Prep for 2020 Marketing With Clean, Personalized, Predictive Data

As 2019 closes, AccuList’s data services clients have a year’s worth of multichannel customer, campaign and sales information to analyze and inform 2020 plans. So what are the big trends that the data pros foresee will deliver maximum ROI?

Data Hygiene Issues Remain a Priority

Clean, up-to-date, quality data is still the basis for good marketing analyses and campaign planning. A November Business2Community post by marketer Dan Moyle helpfully summarized the key data cleansing tasks that businesses need to undertake to hit the ground running in 2020. After all, it’s estimated that 20% of the average contact database is dirty, so this is not a trivial effort. Increasing marketing efficiency, response and customer loyalty, requires removing data errors and inconsistencies. Start by monitoring data for issues such as duplicates, missing information or bad records to figure out how and where they are occurring. Then standardize processes at each entry point. Next validate the accuracy of data across the database by investing in data tools or expert data services, and commit to regular cleansing and maintenance of data quality. Identify and scrub duplicates. Once the data has been standardized, validated and de-duped, improve its analytic value by using third-party data appending sources (to flesh out demographics, psychographics, firm-ographics, purchase history, etc.) for a more complete customer picture. Establish a feedback process to spot and update, or purge, incorrect information, such as invalid e-mail addresses identified by a campaign. And communicate standards and processes to the whole team so that they understand the value of clean data in segmentation targeting, lead response, customer service and more.

Using Data for an Agile, Personalized, Customer-Centric Edge

Data trends figured prominently in the 2019 Martech Conference and a recent article from martech firm Lineate highlights a few keynotes, such as the role of data in personalization. When a 2019 RedPoint Global survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers finds that 63% expect personalization as a standard of service and want to be individually recognized in special offers, personalized marketing is clearly a competitive essential. Expect to see use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) increase in 2020 as personalization tools. Machine learning is when a computer is able to find patterns within large amounts of data in order to improve or optimize for a specific task. For example, for more personalized offers and messaging in acquisition, this means using ML to recognize if people from certain areas are more likely to respond to a specific offer or which past high-response special offers may resonate in future . Personalization is also key to the customer-centric experience proven to drive long-term retention and brand loyalty–as opposed to getting the same message again and again. When personalization is combined with elimination of data silos and creation of a single customer view across channels, marketing becomes especially powerful. Indeed, integrated database development and the elimination of data silos are also key to the growing “agile marketing” trend. Agile marketing breaks down team silos (which assumes breaking down data silos) in favor of teams focusing on high-value projects collectively. According to a 2018 survey by Kapost, 37% of businesses have already adopted agile marketing, and another 50% said they haven’t yet become agile but expect to be soon.  

Taking Data Insights From Retroactive to Predictive

Looking ahead to 2020, marketers should also consider adding predictive modeling to their toolkit if they haven’t already done so. Why? A study by ClickZ and analytics platform provider Keen found that 58% of marketers using predictive modeling experienced a 10%-25% ROI lift, while another 19% saw more than a 50% uplift. While retroactive campaign data can be very useful for reporting and results analysis, it’s not always as good for informing future multichannel directions, for optimizing media investments, or for quick execution and performance assessment. In fact, nearly 80% of Keen/ClickZ survey respondents felt they’d missed opportunities because of slow or inaccurate decision-making using non-predictive data reporting. For example, standard data analysis often fails to span all channels (e.g., online video vs. store-level programming) and mistakenly gives most credit to last-click channels such as search or transactional activities. In contrast, the Keen/ClickZ survey found marketers using predictive modeling boosted results in multiple areas, including a better understanding of the target audience (71%), optimizing of touchpoints on the customer journey (53%), and improving creative performance (44%). Predictive modeling also can help businesses synthesize large volumes of data, a key concern for many; in fact, 38% indicated their current measurement solutions do not support the scale of their data.

 

Ticketing and Giving Trends Are Positives for Performing Arts

Heading into 2020, AccuList’s performing arts marketing clients can take advantage of positive trends in both fundraising and ticketing sales according to recent studies.

Performing Arts Giving Holds Steady 

While the Giving USA 2019 report released in June showed declines for many charitable giving sectors from 2016 to 2018, arts fundraising stood out by remaining relatively flat. Adjusted for inflation, giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased 11.1% between 2016 and 2017, declined 2.1% between 2017 and 2018 (though a 0.3% increase in current dollars) and ended up with a cumulative increase of 8.7% between 2016 and 2018, thanks to 2017 donations that reached the highest inflation-adjusted amount for the sector on record. Underneath the numbers are three important lessons for our performing arts clients, as fundraising counsel Alexander Haas points out in a recent post. First, a focus on high net-worth individuals via upper-level membership programs, project-related major gifts, and targeted marketing campaigns is likely to pay off, as proven by 2018’s 2.6% increase in gifts of $1,000 or more, and the fact that, of the 90% of high-net worth households giving, a quarter focused on arts donations. Second, targeted campaigns and quality donor lists are essential as fewer individuals give and a greater percentage of philanthropic revenue comes through larger gifts. Finally, online giving can be a boon to performing arts; for example, the Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report showed that online gifts represented 9.5% of overall giving to arts organizations in 2018, and the 5.8% growth in online giving to the arts outpaced other nonprofit sectors by four times. Making online giving a convenient option for donors and members is one way to offset the decline in smaller gifts.

Marketing Innovations Help Ticketing Upward Trend

An October Reportlinker market research report forecasts a 5% compound annual growth in ticket sales from sporting events, movies, concerts, and performing arts events in the 2020-2024 period. While sporting events and concerts popularity is a key driver of growth, the research also credits a number of innovative marketing strategies for pushing ticket revenue, such as flash sales, early-bird offers, access codes, public discounts and adoption of mobile applications to make tickets more readily available to consumers. The integration of analytics with online ticket platforms–to automate services, to enhance more efficient back-end operations, and to better track and monitor consumer preferences–is also seen by researchers as a positive for ticket sales growth. Meanwhile, the secondary ticket market, especially in sports, is projected to have an even higher 9% compound annual growth rate in the same period despite a rise in fraudulent activities and artist opposition. A positive on this front is the adoption of blockchain to keep track of buyers and sellers in the secondary ticket market, helping to prevent fraud by scalpers, bots and touts.

For more detail on performing arts giving trends see the Alexander Haas post.

 

Case Studies Show How Nonprofits Can Improve Donor Mail Results

As AccuList’s nonprofit fundraising clients enter their busiest direct mail season, the team thought it might be worthwhile to pass along three case studies from the CharityHowTo blog, showing some basic ways to pump direct mail performance.

The Case for Donor List Segmentation

Donor list segmentation is essential, and delivers dividends even for those starting from scratch. For example, the blog post cites the case of a new executive director at a human services organization that lacked results of historical appeals in terms of targeting and pieces sent. The executive director decided to develop a recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) segmentation and so exported the donor base and began to divide it into sections by last gift date, amount of donation (high to low) and most recent to older. In this case, the executive director broke out donors who had given a gift of $250 or more at some point; these “best” donors were going to receive the same appeal as the others, but the new executive director was also going to include a handwritten personal note with each letter and send the appeal by first-class mail. All other donors were broken out by recency, treating the 0-24 months donors as  “active” donors, and then further segmenting for those giving below $100 and those giving $100-$249.99. There was a separate segment of “lapsed” donors defined as donors who hadn’t given in the last 3 to 5 years, and even a deep lapsed segment who hadn’t given in 5 years or more. Then all segments, coded for results tracking, were mailed a personalized letter and personalized reply form. Even though just starting out, results improved in terms of total donations and efficiency, with an overall cost of just $0.04 for every dollar raised (compared with an industry average cost of $0.20 cited by the blog). Plus, the nonprofit now had proven segmentation results for use in further improvement of efficiency and targeted messaging.

The Case for Increased Mail Frequency

If you don’t ask, you won’t get, but nonprofits worried about costs and donor fatigue often err on the conservative side when deciding how frequently donors should be mailed. The blog cites the case of a homeless shelters executive director who was initially against mailing more than twice a year, even though they had some 65+ homeless people that they were supporting each day. Because they needed to raise more money, they finally tried adding two more appeals per year. Of course, the added appeals increased costs, but they also increased net revenue by 32%. The cost to raise a dollar with two appeals was $0.12, and with 4 appeals went up to $0.20, yet the overall net dollars after costs rose from $51,227 to $67,590.

The Case for Tapping Recent Donors

Research shows that donors who gave most recently are also most likely to give again. For doubters, try testing a segment of recent donors (0-3 months or 0-6 months). And of course, you will want to segment out those recent donors who give the largest amounts and offer special treatment, such as an appeal with a personal note of thanks for their gift and an indication that you’re just sending the latest appeal for their information only (even though of course you’re going to include a reply envelope). However, the case study of an environmental organization shows why hesitancy to mail a donor too soon is often misguided. The organization typically mails about 5 times a year; once someone reaches the $1,000 level, they go into a personal note stream. Results show that while the 7-month-to-one-year donors deliver the most net revenue and average gift, the next best performing segment is the recent 0-to-3-month donors in terms of net revenue and average gift!

 See the complete article for useful charts and details.

Positive Industry Trends Buoy Museum Marketing

AccuList’s museum marketing clients can take heart from a number of trends that are boosting museum appeal to visitors and donors, according to a recent report on the museum industry from ticketing solutions provider Acme Technologies.   

Demographics, Political Angst, Tech Innovations Boost Museum Interest

Demographics favor museum marketers, the report notes. The baby-boomer generation, the most populous generation still living today, is made up of the most loyal frequenters of museums and galleries among generations, while data shows the tech-savvy millennial generation, which demands stimulation and interactivity, is being wooed by modern museums’ innovative tech and design. Museum appeals are even benefiting from our contentious politics today as conflicting media, heated partisanship, and rapid social change drive the public to seek out museums as safeguards of knowledge, culture, and history. Finally, technology trends are transforming museums from halls of dusty relics to efficient institutions using novel and interactive solutions to improve visitor experiences, with digital systems integration, VR, and greater disabled accessibility for example.

New Tactics Help Museum Marketers Leverage Trends

The Acme report notes a number of tactics that will help museum marketers leverage the demographic, cultural and technological trends in their favor. For one, galleries, zoos and other foundations can integrate traditional displays with innovative tools that allow audiences to experience collections in new ways. For example, the Netherlands’ Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is using Virtual Reality to provide a unique view of the famous painter’s works, while the Cleveland Museum offers a digital map that visitors can access via their smartphones to navigate exhibits. Social media is another boon for savvy marketers. Instagrammable selfies are becoming intentional features in museum tours as an attractive souvenir that visitors create themselves. An example is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Snap + Share” show about social media, photography, and “selfie culture” influence on art. One interactive hit is an artwork that encourages visitors to snap a selfie with their head in a freezer, and tag the museum in the resulting Instagram post. Finally, museum and zoo marketers are increasing reliance on data-driven decisions. Data analytics offer insight into museum-goer trends for strategies that widen audiences and increase donations. The report cites the example of The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain, which hired data analytics provider Synergic Partners to analyze tourist visitation trends for a special Picasso exhibit. Information gathered showed the most common nationalities of visitors, and allowed the museum to better cater to their needs and expectations. For more marketing trends and examples, see the full museum industry trend report.

Catalog Marketing Retains Its Retail Clout

Consumer retail catalogs, far from fading away with the growth of e-commerce, have continued to deliver for our omnichannel retail clients. A Multichannel Merchant blog post earlier this year cites a number of reasons why retailers should consider expanding, reviving or initiating a catalog marketing effort, especially with an eye to upcoming holiday spending.

Catalogs Boost Engagement, Response Across Channels

Catalogs are not, as some assumed, favored only by older buyers, while younger buyers focus on digital channels. In fact, research has shown that 65% of millennial target buyers have made a purchase influenced by a catalog. Today’s lower mail volumes combine with the unique visual and tactile qualities of print to make catalogs stand out in terms of engaging interaction for younger generations, boosting response over online display and even e-mail. Retailers who integrate catalogs with stores, websites and mobile in omnichannel acquisition campaigns boost response and conversion overall. For example, researchers have found that 20% of first-time customers make a purchase on a retailer’s website after receiving a catalog.

Technology Allows for Personalized Targeting, Fulfillment

Today’s more sophisticated data analytics and marketing technologies let marketers track spending habits and response across channels to better leverage catalogs as part of omnichannel marketing campaigns. Retailers can not only use use variable data printing to personalize catalogs based on demographics and purchase behavior but can then use intelligent fulfillment technology to integrate targeted catalogs and samples into the existing fulfillment operation to expand brand marketing opportunities. To capitalize on online response to print catalogs, retailers can use innovations such as quick codes applied to printed catalog products for easier online purchasing. And they can use nimbler, on-demand printing to offer repeat customers a catalog built to their unique interests. Warehouse technology then can put the right catalogs in the right customers’ hands quickly and seamlessly. Certainly, retailers should consider how leveraging technology will make holiday catalogs into better sales drivers. For example, as the Multichannel Merchant post notes, retailers with order packing software in place can simply assign an SKU to a catalog or a pending holiday “Buyer’s Guide,” include the SKU in order packing software rules, and pack a catalog in each shipment as part of a holiday campaign, boosting brand recognition and repeat customers.

Is Your Direct Marketing Ready for Gen Z?

Generation Z is arriving in the marketplace. Gen Z, also called post-Millennials and the iGeneration, includes young people born in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, who are now graduating and getting their first jobs. Any b2c marketer ignoring this group is risking the bottom line since Gen Z members not only make up 25.9% of the U.S. population now but will account for 40% of all consumer markets in 2020. Their annual purchasing power is already $44 billion and growing as they advance in the workforce. If you add their influence on parental spending, Gen Z accounts for closer to $200 billion in annual purchasing. Is your direct marketing ready?

The Challenges of Winning Over Gen Z

Wooing Gen Z will require marketers to amend their playbooks. Oberlo, an e-commerce agency, recently discussed Gen Z marketing challenges in its blog. IWCO Direct, a data marketing agency, comes to similar conclusions in a post. First, Gen Z members have a short attention span; marketers have only about 8 seconds to capture their notice, which is even shorter than the 11 seconds required to grab the attention of the typical Millennial. This means content must be targeted, relevant, to the point and quick to engage. Second, Gen Zers have a higher number of technological devices and are constantly jumping from one device to another. While Millennials bounce between three screens at one time, Generation Z can use up to five screens at the same time. Multi-channel, multi-platform, mobile-optimized campaigns are required to reach this generation. Third, Gen Z young adults have strong opinions and, raised to expect personalization, demand that marketers customize experiences. They will be very critical of advertising that fails to meet their standards for authenticity and meaningful interaction. What is meaningful? Gen Z members want to buy from companies that support their values, for example; 55% of Gen Z chooses brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible. Yet Gen Z has less brand loyalty than prior generations and is less motivated by traditional loyalty programs, although they can be wooed with interaction, such as online games or events. And while Gen Zers are definitely social media fans, they use social platforms differently than prior generations. A study by Response Media found that Gen Z favors Snapchat to showcase real-life moments, gets news from Twitter and gleans some information from Facebook, although they see Facebook as a platform for older people. Market Wired research shows that Instagram is their most popular app for brand discovery, with 45% using it to find new products. YouTube video is another way to reach Gen Z.

Gen Z Was Weaned on Digital, But Print Marketing Still Works

However, direct mail marketers shouldn’t assume only a digital strategy can work with Gen Z. As IWCO Direct points out, Gen Z actually finds print media more trustworthy. An MNI Targeted Media study found that 83% surveyed said they turn to printed newspapers for trusted news instead of the Internet. Gen Z does not trust information on the Internet unless it comes from a website ending in .org or .edu, research showed. In fact, since Gen Z is online so often and using multiple devices, the biggest challenge is making a lasting impression, which is where trusted print material, such as direct mail that can be physically touched and revisited, offers an advantage. Omnichannel marketing that advertises on multiple online platforms and is combined dynamically with print is more likely to increase brand recognition than digital alone, per studies. For more insight on Gen Z marketing, including content and influencer strategies, check out this recent Forbes article.


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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.