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

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

Marketing Mail Enters 2019 on a Growth Path

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

Mail Response Outpaces Other Channels

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

Mail Wins by Being Trusted, Engaging and Personal

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

Personalization Is Now Key to Insurance Marketing ROI

Personalization has become a mantra for all direct marketers, but it is especially relevant to AccuList’s insurance marketing clients. According to an Accenture 2018 study, 80% of insurance consumers are willing to share data to get more personalized offers, messages, pricing and recommendations from auto, home and life insurance providers. Although over 70% of insurance marketing campaigns claim to use some personalization, surveys show marketers are not doing enough to satisfy that customer demand. As a result, marketers can miss out on personalization’s proven power to improve response and ROI, lower acquisition costs, and enhance cross-selling.

Personalization Revs Mail’s Acquisition Power

While digital data often leads conversations, the importance of personalization in traditional direct mail, still an insurance workhorse, should not be ignored. After all, direct mail is considered more personal than digital by 69% of recipients, giving personalized content extra power. Direct mail also gets an average 9% response rate for house lists and 5% for prospects, per 2018 DMA/ANA data, compared with 1% or lower for other channels. Plus, for the digitally addicted, adding direct mail to digital bumps up conversion by 28%. A recent article on insurance marketing from agency Ballantine advised on top ways to maximize mail ROI, and, no surprise, personalization dominated—assuming clean, up-to-date mailing lists with important targeting parameters. First, marketers can use variable data printing and database parameters to personalize content and images to match the consumer’s life stage, so, for example, auto policy creative targeting a young single first-time car buyer differs in messaging and images from the creative for an older couple with a minivan. Next, marketers can personalize rates by taking into account factors such as the age and gender of the targeted recipient. And they can tap personal interests by leveraging affinity relationships, such as a specific sports team or association affiliation, via targeted discounts. Personalization shouldn’t stop with the mailing package but should then continue through the customer journey. Marketers can study the sales funnel to find when leads are most likely to drop out so that processes can be simplified, streamlined and further personalized to boost conversion. Simple examples include pre-filled forms and postage-paid return envelopes.

It’s All About Prospect and Policyholder Data

Meanwhile, One Inc., an insurance software company, offers a helpful roadmap to digital personalization. As with direct mail, marketing begins with quality consumer data and analysis, taking a step beyond age, gender and location to parameters that identify unmet needs and customer value for targeting and prioritization—such as a recent move, a new home, a new baby or an upcoming policy expiration date. Next, marketers need to track lead and policyholder actions to decide on the specific digital behaviors that will trigger a personalized response, say following up an online request for information with a series of lead-nurture e-mails. Then, marketers can design and test small campaigns of personalized content and process before expanding to more channels and audiences. Once strategies and processes have been developed and tested, an investment in marketing automation technology can follow, including AI algorithms using real-time data and behavior to tailor offers, customer service, cross-selling, lead scoring and more. Indeed, the advent of AI in the digital world is accelerating consumers’ personalization expectations, and the impact on the insurance industry is expected to keep rising in 2019, per articles.

Retention Relies on Smart Personalization, Too

Meanwhile, studies show personalization is also essential to cost-effective policyholder retention. One Inc. provides this example: An auto policyholder has a documented poor experience when filing a claim, putting the client in a “high risk” category for churn. Based on industry data that policyholders typically shop roughly two months (60 days) prior to policy expiration and that roughly one-third of shoppers switch carriers, marketers use the policy expiration date and contact information to send a letter 60 days before the policy is set to expire, personalized by the policyholder’s name, of course. The letter includes a personal note that acknowledges the poor experience and pledges to do better, an offer of a discount for renewing early, and rep contact information for quick response to questions or concerns.

Fundraising Challenges Include Gen Z, E-mail, AI

For AccuList USA’s nonprofit fundraising clients and fundraising consultants, 2019 will be another challenging year. Successful direct marketers will need to adapt to changes in demographics, technology and donor targeting, to name just a few trends recently cited by the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog.

Move Over Millennials; Here Comes Gen Z

Donorbox is sounding the alert ahead of the next demographic wave. While the Millennial generation is still the biggest cohort in the workforce, Gen Z is arriving. Born after 1996, they now make up an estimated 27% of the population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. How are they different? The “2017 Global Trends in Giving Report” found that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes, especially those involving youth, animals and human services. But to win the attention of these digital natives, messaging must be concise and engaging, offering an immediate experience that cuts through the marketing noise they routinely filter out. Gen Z is also the first mobile-only generation, so website, e-mail and donation forms must all be optimized for mobile. Plus, Gen Z likes visual-based platforms, so fundraising creative should use photos, videos and infographics to tell stories that grab attention.

Donors Expect Hyperpersonalized, Targeted Messaging

Accustomed to sophisticated digital technology that tailors messaging a la Amazon and Netflix, today’s donors expect a personalized, targeted approach that takes into account demographics, giving history and even psychographics. A generic appeal will fall flat. That means segmenting donor and prospect lists and using variable data printing to specialize messaging to account for generational differences and other demographics. It means tailoring the “ask” to the prospective donor’s income and giving history. It means refining giving/donation pages to highlight projects and wording that will resonate with the target donor group.

Donors Embrace E-mail Fundraising If Done Well

E-mail has gotten a bad rap recently because of crowded mailboxes, spam filtering and low response rates, but there is a lot to be said for revisiting e-mail strategy in 2019. For one, research shows that donors willing to donate through e-mail rose from just 6% in 2012 to 28% in 2018. Second, low-cost e-mail has an ROI of 122%, much higher than direct mail, social media and paid search. Finally, a backlash against social media abuses, including among the mobile-first generation, is improving e-mail’s digital appeal. But e-mail needs to be done well to deliver donors. Personalization and targeted messaging is expected, so, again, segment the audience by demographics, desired communication frequency, giving status, etc. Make sure there is a clear call to action, a compelling subject line, simple attractive visual design, and, most of all, impactful storytelling.

AI Can Help Turn Data Into Dollars

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in our society, and that will include fundraising. AI broadly refers to programs, computers and machines that perform “intelligent” tasks such as planning, learning, problem-solving, communication and more. AI can help nonprofits gather more data and use it better to advance missions and marketing. For example, one of the simplest uses of AI is a chatbot that interacts via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. A nonprofit can create a chatbot to handle donations, register members and distribute information about programs and services. AI also can be used to personalize donor journeys with tailored, personal messages based on real-time donor behavior and timed to encourage contributions. Finally, AI can weaponize data for more cost-effective donor development and marketing. For example, a donor’s giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and data from wealth screening tools can all be analyzed to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift.

See the complete list of eight fundraising trends identified by Donorbox.



fundraising trends for success

Digital Options Lead 2019 Insurance Marketing Trends

Digital marketing trends dominate professional advice for AccuList USA’s insurance marketing clients this year, from e-mail to social media to online search.

Trends Favor Personalized, Client-Focused Campaigns

Whether insurance marketing via digital or traditional channels such as direct mail, there are some general trends affecting success in 2019, per the American Agents Alliance. First comes the continued value of cultivating brand advocates with testimonials, referrals and word of mouth. Quoting Forbes magazine, “the top four most-trusted sources of advertising are people you know, branded sites, editorial sites, and reviews.” A myopic focus on impersonal advertising will miss these important lead drivers. The personal touch needs to extend into offering targeted, personalized digital and print content that is useful and engaging, as well as client interaction that is real and humanized, not generic and automated. Plus, marketers should take a longer view of prospecting and retention by continuing conversations via remarketing, the AAA advises. And finally, insurance marketers need to really listen during conversations with clients and prospects to understand pain points and how people shop online with search and voice queries in order to develop effective creative content and include key phrases for paid and organic search.

Tweak E-mail & Search to Retain Their Digital Clout

Insurance agency/broker marketing agencies like EaseCentral and OutboundEngine offer some advice on where to focus digital marketing energies more specifically in 2019. Start by revisiting e-mail strategy. With an average $32 return per $1 spent in 2018, e-mail remains an attractive direct marketing option not only because it is inexpensive, highly targeted, and an ROI leader, but because it also offers opportunities for the forwarding, social sharing, and referral business in line with the general trends noted above. However, be sure to check e-mail creative to make sure it is personalized and shares valued content, focusing less on promotion and more on audience needs. Another tried-and-true digital driver, paid and organic search engine ranking, still matters, but search strategy needs an important tweak this year to cater to the growth of voice searches. EaseCentral points out that ComScore forecasts close to 50% of all searches will be made through voice search by 2020. Plus, due to the increasing use of voice search, Google and other search engines are beginning to factor it into their algorithms. Mobile optimization will play a big role in effective leveraging of voice search since these searches occur mainly on mobile devices.

Leverage the Power of Social Media Marketing

Making the most of social media will be a challenge in 2019 as organic reach shrinks and promotional pricing rises, but social platforms offer some unique advantages for insurance marketers looking for a way to humanize and personalize services. For example, EaseCentral suggests using social media to implement a more personalized customer service, with client accessibility on Facebook and LinkedIn. OutboundEngine meanwhile urges more direct marketing via promoted posts and social ads, taking advantage of social media platforms’ increasing ability to target zip codes, professions and other demographics to hone response. In the social media sphere, blogs are the king of content creation, reminds EaseCentral, allowing an insurance marketer to prove expertise and build trust. But remember that a blog’s content-marketing success will require avoiding sales pitches in favor of engaging information of value to the audience.

Embrace Video As the New Must-Have Tool

Video is now a proven response driver in digital marketing for almost all industries, and with online video projected to account for 80% of all web traffic in 2019 per Cisco research, it is a must-have tool in insurance, too. It works for consumer and business prospecting; OutboundEngine cites a recent Forbes finding that an average of 40% of decision-makers call a vendor after watching a video. How to capitalize on the video wave? OutboundEngine suggests the following ideas for website and social media insurance-branding videos: Live stream (with permission) part of an event or fundraiser attended; record a 30-second clip once a week answering a frequently asked question; or post an Instagram story about volunteering in your local community.

B2B Gifting Survey Finds Personal & Memorable Score ROI

Acculist USA supports many clients marketing in the corporate gifting space, with a focus on food and wine gift baskets and catalogs. We recently ran across some interesting data from a study by Knack, a Seattle gifting company, that should help gift suppliers to craft the most appealing packages and business gift buyers to maximize gift effectiveness.

The C-suite Believes in Gifting ROI

The good news from the Knack “Business Gift Satisfaction Survey” is that corporate gifting works well when it is done well: 57% of respondents said that “gifts can impact their opinion of a business partner both positively and negatively.” In fact, over 80% of C-suite executives surveyed said they believe that business gifts generate measurable positive ROI in addition to intangible benefits. Since there’s a huge investment involved annually, with the market for non-cash business gifts estimated at $125 billion, getting the most positives and fewest negatives is clearly vital.

Well-Packaged, Personal & Memorable Score Best

Return-on-investment for a business gift to high-value targets, such as C-suite executives, is highest if the gift tells a story and facilitates a deeper personal connection, per the survey. Quality is more important than the quantity spent to achieve that personal connection; the survey finds that the right amount to spend per gift is between $50 to $150. What defines quality? The best impression comes from good presentation/packaging and the kind of personalization that logo items and gift cards lack, per gift recipients. A memorable gift will seem selected just for the recipient; will include a personal message and will have “value attributes,” such as a handmade/artisan item or a gift supporting an appropriate cause, such as ecological sustainability or made-in-U.S.A.

A Fail-Safe Business Gifting Checklist

Based on 1,000 business gift recipients’ responses, here is the survey’s checklist for fail-safe business gifting:

  • Give a useful item, something practical and that everyone can use.
  • Surround the useful item with shareable items, such as gourmet food in line with the gift theme. Stress quality over quantity.
  • Aim for a “value attribute,” such as made-in-the-U.S. items. Specific causes might be polarizing but “Made in USA” is universally favored as a top value attribute.
  • Spend between $50-$150. Spend for junior-level business partners in the $50-$65 range and for most clients and manager/director-level associates in the $75-$100 range. Spend up to $140-$160 for C-suite execs, VPs and most valued clients.
  • Always include a personally addressed note with the gift! 

Get more details from the Knack study on corporate gifting.

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.

 

 

 

Is Your E-mail Optimized for Best 2019 Performance?

E-mail marketing is constantly evolving, and AccuList USA tries to keep our e-mail list and e-mail marketing services clients up-to-date on the latest tactics and best practices. A good overview of trends for 2019 was recently supplied in a Business2Community post by Rohit Munipally.

Targeted, Segmented and Automated Marketing

The value of e-mail targeting and list segmentation is so clear that it will be a given for smart marketers in 2019. Munipally cites HubSpot research showing that e-mails that are relevantly segmented and targeted account for 58% of all e-mail earnings and increase profits up to 18 times more. When combined with automation, e-mail content power is further enhanced. Munipally gives examples of how e-mail marketers can track behavior to boost response and conversion. For example, if a contact hasn’t opened an e-mail for an extended period, the contact can be dropped from deployments, while a contact who has visited a web page several times or opened multiple e-mails can receive relevant automated e-mails prompting action. In fact, global automated e-mail marketing alone is expected to account for $2.7 billion in spending by 2025, Munipally reports.

Text-Only, Interactive & Story Content

Watch for acceleration of the trend away from graphics-heavy e-mail designs in 2019. Research shows e-mail users prefer plain text over HTML-style e-mails because plain text e-mails resemble a personal message that would be sent by a family member or friend. So marketers now use plain-text e-mails to create a more personable, sincere and less sales-oriented brand. Also expect to see interactivity dominate over product display and sales pitches in e-mails next year. Response data favors interactive e-mails that encourage engagement through quizzes, surveys, games, contests, GIFs, and call-to-action messaging that lets recipients shop, edit an order, update a wish list, send a shipping confirmation, etc. Story-telling also has proved itself as another content-engagement tool. E-mails that begin with a story that grabs the reader and then leads into the value and services/products offering have been shown to be highly influential–if delivered to a relevant audience (again underscoring the value of targeting and segmentation).

Focus on Mobile, Personalization and AI

Mobile optimization of e-mail will be essential for success in 2019, with 53% of e-mails opened via mobile devices and 75% of gmail users viewing accounts on mobile devices. Meanwhile, consumers demand content that is relevant and personalized whether they view it on a computer or mobile device, which means using data to go beyond the first name in the second paragraph to delivery of information unique to the reader’s account or buyer persona. Plus, next year should see growing use of AI for everything from targeting, subject line choice, image selection, unsubscribe prevention and more. To illustrate the power of AI, Munipally reports that Adobe recently developed an AI technology with a series of sophisticated algorithms based on e-mail campaigns and audience behaviors, resulting in e-mail users opening nearly 80% of work and 60% of personal e-mails.

For the complete post, see https://www.business2community.com/email-marketing/7-email-marketing-trends-for-2019-02120824

 

How to Boost E-mail Lead Gen for B2B Publishers, Marketers

E-mail is a favorite lead gen channel for business-to-business publishers and marketers that AccuList USA supports with e-mail lists and database services. It’s no surprise that close to 90% of B2B marketers use e-mail to generate new leads when the latest data from the DMA shows e-mail marketing delivers an average $43 return for every $1 spent. But that doesn’t mean B2B e-mails are a guaranteed success. B2B e-mailers may want to benchmark their efforts against a recent infographic from EmailMonks that offers proven ways to help boost those all-important open and click rates. Some of those include:

Personalizing, Segmentation & Preferences

Marketers personalize e-mails because 91% get better open and click rates when they do, and that means going beyond using a first name to targeted, personalized content based on demographics, purchase and browsing history, subscriber interests, etc. Achieving that quality targeted personalization requires good list segmentation; blasting a one-size-fits-all message to the whole e-mail list is a recipe for low response. Segmenting by age, gender, preferences, purchase history and more delivers 14.31% higher opens and 100.95% higher clicks than non-segmented list campaigns, notes the EmailMonks infographic. Executing that personal touch also means permission-based e-mail that respects recipient preferences for how often and when they are contacted, so give subscribers the chance to manage the number and timing of e-mails. But what about before they  subscribe? Data shows that the average B2B recipient is most likely to open a 10 a.m. Saturday e-mail, to click on a 10 a.m. Tuesday e-mail, and to respond to an 8 a.m. Tuesday e-mail. Entrepreneurs and workaholics open, click and respond best to those Saturday morning e-mails!

Winning Subject Lines & CTAs

As the infographic points out, 35% of e-mails are opened based on the subject line alone. What makes up a winning subject line? Brevity is the soul of subject line wit; with 54% of e-mails opened on a mobile device, a subject line of around three words scores higher since most mobile devices can show only four to seven words across the screen. Personalization counts big, too; personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than general ones. And finally, the content counts; it’s less about click-bait attention grabbing than about a topic that matters to the recipient. Once the e-mail is opened, the crafting of a good call-to-action (CTA) will drive more click-throughs. The CTA should be noticeable and  “above-the fold”; in fact most brands prefer to place a CTA in the top third of an e-mail, and 48% match the CTA colors to their brand logos. Oh, and make sure the CTA links to an effective, mobile-optmized landing page, too.

B2B E-mails to Emulate

Looking for specific examples? SuperOffice, a CRM supplier, offers 17 B2B e-mail templates based on actual successful e-mails for B2B marketers to emulate. The templates include welcome e-mails, curated content e-mails, company announcement e-mails, new article e-mails, video e-mails, product update e-mails, reactivation e-mails, gated content e-mails, webinar e-mails, event invitation e-mails, case study e-mails and more. See https://www.superoffice.com/blog/b2b-email-marketing-examples/