Leverage 2020 Trends With Direct Mail Push

For direct marketers hesitating over direct mail campaign investments, 2020 is the year to strike while the iron is hot—with a good economy, high response rates and flat costs. That’s especially true because the 2021 road may be a bit bumpier.

Economy, Response and Costs Give 2020 Mail Green Signals

The U.S. consumer is confident, the economy is projected to continue growing in 2020, and mailing cost inflation is minimal. Per the December 2019 Federal Open Market Committee, U.S. GDP growth is forecast to average 2%, lower than 2019’s 2.2% but far from recession. Meanwhile, consumer buying power should remain strong with an average unemployment rate of 3.5% in 2020 and a core inflation rate (stripping out volatile fuel and food prices) projected to average just 1.9% in 2020, while the Federal Reserve’s eased interest rates continue to buoy growth. So it’s no surprise that consumers are entering 2020 with positive outlooks: The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment for the U.S. was 99.3 for December of 2019, the highest reading since May of last year. And direct mail offers unique advantages for reaching those consumers, starting with high response rates. The last ANA/DMA data pegged average direct mail response at historic highs of 4.9% for prospect lists and 9% for house lists, way ahead of the 1% response rates of e-mail, social media and paid search. Meanwhile, low projected increases in key costs are clearing the way for ROI on mail investment as well.  For example, 2020 coated paper prices are projected to be held down by reduced demand, caused by a continued growth of electronic media use by advertising and publication printing, coupled with oversupply from new production capacity, especially in Asia. A strong U.S. dollar adds to downward price pressure. Meanwhile, postal rates for marketing mail in 2020 are expected to remain close to the average as enhanced carrier route letters go up less than average, with five-digit automation letter rates, entered at the SCF, projected to increase by 2.2%, and the high-density walk sequence carrier route letter rate, entered at the SCF, increasing only 1.1%.

After 2020, Mail Faces Rougher Economic Seas

Those who fail to take advantage of 2020’s positive direct-mail climate may soon regret the missed opportunity if costs rise and the aging economic growth cycle slips into recession. Potential postal rate increases are an especially dark cloud. In December, the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) proposed new rules for USPS rate-making that, if implemented for all classes of mail would increase rates by a massive 30%-50% over the following five years. Mailers and their organizations will want to join The Nonprofit Alliance and the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers in fighting such huge increases. At the same time, the economy, even if it stays out of recession, is projected to slow. The Federal Open Market Committee forecasts U.S. GDP growth to slow to 1.9% in 2021 and 1.8% in 2022, as a side effect of trade-war drags. Meanwhile, new data security and privacy legislation could pose significant challenges for data-driven marketing.

Data-Driven Efforts Face Privacy Legislation Challenges

The shift to more targeted, personalized and timely direct-mail campaigns is one reason that direct mail continues to turn in high responses at acceptable ROI. But using digital print technology, coupled with audience selection and segmentation, to personalize and target every component of a mail piece relies on data, and privacy laws are coming in to regulate the previously wide-open data market. Of course, there is the GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation), but most marketers are going to be more affected by new U.S. state and federal privacy law pushes. For example, California’s CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) went into effect January 1 of this year. It applies to for-profit businesses operating in California and collecting personal data if they have annual gross revenues over $25 million; annually buy, receive, sell, or share personal information of over 50,000 California consumers, households, or devices; and derive at least 50% of annual revenue from selling California consumers’ personal information. The regulation offers consumers the right to access information (including categories of data collected, shared or sold; categories of sources from which this personal information was collected, with whom it was shared, and to whom it was sold; specific pieces of personal information collected; and why the personal information was collected). Consumers also gain a right to deletion (the ability to request that a company delete personal information collected) and a right to opt out (the ability to direct a company to not sell personal information to third parties). Now The Nonprofit Alliance is alerting mailers that new data privacy and financial disclosure bills are in the offing. California, for one, isn’t done legislating in this area, and other states (such as Virginia) are following in California’s footsteps. Plus, the Senate is continuing an effort to draft a bipartisan national privacy statute led by the “Gang of Six”—Republicans Roger Wicker (MS), John Thune (SD), and Jerry Moran (KS); and Democrats Maria Cantwell (WA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Brian Schatz (HI)—and most Republican Senators appear to support legislation which would preempt state privacy statutes with a uniform national standard. For marketers, the hope must be that a national “rules of the road” for data privacy will be less onerous than a patchwork of state laws.

All these potential challenges ahead are making 2020 look like a good year to profit from direct mail and targeted lists! For more inspiring direct mail statistics, see this compilation from mail automation provider Inkit.

 

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

Mailers Can Use USPS 2019 Promos to Spur ROI

AccuList wants to remind all its direct marketing clients of the many 2019 U.S. Postal Service mailing promotions designed to increase response, engagement and ROI via new digital technologies and printing techniques, as well as traditional mail tactics.

Tactile, Sensory and Interactive

The registration and promotion periods have already begun for a Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mailpiece Engagement Promotion that will last from February 1 to July 31. With the goal of encouraging marketing mailers to boost customer engagement through the use of advanced print innovations in paper and stock, substrates, inks, interactive elements and finishing techniques, all USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats are eligible for the promotion’s upfront 2% postage discount.

Emerging and Advanced Technology

Registration has also begun for the Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion, open to First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail. The promotion, also offering an upfront 2% postage discount, spans the March 1 to August 31 period this year and is designed to help mailers to both compete with and leverage the increased use of interactive and digital options already available via e-mail, mobile and social media. It rewards incorporating into direct mail emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Near Field Communications (NFC), and Video in Print, as well as multi-channel mail integration with Addressable TV or digital assistants.

Earned Value Reply Mail

Hurry! Registration for this promotion closes March 31 for a promotion period from April 1 to June 30. It rewards mailings using Business Reply Mail (BRM), Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) and Share Mail envelopes and cards by providing them with a financial benefit when customers put those pieces back in the mail. New participants will earn a 3 cent credit per counted reply piece between April-June of 2019. Repeat participants must meet a threshold equating to 95% of the volumes counted during the same period in 2018 to earn the 3 cent per piece credit. Credits may be applied to postage for First-Class mail pre-sort & automation cards, letters and flats and Marketing Mail letters & flats, but credits must be used by December 31, 2019.

Personalized Color Transpromo

Created by USPS to encourage bill and statement producers to invest in dynamic/color printing technology to increase consumer response, this program also offers an upfront 2% postage discount. The Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion starts registration May 15 and runs from July 1 to December 31. First-Class Mail pre-sort and automation letters—bills and statements only—that meet the dynamic print and personalization requirements will be eligible for the upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion period. First-time participants must meet only the dynamic color print requirements.

Mobile Shopping

This promotion is the USPS acknowledgement that almost all marketing efforts include mobile shopping convenience today. Marketers who will send regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats combining mobile with print are encouraged to register starting June 15 for a Mobile Shopping Promotion that lasts from August 1 to December 31, right in time for the holiday season. There are many new mobile bar-code formats, in addition to Payment QRs, that can be leveraged to qualify for the upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion period.

Informed Delivery

This year’s Informed Delivery Promotion pushes a new USPS omnichannel tool. The Informed Delivery program allows residential consumers the free ability to digitally preview letter-sized mail and manage scheduled packages on their computers, tablets, or mobile devices. Marketing mail participants may create Informed Delivery scanned campaigns through the Portal or submit elements through eDoc submission. Regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats, and First-Class Mail pre-sort or automation letters, cards and flats meeting the promotion requirements will be eligible for an upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion. Register starting July 15 to take advantage of the September 1 to November 30 promotion period.

For more details go to https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions

Honoring Channel Preference Delivers Fundraising Wins

Donor control of communications channels is important for efficient fundraising contends DonorVoice’s The Agitator in a recent blog post worth passing along to AccuList USA’s fundraiser and fundraising consultant clients.

Cutting Costs and Boosting Deliverability

Fundraisers fret over opt-out rates in their efforts to grow donor files. Yet failing to learn and honor channel preference not only leads to higher opt-out rates but to wasteful marketing as well. People who opt out of telemarketing or e-mail channels are unlikely to give through that channel, so the resulting file reduction is actually a savings, cutting spending that annoys rather than produces. Plus sending e-mails to people who routinely don’t open them lowers overall e-mail deliverability, reducing e-mails that might get through to those who do want them, for another real but hidden cost.

Increasing Opt-ins and Donor Value

Giving channel control to donors can produce more quality file growth. DonorVoice has done two different tests of what causes people to opt in, and both show that donor communications control is the single biggest factor in whether someone will want to learn more from a nonprofit. Plus, another recent study by DonorVoice and the DMA Nonprofit Federation found that allowing donors control of their communications makes them more likely to donate, and that donors who provide and receive a communications preference tend to be more valuable donors. For example, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare coded people who requested less mail and sent them half as many appeals as those who stated no preference.  Those donors who requested and received half as many contacts actually gave more than the group that didn’t express a preference, per the DonorVoice article.  Catholic Relief Services also found that donors who requested a specific mail preference gave 6 to 8 times more per year, notes the same blog post. By asking for communications preference and honoring it, fundraisers identify more quality donors and make them more likely to stay.

Direct Mail Channel Still Leads With Donors

Despite the growth of online giving, channel preferences continue to favor direct mail, which is one reason it is still alive and kicking as a fundraising tool.  In fact, 73% of consumers say they prefer mail for brand communications, and that includes nonprofits, and 62% like checking the mail, per Epsilon research. Plus, mail gives nonprofits an edge in getting their message across since “brain science” research shows that printed appeals leave a deeper impression and stimulate more emotional processing. Plus, direct mail donors have higher retention rates; 31% of first-time offline donors are retained compared with 25% of new online donors, according to Blackbaud. For more on the case for fundraising direct mail, see this DonorVoice blog post.