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.

2019 Marketing Creative: Simple, Bold, Interactive Design

A new year brings new marketing creative inspirations for AccuList USA’s direct marketing clients, for both digital and printed promotions. Some interesting trends are shaping up, per graphics and ad agency experts.

Simplified Design, Bold Colors & Retro Vibes Win in 2019

The Ballantine and Brand Shouter agencies and the Digital Agency Network suggest some key digital creative trends to embrace this year, many of which can also be applied to direct mail and print advertising. This year, expect more clean, minimalist designs and less use of borders, bars and boxes to separate elements, all say. At the same time, minimalist doesn’t mean drab; more designers are forecast to embrace bright colors and bold color transitions and gradients with black or white text. And speaking of type, Brand Shouter foresees more beautiful, complimentary, brand-consistent typography as well, especially since marketers are shifting toward more text-only designs, while DAN forecasts more use of multicolored vector fonts. Plus, thanks to print technology advances, metallics will rise in popularity to pop in simplified designs, per DAN. Meanwhile, the minimalist flat look, which works well in mobile presentations, also can be livened with the inclusion of 3D elements, as Apple is doing, notes Brand Shouter. And since everything old is new again at some point, several retro trends are forecast. DAN sees use of the bold duotone graphics of the 1970s as well as vintage fonts and motifs, while Ballantine thinks the bright colors and funky designs of the 1990s and early 2000s, which remind many of today’s designers and target buyers of childhood, will reappear to leverage nostalgia. Finally, hand-drawn illustrations will be used to create that feeling of originality and authenticity, predicts DAN.

Story-telling, Video and Mobile Will Be Ubiquitous

Ballantine underscores three ubiquitous trends for creative this year. Video will only continue its impact in marketing, especially in social media, now that 54% of Internet users watch social media videos at least monthly and 65% of ad impressions on Instagram come from video ads, making video a necessary part of most creative budgets. Story-telling over selling is another general trend, especially in social media advertising, where story ads are designed to reflect a platform’s personal user experience rather than slick promotion, mimicking a post from a friend. Finally, marketing design must cater to mobile users now that 57% of online searches originate on mobile devices, almost 50% of web page views worldwide occur on mobile devices, and 95% of Americans own a cellphone and 57% own a smartphone. Any creative that is not mobile-optimized is sacrificing a huge market.

Watch for Interactivity and Diversity to Break New Ground

A Marketing Week article goes beyond colors, fonts and platforms to highlight other underlying trends likely to impact 2019 creative. For example, the rise of voice-enabled technology creates a push for sonic branding to complement visual creative across platforms, channels and media. Look for brands to begin to weave sound into interactive video, chatbots and voice recognition software. Visa, for example, spent a year working on a signature “chime,” heard whenever customers pay through their phones, to evoke a sense of security and efficiency. Meanwhile, the growing demand for diversity within organizations and their outreach to customers will push marketing creative beyond stock photos of diverse employees or graphics of multicolored hands, suggests Marketing Week. In fact, businesses can use creative development as a non-confrontational, thought-provoking, story-led effort to honestly address concerns. For example, multinational food services and facilities management firm Sodexo launched a campaign supporting its disability inclusion commitment with new creative that presented people as tennis coaches, parents and musicians, rather than focusing on their disabilities.

Check out this useful infographic that includes many of these marketing design predictions at https://venngage.com/blog/graphic-design-trends/

 

2019 Trends Open Doors for More Direct Mail Success

Direct mail lists and data services are core to AccuList USA’s business success, so each year we research which trends our direct mail marketing clients will want to embrace for maximum response–and which trends are fading in effectiveness.

Digital Ad Tune-outs Offer Mail Opportunities

Digital issues can create direct mail opportunities, points out direct mail agency Inkit, noting that customers are tuning out digital advertising, whether e-mails, banners or social media promos. In fact, eMarketer estimates that 30% of all Internet users will use ad blockers in 2019. One way to offset the drop in digital ad effectiveness is to beef up direct mail campaigns. Note that ANA-DMA research shows that 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail and 64% would rather scan for useful information in the mail than e-mail. Plus, 41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers report enjoying catalogs. That engagement translates into higher response rates for mail than for any other media, per the 2018 ANA-DMA Response Rate Report, with 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospect lists.

Snail Mail Can Join the 2019 Video Boom

While digital ads are being ignored, digital video is booming; Inkit reports that Cisco projects video will encompass more than 85% of all Internet traffic in the U.S. by 2020! Direct mail doesn’t have to be left out. Thanks to print technology–QR, AR, Video-in-Print and Near Field Communication (NFC)–paper promotions can jump on the video bandwagon and further boost their own mail response.

2019 Demands Personalized, Cross-Channel Campaigns

Customers in 2019 will expect marketers to personalize offers and deliver a seamless experience across channels, Inkit asserts, requiring integration of online, e-mail, direct mail, social media, mobile, and in-store campaigns. In fact, retailing research recently found that close to 90% of retailers say integrated cross-channel or omnichannel marketing is key to success. AI is one way marketers are getting a handle on messaging across channels and at different points in the buyer journey, which can help decide timing and targeting of direct mail. Meanwhile, for mail, variable data content printing and enhanced database targeting and segmenting can deliver the personalized relevant messaging that will be a basic of 2019 marketing.

Take Variable Data Printing to the Next Level in 2019

Yet when it comes to printing and personalization, there are some popular direct mail practices that need to be ditched this year, advises direct marketing agency Darwill. For example, using a 4-color master shell on which variable content is laser-printed in black and white has become old-hat given that new inkjet presses can create endless 4-color versions for a more targeted and engaging campaign. Along the same lines, the custom maps laser-printed in black and white can be replaced by full-color variable maps that are more personalized, eye-catching, and likely to drive leads.

Use Envelopes to Intrigue Outside; Put Tailored Offers Inside

This year, instead of revealing all details of a promotional offer on the outside envelope to drive opens, Darwill advises that a promotional pitch that is visible but not fully revealed on the envelope is likely to work better–a sneak peek at a personalized offer. Then once the recipient opens the envelope, he or she better not find one-size-fits-all content! Luckily, with today’s full-color inkjet technology, a letter or a coupon can now be varied based on a recipient’s past shopping patterns or demographics.

 

 

 

Smart List, Mail Design Choices Help Save on Postage

Direct mail has higher average response rates than digital choices, but maximizing mail ROI requires cost efficiency, especially in the postage realm. Good list selection and hygiene are key to avoiding mailing waste, and this is one area where AccuList USA’s expertise in targeted mailing lists selection and data services can certainly aid clients. Another important factor in controlling postage costs is mail package design. An article by Target Marketing magazine’s Summer Gould offers a great summary of how smart choices in lists and design can add up to savings.

Targeted, Clean Lists Cut Postage Waste

If you are sending mailings to the wrong people, people unlikely to be interested in your offer, lower response rate and cost inefficiency will be reflected in poor ROI. Using tools from predictive modeling to customer profiling to segmentation can improve list choices and targeting parameters. Plus, AccuList USA’s proprietary list research can help clients find the top-performing lists for their specific vertical market. But no matter how data is targeted, dirty data with duplicates, errors, invalid addresses, and old demographic or purchase history information will create costly delivery failures and misdirected waste. That’s why AccuList USA goes beyond list brokerage to provide expert merge-purge services that combine and standardize data in order to eliminate duplicates, identify and correct old or undeliverable addresses, verify zip codes, and maximize postal discounts. In fact, by comparing names and addresses to real-time information on multiple public and private databases, AccuList USA offers an advanced hygiene regimen that is able to identify and correct twice as many addresses as standard USPS FASTforward and NCOALink use, which only represent a portion of U.S. movers and undeliverables.

Careful Design Wins Postage Discounts

USPS offers postage discounts to mail pieces that are not only addressed correctly but also designed for processing on automated equipment. For mail to qualify for the lowest postage rates, the mail piece needs to be at a letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5″ long and a maximum of 6″ high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category, which can cost more than twice as much per piece as a letter. Plus, to take advantage of automation, the piece must by rectangular, with an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage. Then the addressing and barcode block on letter size mail must fit into the USPS OCR read area to avoid additional postage. For tri-folded self-mailers, the address must be on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage. Naturally, weight matters.  Keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce; if the piece weighs over 3 ounces, it must go in an envelope. Thickness counts, too  If a mail piece is less than 0.009″ thick, it costs more in postage. On the other hand, the  maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”. The best advice is to consult with your mailing service provider about any new design in advance. For more, see https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/save-money-postage/

 

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

Purchase the whole report or see a free summary article for more data.

Pet Charity Mailer’s Creative Opens Hearts & Wallets

AccuList USA has a long and successful history with mailing lists and data services targeting “pet parents” and organizations offering pet-related products, services and causes. One of the surefire ways to engage an audience is to use adorable animal pictures combined with copy crafted to open hearts–and wallets. So here’s a recent example of direct mail to inspire our pet marketing clients, courtesy of a post by Target Marketing magazine.

Envelope That Uses Hard-to-Say-No Pictures & Teasers

Best Friends, which runs the largest no-kill U.S. animal sanctuary across multiple locations, was seeking donations for its mission of ending pet homelessness. The outer envelope of their newsletter package immediately grabs attention with a picture of one of the nonprofit’s doggie stars. The heart-tugging gaze is hard to ignore, especially coupled with an intriguing teaser: “Hey, whatever happened to Justin? Find out inside!”

Emotionally Moving Letter With Up-Front Reply Form

When recipients open the envelope, they find a newsletter showcasing the sad story of a pup who had a rough start, including a photo to tug at donor heartstrings. And once emotions are triggered, the format makes it easy to act by putting a donation reply form and call-to-action right at the top of the letter.

Including Proof of Dollar Impact & Mission Value

If prospective donors still hesitate, the Best Friends’ copy offers data on the importance and urgency of action by providing examples of the impact that specific dollar-amount donations will have. The copy also educates recipients on the organization’s mission, vision and history so they connect with the larger cause.

Since a picture, especially one of a winsome pup, is worth a thousand words, take a look at the actual mail piece by going to the article.

Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282 

Always Be Testing: Even the Best Mail Control Gets Tired

AccuList USA’s successful direct mail marketers seek to optimize response by constantly testing creative (as well as lists), because they know that even the best control package can lose its punch and need refurbishing or replacing.

Understanding the Sources of Control Success and Fatigue

Since direct mail testing can be expensive, especially multivariate testing where each variable tested needs a large enough mailed group for statistically valid results, it is important to think through why response to a proven control can flag and what changes are worth testing. A recent Target Marketing magazine article, by direct marketing consultant Gary Hennerberg, addresses the issue by reminding marketers of basics: The control has succeeded better than other mailing packages because, using the right list, the marketer has matched the offer’s emotional hot buttons and unique selling proposition to the prospects’ awareness of both their problem and the marketer’s solution at the time. But that alignment between prospect and promotion is not static.

As Brand Awareness Grows, Control Effectiveness Can Shrink

After mailing the same direct mail control package over and over (or using the same digital message), the majority of targeted prospects have either seen your pitch or been educated by other media, so your message may no longer fit with their knowledge and needs. “If you don’t stay on top of this changing awareness and understanding, your direct mail control package, or messaging in other channels, fatigues, and you’ll wonder why,” Hennerberg warns. He suggests that marketers commit to a program 1) assessing prospect awareness of the problem solved by the marketed product or service; 2) creating multiple creative approaches that align with different prospect awareness levels; and 3) testing creatives (headlines, leads, formats, etc.) against each other and the control to find the sweet spot. An important caveat: If a mail package seems to go over the heads of the current market, consider re-testing in future when the time may be ripe in terms of prospect interest.

For a basic overview of direct mail testing, see http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/direct-mail-ab-test/

 

 

How Acquisition Mailing Won With Price, Premium, Benefits Copy

While many of our direct mail clients recently have focused on the secret to millennial response, AccuList USA’s direct mail consulting keeps a close eye on mail tactics that work well with older and general audiences, too. A case in point is a recent Target Marketing magazine case study sharing the Mayo Clinic Health Letter’s expertise in testing toward maximum acquisition response for its control. With its huge 2 million to 5 million mail pieces per quarter, Mayo has a lot of room for testing and 17 years of success to back up its results!

Pricing & Premiums Lift Response

Targeting an older audience (age 70 and up), the Mayo Clinic mailer has long used an oversized kraft outer envelope with a simple teaser that appeals to the older market preference for courtesy: “Please favor us with a reply within 10 days.” Successfully tested changes include shifting the envelope size from 11″x 14″ to a 10″ x 14″ to save money, but other inside-package tweaks have delivered the response boosts.  For example, the letter now leads with pricing, a “tough times” stress on the per issue $1.97 over an annual savings. A spot-glued lift note with a testimonial segues into a personalized, boxed reference to that testimonial on the first page of the letter.  But one of the most significant response-getters has been the addition of a premium in the form of existing internal special reports–on weight loss or arthritis, for example–offered for free.

Long, Easy-Read Letter Targets Seniors

The control has also increased its lift by moving to an eight-page letter, up from the original four-page pitch. The results are proof that longer copy can outdo short copy when it comes to self-help offers and older markets. For one, the long-form letter allows marketers to pack in more benefits. Second, it allows for a larger type size. For example, the Mayo letter has shifted to a 14-point type as a boon to aging eyesight and a way to distinguish its approach as more personal and less corporate. And the package includes a full page on “The Mayo Clinic Story” of pioneering research and patient care to build brand awareness and value validation.

A 3-in-1 Response Device Packs a Punch

The mailer’s reply card page has three-in-one power: reply form, premium stuffer and a BRE, in yellow to stand out in the package. Other smart tweaks include a “No-Risk Certificate” reply card numbered to show exclusivity. Plus, to keep recipients from losing focus while searching for a pen and laboring over a form, the bill-me-only reply uses involvement stickers. To download the complete case study, go to http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/resource/acquisition-mail-case-study-editorial-premiums-benefit-filled-copy/