Amid Virus Disruption, Direct Mail Has ‘Optichannel’ Advantages

As the majority of American adults hunker down at home, with all but essential businesses closed or working remotely because of the COVID-19 crisis, AccuList reminds marketers of the unique advantages of targeted direct mail, which takes promotions right into homes, has the highest response rate of any channel, and has the ability via print technology to connect with digital, too.

Direct Mail Can Rise Above the Current Digital Noise

Direct-response agency SeQuel Response notes that since the majority of American have responded to state lockdowns and virus fears by increasing their online shopping, many direct marketers have flooded the digital zone with new e-commerce sites, digital advertising, social media promotions, and e-mail. With online channels increasingly overcrowded, direct mail offers an alternative way to reach consumers in their homes and an opportunity to rise above the noise. The agency provides some good tips for direct mail in the time of COVID: 1) Ensure creative elements and messaging align with consumer sentiments and promote social responsibility and even national pride for positive brand awareness; 2) reconsider mail frequency and timing if warranted for a particular product/service, but make sure not to lose touch with the audience; 3) solidify existing customer relations, with increased focus on retention and brand awareness to help survive on the other side of the crisis; 4) integrate direct mail with digital marketing, a proven way to boost campaign performance and reduce CPA, including print technology, such as QR, AR and VR; and, finally 5) plan for the post-crisis world, recognizing that a campaign takes six weeks from list development to creative production to mail drop, and make sure messaging and brand positioning can evolve post-crisis.

Leverage Mail Strengths With Modeling, Digital Alignment

Given the coronavirus disruption of buying processes, “optichannel” campaigning, meaning supporting a prospect’s or customer’s shopping and buying process using the channel that is best for them, becomes essential for ROI. Direct mail adds special advantages to an optichannel mix, especially when combined with modeling and digital integration, argues a recent Target Marketing magazine article. Among the article’s examples is Galileo Learning, which operates 75 children’s summer camps across parts of California and Illinois. The company used tight response-lift customer modeling to identify higher-response prospects on external lists and then used the resulting savings to create even better creative. As a result, response surpassed expectations by bringing in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. Another Target Marketing case study is especially relevant for nonprofit fundraisers trying to help the most vulnerable in the current COVID-19 crisis. It comes from Meals on Wheels in the Diablo region of California, whose mailed holiday donor appeal garnered $230,000 in donations and 43% new donors. The charity attributes the 75,000-piece mail campaign’s success to, first, defining more-responsive list segments for existing donors, lapsed donors and prospects via demographics and customer-look-alike modeling, and, second, adding targeted digital advertising (e-mail, social and online display). The added digital effort not only delivered a 600% increase in campaign impressions over the mail-only control, the donors acquired by the “optichannel” campaign gave an average of 169% more than mail-only donors.

COVID-19 Crisis Alters Tactics for Fundraising Success

In a previous post, AccuList joined other experts to stress the importance of nonprofit clients staying the course on fundraising despite the coronavirus crisis altering the social and economic landscape. But fundraising tactics will need to alter to navigate that landscape, of course. Recent fundraising pro articles highlight some smart ways to approach existing and potential donors during the crisis.

Adapt by Expanding Digital Communications & Events

In a recent NonProfit PRO post, for example, C.J. Orr, vice president, and Katie Nichols, senior associate director, of the Orr Group fundraising agency, put together some quick tactic shifts for fundraisers, especially those that had been counting on events to tap donors. First of all, don’t panic and cancel events, they advise, but reschedule or repurpose. If an event can be postponed, a nonprofit may be able to transfer tickets/table buyers to the future event instead of giving or issuing a refund, and can add touchpoints with donors and prospects along the way. Or, the fundraiser can switch to a digital event, perhaps with livestreaming. Indeed, this is an opportunity to go digital in multiple targeted ways, they suggest, starting with more social media ads, paid search ads and SEO efforts aimed at the target audience. For example, now is a good time for a digital forum, such as a virtual “fireside-chat” with a subject matter expert discussing COVID-19 and its impact on the mission and incorporating a fundraising ask. Or the nonprofit can tap top-of-mind concerns and promote itself as a thought leader with an article on the COVID-19 impact posted on social media as well as e-mailed to donors and prospects. Plus, remember that over 80% use smart phones, so that mobile-optimized promotion is essential. And don’t forget old-school, nondigital communications, such as direct mail and phone calls. The authors suggest building out a phone-call list of top funders, with strategic talking points, for example.

Seize the Opportunity to Increase & Improve Social Media Efforts

Michael Wasserman, CEO of the stream fundraising platform Tiltify, used another NonProfit PRO post to stress how the current crisis should push fundraisers to boost use of social media as people naturally turn to social platforms to replace the lack of in-person interaction. The potential audience is huge: almost 80% of the population uses social media, with Facebook and YouTube having over 2 billion users per platform. Even newer sites like TikTok boast 500 million, Discord gets 250 million, and Twitch attracts 15 million daily visitors. Note that the Facebook Fundraisers tool has already raised over $2 billion, Wasserman points out, while even newcomer Twitch has raised over $115 million for various charities. So charities that still use elementary fundraising pages with a simple donate button, some text and an image are missing big opportunities to compete for attention in a space that the crisis is making even more crowded. He urges nonprofits to focus more on enticing content, such as video, which can leverage YouTube, the No. 2 search engine in the world with 2 billion registered users. Nonprofits should also consider using social livestreaming events for fundraising. An effort of a few hours can generate more than a campaign of months, he notes, citing the example of a group that raised in a week the amount it costs to run St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a day, which is about $2.7 million. As an example of how to gin up donations, he imagines livestreaming a music celebrity connecting and interacting with fans online, perhaps asking people to donate in order to choose songs or get signed merchandise giveaways.

Social Distancing Doesn’t Stop Creative Outreach to Major Donors

What about the impact of “social distancing” on the traditionally face-to-face connections that engage major donors? Suzanne Hilser-Wiles, president of philanthropic consulting firm Grenzebach, Glier and Associates, offers some tips in a recent piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Start by showing you care and reach out quickly to ask how the donor is faring and discuss how the nonprofit is responding to the crisis. Enlist top executives to communicate with major donors about plans for moving forward, with consideration for the appropriate communication channel; for example, e-mail can quickly provide a direct but formal assurance, while social-media platforms offer a more human touch. Ad hoc “investor calls” may be appropriate for smaller groups of donors. For major donors and prospects, consider developing a specific message with a more in-depth perspective and request for their input. Highlight the nonprofit’s expertise and how gifts support efforts relevant to the COVID-19 crisis. A museum might share national media interviews with staff members, or an academic medical center might point to resources on the university’s coronavirus webpage, for example. And don’t abandon events; get creative with virtual format substitutes, such as a conference call or webinar to let donors stuck at home see a presentation about a gift opportunity. For example, instead of a brunch with a scholarship recipient, donors can have a phone or video call with the student, she points out.

 

How Nonprofit Fundraising Can Weather Pandemic Impacts

AccuList’s nonprofit fundraising clients are facing a novel crisis as the novel coronavirus pandemic shuts down business-as-usual across America and threatens recession. Humanitarian causes such as food banks, homeless shelters and senior-care services are feeling the pinch as food donations from panic-buying-hit grocery stores and dollars from corporations drop, and self-quarantines eliminate volunteers. At the same time, rising numbers of people, especially the old and the poor, are becoming food and shelter insecure. Meanwhile, nonprofits that rely on events for fundraising are especially hard-hit.

Stay the Course on Fundraising Efforts

Based on fundraising experience in previous crises, such as 9/11 and the 2008 recession, AccuList joins other experts in urging nonprofits not to cut back on fundraising efforts during this critical period.  Indeed, since event fundraising is likely to be cancelled or postponed, now may be the time to shift resources into high-response workhorses like direct mail. And for some causes directly impacted by pandemic issues (food banks, homeless shelters, elder care, emergency health and medical supplies), fundraising messages may be especially resonant and effective now. Yes, philanthropy has trended at 1.5% to 2.5% of GDP annually since 1978, and it’s pretty clear GDP (and thus fundraising) is going to take a hit in 2020. But as a NonProfit Pro magazine article by Craig Depole, president of direct-response fundraising agency Newport ONE, warns, organizations that pulled back and stopped soliciting after 9/11 and the 2008 recession took years to recover from their losses, “while organizations that continued to solicit their donors with messages of need and impact emerged stronger and healthier.”

Take Steps That Will Bolster Fundraising Appeals

Depole’s NonProfitPro article goes on to outline a number of steps to make fundraising outreach more successful during a national crisis: 1) Double-down on stewardship of donors (more thank-you phone calls, impact reporting, staff engagement); 2) Keep talking with donors and share compelling stories, with humanitarian charities especially able to cite the transformational impact of donations; 3) Acknowledge the fears of donors who are watching stock portfolios decline and engage with them as partners rather than ATMs; 4) Review messaging for relevance, clarity and appropriate tone; and 5) Have alternative plans ready to go, say in case your mail shop or creative team is quarantined, or you need to substitute for promotional supplies from China.

Focus Retention & Prospecting on Weathering the Crisis

As a Network for Good blog post by Kimberly O’Donnell stresses, “In uncertain times, one thing is certain with fundraising—the more you plan, the better off you will be.  Successful fundraising during a recession is two-pronged: 1) Focus hard on donor engagement and retention, and 2) Use intelligent prospecting techniques to recruit new followers and supporters…. When you work to retain your donors while broadening your reach, you hit the nirvana needed to withstand hard times.” A poll of fundraising agencies by The Nonprofit Alliance similarly offers two cogent responses to how agencies are preparing nonprofit clients for the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. One respondent advises, “As this unfolds, my advice will likely be the same as to every other major disruption, including 9/11: 1) Acknowledge the crisis and state how the organization is helping solve it; 2) Stay the course, (and) don’t cut back on acquisition and renewal efforts.” Another adds, “Election fundraising, along with a huge drop in retirement savings, will create a terrible environment for suggesting a donor should consider an upgraded level of giving this year.  Focus on mission, and focus on renewing their support at any level.  You need to fear 2020 donor attrition like never before and prevent it to the best of your abilities.  Focus on how many active donors you will have to begin calendar 2021.”

B2B Experiential Marketers Have Options to Pandemic-Hit Events

What happens when experiential marketing—the strategy of engaging customers in branded live experiences—faces a world where events are being cancelled or postponed thanks to novel coronavirus fears?  The blow to b2b experiential marketers is significant.  Back in  January 2020, the Demand Gen Report found that 53% of U.S. B2B marketers surveyed rated in-person events and tradeshows as their most effective channel for driving lead conversions, above digital-only efforts such as e-mail and the company websites, and, as a result, 41% of respondents planned to increase event marketing in 2020. Of course, that was before the coronavirus began to scuttle plans.

Virtual and Viral Replace In-Person Crowds

The event drought doesn’t mean that the power of experiential marketing vanishes, but marketers do have to adapt, at least in the short term. As experiential agency Fake Love’s CEO Alanna Lynch explained in a recent AdWeek article, since there’s no doubt experiential marketing will be affected, “particularly around large-scale events with a global audience,” the company is “proactively thinking about how our approach to branded experiences may need to evolve in the short term, more specifically, how physical activations could be experienced virtually and then shared virally.” In a ClickZ post, Gretchen Scheiman reminds experiential marketers of the potential power of online experiences, ranging from gaming like Fortnite, to educational platforms like Kahn Academy to McDonalds restaurants, where parents who might hesitate to send children into crowded Happy Meal Play Zones can visit happymeal.com for downloadable coloring pages, activities and interactive games.  Jillian Ryan at eMarketer likewise urges pandemic-deprived marketers to “go digital and be nimble” as virtual conferences replace physical events, creating digital touchpoints whose content and engagement can still influence the intended audience. Indeed, event cancellations can provide a great opportunity for marketers to A/B test whether their physical event presence is as crucial to conversion as presumed, Ryan notes.

Direct Mail and E-mail Offer Experiential Opportunities

Plus, experiential marketers have some good old-school options that have been technogically enhanced for interactive engagement. Ryan urges consideration of direct mail as an experiential tool, for example. In addition to its visual and tactile engagement, direct mail can be highly targeted and personalized, and now, thanks to digital print technology such as QR, VR and AR, digitally interactive as well. Similarly, ClickZ’s Scheiman reminds that targeted e-mail is another great way to create a direct line of communication with people around an event or experience, physical or virtual. She cites the example of Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, which uses personalized invitations with location data for local tastings of top shelf whiskey, inviting only people within driving distance but sharing tasting notes and photos from the event with people who aren’t able to make it as well. It would not be a big leap for the brand to create a “virtual” tasting in lieu of an actual gathering, she points out.

Personalization, Omnichannel Strategies Drive 2020 Direct Mail

AccuList’s direct mail marketing and mailing list clients embrace a channel that, despite perennial death notices, continues to outperform in terms of response, but mailers must also rely on evolving strategies for success in 2020.

2020 Success Depends on Data-Driven Personalization

Research consistently shows that personalization bumps up response. Most recently, in a 2019 NAPCO Research report on direct mail personalization, 44% of respondents saw personalized print marketing campaigns increase response by 16% on average, while Canon Solutions research found that adding a person’s name and other personalized database information (along with using full color) can increase the response rate of direct mail campaigns by up to 500%! So it’s no wonder that the recent Printing Impressions article by senior editor Toni McQuilken cites a number of leading marketing and print industry leaders stressing that data-driven personalization is the route to 2020 direct mail success. For example, Maureen Powers, president, Direct Marketing Group at RR Donnelley, asserts, “Personalization is more important than ever before, including with direct mail…We are using the direct mail channel to drive the customer experience through communications such as coupons and personalized offers. We’re also changing how we help our clients message their clients based on individual customer preferences and their point in the customer journey.” Likewise, Jim Andersen, executive chairman of IWCO Direct, stresses the shift toward variable data printing of smaller runs of targeted, personalized direct mail with digital tie-ins: “Today’s direct mail is more effective, relevant, and timely thanks to more sophisticated audience selection and segmentation. This technology uses digital print to personalize every component of a mail piece, including letters, inserts, cards, and call-to-action reply devices that connect the physical mail to an online, digital marketing experience.” 

Customer-Demanded Omnichannel Campaigns Mate Mail With Digital

For Andersen, mail personalization must be part of the omnichannel approach that customers demand today: “One of the biggest opportunities in the direct mail space is providing effective and efficient solutions to consumer demand for personalized, relevant messaging integrated across all channels. Insightful use of data, combined with the flexibility of digital print production, allows marketers to seamlessly integrate tactile marketing in their omnichannel campaigns.” Summer Gould, of Target Marketing magazine, has cited three already-proven ways to combine mail and digital:  1) online display ads that match direct mail data files to an IP address to target specific people by displaying cookie-free banner ads on web pages; 2) Facebook ads that match direct mail data with Facebook data to send targeted ads (see our Facebook Match services); and 3) e-mail matched with direct mail audience targeting to keep offers fresh, deliver response reminders and make added special offers (see our Digital2Direct services). The mail-digital mating can be taken even further to a union of programmatic automation with mail. Printing Impressions cites the example of Brodnax 21C Printers in Dallas, where Jim Singer, managing partner, describes their innovative program: “We take raw XML data to drive intricate, complex direct mail campaigns, including ongoing on-demand digital printing campaigns for local store marketing applications. Every night at midnight we get a massive amount of data, and the automated workflow we built for this programmatic offering” kicks in to generate direct mail campaigns and send them to production.

Data Quality Has Never Been More Paramount

These trends to more personalization and omnichannel integration rely on marketing data for segmentation and targeting, of course. Plus marketers must adjust for growing regulation of data security and privacy. All make data quality a top direct marketing priority in 2020. Yet too many marketers feel overwhelmed by the torrent of omnichannel “big data.” A Forrester Consulting 2019 survey revealed that, while 82% of companies place a high priority on refining data quality, more than a quarter of all marketing campaigns were hurt by substandard data in the last 12 months. Clicktale 2019 surveys of marketing and customer-experience professionals found almost a third of marketers don’t feel they’re effective at utilizing their web and mobile data, over half (54%) said they “don’t believe they have a strong understanding of their customers’ behavior across digital channels,” and 20% reported feeling like “they will never truly understand why their customers buy.” Check out this 10-step data-quality strategy from VisionEdge Marketing if you are looking for a place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

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Personalization and Privacy Trends Highlight Need for Data Strategy

As data brokers, the AccuList team keeps a close eye on the many issues affecting the data strategies of our direct marketing clients. Data privacy is going to be one of those issues. While many of our U.S. clients are not affected directly by the European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR), U.S.-based consumer-data privacy efforts have now resulted in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), with other states likely following that model and federal legislation on the horizon. Regulation is only one of the data complications facing marketers now that omnichannel data personalization has become essential for targeted response and ROI. So what strategies will help prepare for data market changes in 2020?

Data Privacy Demands Customer Focus Across Silos and Sources

Companies face complicated decisions when combining first-party data collection, user-level data from the big digital platforms (Google, Facebook and Amazon) as well as second- and third-party data in ways that balance consumer privacy with smart (and customer-demanded) personalization. A post in AdExchanger by Briggs Davidson, a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, outlined some key steps for coping with a marketing data landscape that now includes regulation like CCPA. He advises starting with a focus on the customer in collecting, organizing, storing, and activating data across all silos that may need to meet data-privacy compliance, such as marketing and IT. Then when it comes to first-party data, prepare to shift marketing strategies to ensure consumers have a reason to share their data, delivering value to build trust. Davidson predicts creation of data clean rooms, or a separate analysis space for combining first-party data with platform-level customer data under strict privacy controls before usage. Marketers also will need an even closer embrace of media analytics to support a unified customer view, and use of new tools, such as Google’s Ads Data Hub. Finally, marketers will need multidisciplinary teams—for example Google’s upcoming restrictions on DoubleClick ID will boost the need for tech pros for unified customer views within Google—as well as partner collaboration in collecting and storing customer data.

Personalization Power Is Driving Marketing Data Trends in 2020

Hyper-personalizaton is expected to drive data marketing in 2020, according to a useful infographic put together by European digital platform firm Qualifio, which found that 83% of marketers say creating personalized content is one of their biggest challenges. Why? Because personalization now requires: 1) new tools to collect and analyze first-party data for compliance with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA; 2) an omnichannel purchasing journey and analytics for a single customer view; 3) incorporation of new technologies such as voice search (50% of Google searches are expected to be voice searches in 2020); and 4) meeting rising customer standards for personalized promotion and service. In fact, 70% of the customers surveyed want an immediate response to their questions or complaints, which is fueling artificial intelligence  (AI) and machine learning (ML) initiatives. Marketers surveyed are already moving to meet personalization challenges, with 78% of European companies completing a GDPR compliance assessment and 65% using omnichannel efforts to personalize customer journeys, per Qualifio’s data. For those U.S. marketers still hesitating to commit to personalization, check out these statistics on improved response, ROI and brand loyalty for e-mail, mobile, e-commerce and digital ads. Direct mail personalization, from name-only to variable images and text, has a proven track record of success, too; in fact, a 2019 survey by NAPCO Research found 44% of responding marketers said personalized direct mail increased response, on average, by 16%.  

Data Quality Key to Privacy, Personalization, New Tech Initiatives

Data quality will be even more key to data strategy in 2020. It is paramount in meeting consumer data privacy regulations, for example, where validated contact data is required to avoid consequences ranging from compliance penalties to brand damage. Effective omnichannel, targeted marketing also requires data quality. A Forrester Consulting July 2019 report revealed that while 82% of companies place a high priority on refining data quality, more than a quarter of all marketing campaigns were hurt by substandard data in the last 12 months. Plus, the high-tech analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) that marketers count on to boost personalized customer interaction also depend on data quality. A majority of enterprises engaged in AI/ML initiatives (78%) say these projects have stalled—with data quality as one of the culprits for 96%—according to a new study from Dimensional Research. That’s why CMO Kristin Hambelton, of Marketing Evolution, urges marketers in a recent Forbes magazine post to take these basic steps for improved 2020 data quality: 1) prioritize data quality and create a comprehensive initiative that includes not only processes and technology but defined positions responsible for data verification, collection and cleansing policies; 2) define and verify high-quality data in terms timeliness, completeness, consistency, relevance, transparency, accuracy, and representativeness; 3) organize disparate data sources with unified marketing measurement, breaking down silos to develop a holistic customer view across sources and channels, and to form actionable insights. 

 

 

Direct Marketing Challenged by 2020’s Record Political Spend

AccuList’s direct marketing clients need to plan for competition for consumer attention across all media as political campaigns’ ad spending is forecast to hit record heights in 2020. Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) predicts that political media campaigns will spend a record $6 billion on advertising in 2020, a 14.3% increase over the $5.25 billion spent in the 2018 midterm elections, and a 37.9% increase over the last Presidential campaign year in 2016, with the biggest gains going to digital media, which will nearly double to $1.2 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, ad media giant GroupM forecasts that political ad spending could reach a record $9.8 billion or more in 2020, again driven by digital ad growth.

Political Digital Competition Will Squeeze Inventory, Drive Up CPM

Nonpolitical marketers will face a considerable challenge, especially if they are advertising in politically divided markets, warns Kantar. For example, in the last three weeks of the 2016 campaign season, political advertising totaled 32% of local TV ad time within the battleground markets studied, an increase of 26% from the beginning of the season, while nonpolitical advertisers watched their share of the market plummet from 77% to 51%. Meanwhile, because digital is a big growth area for politicos in 2020, with a preference for programmatic advertising, marketing agency Hiebing warns that a scramble for digital inventory will significantly drive up CPMs for nonpolitical campaigns. Advertisers should develop a game plan early, either shifting campaign flights out of the election window or diversifying channels and tactics, Hiebing advises. Marketers should also consider Private Marketplaces, or PMPs, which are invitation-only marketplaces where selected programmatic media buyers make deals with publishers. These can offer access to more premium inventory, and better control over brand safety, than open exchanges crowded by 2020 political buyers.

Direct Mail Needs Careful Scheduling, Targeting, Stand-out Tactics

For direct mailers, it’s important to recognize that mailbox crowding will be especially bad around certain key events, such as the weeks before an election date, as well as early voting starts and the delivery of absentee/mail ballots. Marketing-mail drop dates need to be adjusted accordingly. Since bulk mail delivery is slowed, taking a back seat to first-class political promotions, mailers need to build in extra delivery time to the in-home date. Plus, in 2020, you will need to pay attention to the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3 because those primaries will see more impact (and more political mail) than usual as two of the nation’s most populous states, Texas and California, are among the 14-state total; indeed, Super Tuesday this year affects a whopping one third of the U.S. population. Bottom line: Careful planning of mail schedules will be required to get promotions in the hands of target audiences at the right time! Even with good timing, mailboxes are busier and response can be impacted, so marketers also need to make an effort to stand out creatively, perhaps changing up outer envelopes in size and color, and to avoid costly waste with more targeted messaging, via segmentation and personalization.

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.

 

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.

Industry, Marketing Trends Help Grow Printed Business Publications

New print publishing trends and innovative marketing options offer good news for AccuList’s many business periodical clients seeking to boost subscribers and advertising.

Printed Business Magazines Are Alive & Well in the Digital Age

The growth of digital readership has not doomed all printed periodicals to declining circulation and revenues, as some predicted. In fact, a recent What’s New in Publishing article cites multiple ways print magazines are adapting for growth. For example, publishers are focusing on niche audiences willing to pay more for a higher grade product and cutting down on frequency. Consider the Harvard Business Review: It grew its subscriber base 10% by reducing print frequency from 10 issues to 6 a year and using smart positioning, creative new digital benefits, and heavier investment in the quality of the six print issues to increase audience appeal. Printed information is also seen as more reliable by readers and advertisers, according to research, creating a “halo effect” for business publishers with a print edition. “The good news for printed business magazines is that their credibility has a halo effect on their websites, too, which gives them a competitive advantage over digital-only competitors. People may be buying fewer magazines, but they still associate them with quality and reliability,” explains the publishing industry’s Dead Tree Edition blog. Plus, despite fears that younger business readers were turning mainly to digital sources and social media for information, publishers can take advantage of continued print readership popularity. For example, the Association of Magazine Media’s “Magazine Media Factbook 2018-2019″ shows that, in the United States, “the top 25 print magazines reach more adults and teens than the top 25 prime time shows.”

Business Publishers Can Leverage New Marketing Trends

New print technologies and a revival of traditional marketing tools offer business periodicals options for boosting audience and advertiser appeal. A recent article from media agency Mediaspace Solutions cites some ideas that publishers can leverage. With the digital space crowded, noisy and less trusted by potential readers, direct mail campaigns have increased in effectiveness, the post notes. Plus, many publishers have returned to sending printed newsletters to subscribers. Print technologies (QR codes, augmented reality, etc.) are not only tools for better direct mail response but also a way to attract print advertisers by boosting print advertising effectiveness, the post points out. For example, augmented print uses an application that stacks digital content over a print ad so that when the print ad is scanned by a smartphone, a new digital ad springs to life. Personalization is a must in today’s marketing, and business publishers can combine list segmentation and targeting with variable data printing to personalize direct mail campaigns for audience building. Plus, subscriber list segmentation can be offered to print advertisers to help them craft more targeted messages. For more ideas, see the Mediaspace Solutions post.