existing e-mail databases.

Study Museum E-mail Benchmarks and Success Stories

Evidence that e-mail can be a successful player in museums’ multi-channel campaigns comes from Constant Contact’s March 2019 e-mail statistics for house databases in the arts, culture and entertainment vertical (including museums and galleries), which show overall e-mail open rates averaging 17.54%, and click-through rates averaging 6.81% for the vertical. Those results are better than the all-industries averages of 16.74% open rate and 7.43% click-through rate, plus ahead of all but 13 of the 34 verticals tracked, and far ahead of some verticals, such as technology (e.g. web developers), automotive services, salons, retail and consulting. Marketers can also use e-mail to prospect for new members, donors and event participants. For example, marketers report success with event audience building via a series of e-mails that start with a promotion linked to ticket purchase, RSVP and/or social-sharing request, then follow up with reminders prior to the event, and finish with a post-event thanks e-mail that includes a request for an online review. Other successful e-mail series reward loyalty or re-engage dormant supporters by offering special perks (such as discounts). E-mail automation can make contact strategy even easier with programmed triggers, such as a re-engagement e-mail automatically sent six months after a last visit. For some creative inspiration, check out this nonprofit e-mail gallery and Pinterest grouping of museum e-mails.

Invest in Clean, Targeted E-mail Lists

Earning response to a house database or prospect list requires a few e-mail basics: 1) personalized, targeted messaging; 2) a brief subject line that inspires opens and engaging CAN SPAM-compliant creative content that inspires click-throughs; 3) mobile optimization of the e-mail with a clear call-to-action linked to a mobile-optimized digital landing page; and 4) an updated, clean opt-in e-mail list to avoid spam filters. As data experts, AccuList’s services especially focus on the last point. For responsive, targeted prospects, AccuList’s proprietary research has identified the top choices among opt-in e-mail rental lists (plus telemarketing and direct mail lists), including lists of museum members/donors, lists of museum mail-order buyers, and lists by type of museum and collection (download our free compilation of top list datacards). For clean, targeted house lists, AccuList points marketers toward database enhancement and hygiene, including identification of recent e-mail address changes through Electronic Change of Address (ECOA) lists, enhanced targeting by adding demographics from outside lists, and expanded e-mail reach by appending opt-in e-mails to postal records.

Pair Mobile-Optimized E-mail and Landing Pages

Every e-mail—regardless of target audience—needs a clear call-to-action linked to an online page that makes that action easy to accomplish. For fundraising e-mails, check out these best practices suggested by online fundraising software provider DonorBox: 1) include a prominent Donate Now button in the e-mail with a link to an online landing page, either one page for general donations or a page per specific project; 2) include suggested donation amounts on the landing page and tie those amounts to outcomes that show how they will improve the museum and visitors’ experiences; 3) optimize the e-mail and landing page for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets; 4) include recurring giving options on the online page for higher donor retention; 5) if appropriate include a donation “thermometer” or other graphic of progress on the donation page to encourage more donations; 6) allow for multiple secure payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in addition to credit cards; 7) and, finally, make sure the donation form and its processes are as simple, clear and quick as possible.

Combine Social Media Engagement With E-mail Targeting

E-mail can be a natural complement to social media campaigns, which is why social media networks themselves use e-mail marketing for customer retention. Museums can pair social media’s ability to engage and build brand, community and web traffic with e-mail’s advantage in delivering highly targeted and personalized messages, enhancing the power of both channels. Social media apps and forms can be used to capture new e-mail opt-in subscribers, for example. With platforms like Facebook, house e-mail data can be matched with the huge social audience to deliver demographics- and interest-targeted ads and promoted posts to existing names and lookalikes. Social media also is good at soliciting user-generated content (reviews, images, videos and posts), which can be used (with permission) in e-mails to boost response. And both social media and e-mail targets can be matched with direct mail for multi-channel power. Check out AccuList’s social media user lists, Facebook match and target options, and Digital2Direct programs combining direct mail with Facebook or e-mail lists.


Latest Data Shows Direct Mail Is Still Alive, Well and Effective

Some marketers theorize that “direct mail is dead” about as often as “Game of Thrones” fans theorize about the fate of favorite characters. So for all of AccuList’s current and future direct mail list and data services clients, here is current proof that direct mail is alive and well, and still a key direct marketing tool.

Marketing Mail Enters 2019 on a Growth Path

The U.S. Postal Service reports that revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2019 (October-December 2018) was up 2.9% to a $19.7 billion total over the same prior-year quarter. A decline in First Class Mail dollars and volume was more than offset by Marketing Mail’s 4.9% increase in revenue, up by $218 billion, and 4.8% bump in volume, up by 1 billion pieces, combined with Shipping and Packaging revenue growth of 8.7%, up by $516 million, and a 5.4% volume bump, up by 93 million pieces.

Mail Response Outpaces Other Channels

We’ve reported it before, but it bears repeating because it explains why direct mail is still an important marketing tool in this digital age: The 2018 DMA/ANA Response Rate Report shows an average direct mail response rate of 9% for house lists and 5% for prospect lists, stellar rates compared with response rates of 1% or less for e-mail, social media, paid search and display ads. In fact, lower mailbox volumes actually have helped turbocharge mail response in an era of digital promotional bombardment, from e-mail, to online ads to mobile ads. Consider that, each day, an average of 107 e-mails per person are received globally and an average 63 ads per person are viewed, but only an average of two pieces of mail are received per person. It’s clear which channel gets the audience attention and why 75% of households read or scan their direct mail ad materials daily, per a USPS 2016 study. Not only was direct mail the top purchase influencer among Baby Boomers, even beating out family and friend recommendations, per a 2015 MarketingCharts study, but even younger, digitally addicted generations are fans of direct mail, too. According to USPS studies, 77% of Millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising, 90% think direct mail advertising is reliable, 57% have made purchases based on direct mail offers, and 87% of Millennials say they like receiving direct mail. Direct mail works or an even younger group of consumers as well: 69% of 18- to 24-year-olds prefer reading print and paper communications over reading from a digital screen, per paper-producer Sappi.

Mail Wins by Being Trusted, Engaging and Personal

How can direct mail work so well across generations of consumers? First of all, in an age where trust in advertising is at a minimum, 76% of consumers say they trust direct mail when they want to make a purchase decision, and trust it more than digital channels, per a 2016 Marketing Sherpa study. Direct mail is also more engaging, memorable and persuasive, per neuroscience studies. In fact, a 2015 Canada Post neuroscience study of direct mail found that direct mail’s motivation response, its persuasive power, is 20% higher than digital media’s motivation response. Finally, in an age when personalization is expected and demanded, direct mail can harness multi-channel databases to machine learning/AI, variable data printing and behavior-based triggers to produce timely, highly personalized messaging, images and offers, way beyond the old first-name addressing of the past. Need more convincing? Check out direct mail solutions provider Compu-Mail’s slide show of 35 direct mail statistics for 2019.

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.