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.

Managing Marketing During the Coronavirus Crisis

The global spread of the coronavirus and fear of the virus already have caused significant disruptions in supply chains, corporate profits, economic growth and government policy. No one knows how bad things will get before they get better, but marketers need to be prepared.

Ready for More Online Traffic, Target Carefully and Prep for Delays

Certain industries are more likely to be significantly affected as people shun travel and large gatherings: airlines, cruises, events of all kinds (perhaps even the Tokyo Olympics), business conferences, hospitality, and even retail venues. Supply disruptions also could affect sectors ranging from auto manufacturing to high tech to promotional products. A general slowdown could cut advertising spend initially, but experts believe it is more likely that there will be a reallocation of dollars to cater to quarantined or self-isolating consumers via mail order, digital marketing and e-commerce for product sales; via online entertainment such as video and gaming options; and even via streaming of sports events instead of stadium venues. In a recent blog, AI and data tech company Appier suggested tactics to leverage this rise in online consumption by using online data to identify coronavirus concerns and deliver targeted relevant content and advertising via keyword segmentation, which is especially relevant for health, wellness, medical, and sanitation sectors. Companies can also develop more branded online apps, games, and videos to compete for the expanded online audience. Plus, it will be important to use AI and audience data for contextual targeting and proper placement of advertising (no travel ads in China) to avoid creating a negative brand impression. Because companies may face logistical delays, they need to commit to transparent multichannel communications on product shortages and estimated delivery times, as well as timely response to questions and complaints, advises Appier. At the same time, increased engagement via website, e-mail, social media, push notifications or in-app messaging can bring customers closer and help reduce frustration levels and attrition.

Set the Right Tone With Empathetic Messaging

Appier also stressed that marketers need to set the right messaging tone for an anxious audience, avoiding the hard sell in favor of customer and community support. In a PR Week interview, Priyanka Bajpai, regional head, Southeast Asia, SPAG Group, promoted the company’s 3E approach to messaging during the crisis: Empathy to show cautious optimism and trust in the future ability to work together and find solutions; Engagement of internal and external stakeholders to inspire confidence; and Education using multiple channels to outline the criticality of the situation and steps taken by the brand to support stakeholders. Brands may also want to highlight nonprofit support efforts to address the pandemic. Prince Zhang, CEO, Greater China, Ketchum, advised PR Week: “If you are a big enterprise that makes donations to fight coronavirus, you should make a precise external announcement with key information around the exact amount of donations, the recipient organizations, the purpose of donations, logistics etc. Brands should avoid any marketing around the donations.”

Create a PR Communications Plan Before Things Get Critical

In a recent Business2Community post, William Comcowich, interim CEO of customized media monitoring and analytics firm Glean.info, advised developing a PR Communications Action Plan just in case the crisis deepens and lengthens. Under the plan, a company would 1) stay informed and ready to act by continuously monitoring the media and regularly engaging with stakeholders; 2) emphasize employee safety, including travel plans and remote or telecommuting options; 3) boost corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by contributing to relevant social causes (such as the Red Cross working in China); and 4) supply reliable information to staff and customers and also counter misinformation.

 

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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Metrics, Video and Shopping Lead 2020 Social Media Trends

Moving into 2020, AccuList’s clients using social media marketing have a busy, changing landscape to navigate, with expanding opportunities. Social media experts highlight some new trends, some ongoing trends, and some ideas just over the horizon.

Say Goodbye to Vanity Metrics, Marketers

Among the top trends highlighted in a recent Entrepreneur magazine article by Deep Patel is a de-emphasis of social media “vanity metrics,” such as follower counts and “likes.” In fact, Instagram is following Facebook in removal of public likes of other members’ Instagram posts, although you can still see the number of likes on your own posts, which will help combat the sometimes fake likes and followers that can misrepresent brand and influencer power. Hopefully, marketers will take it as a signal to seek more actionable metrics, such as the rate and quality of user engagement, or user demographics and data for audience targeting. While social media management provider Sprout Social’s “Sprout Social Index” monitoring still shows likes/comments as the leading measure of social success (72% of marketers), followed by shares/retweets (62%), nearly two-thirds of marketers surveyed felt that social listening will be more crucial in 2020, meaning a greater concern with what’s being said rather than how many people are talking or looking at a single post. One reason vanity metrics are fading is that social marketers are being held more accountable for bottom-line results as the Sprout Social Index now finds that 63% of marketers regularly report social data to their bosses.

Video’s Social Power Keeps Growing

Brent Barnhart at Sprout Social joins Patel at Entrepreneur in listing video as a continuing growth trend for 2020. Video will make up 82% of all internet traffic in 2020, according to Social Media Today, and, as Barnhart notes, YouTube is second only to Facebook in terms of active users now, with Chinese-owned social video app TikTok bounding up as the latest video market disrupter, catering especially to Gen Z and influencers. Patel urges brand marketers to prepare for video formats to reshape marketing strategies, with more stress on creative storytelling that engages viewers in seconds (especially on platforms where the like button goes away). Meanwhile, increased use of audience segmentation is expected to drive a new “personalized video” marketing trend toward content that is customizable and hyper-relevant to specific market segments, notes Patel. Now that social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, are pushing brands to produce video content through Story Ads that get higher click-through rates than traditional ads, personalization will take response, and video use by marketers, even higher.

Social Shopping Is More Direct and Targeted

Social shopping is now an integral part of the social media experience, per Barnhart and Patel. Patel advises marketers that, to meet user expectations for access to brands and products through social platforms, they need to combine creative and engaging storytelling (which often relies on videos and influencer marketing) and a frictionless shopping experience where customers don’t need to leave the social media site to buy products. Watch for an increasing number of shoppable posts, stories and links on all social media sites. Barnhart likewise sees increased direct business from customers on social media and points to examples such as Facebook’s roll-out of personalized ad experiences that deliver products dynamically to customers, changing formats (such as carousel and collection) and call-to-action varied by audience targeting. Other proofs of direct social-selling growth include Instagram’s introduction of shopping and even LinkedIn changes to its ad platform to help B2B brands push products to relevant customers.

Influencer Marketing Turns to Smaller, Tighter Connections

Patel predicts that big-is-better, celebrity influencer marketing, while not going away, will be increasingly supplemented by use of micro- and even “nano-influencers” with only a couple thousand followers. These nano-influencers have smaller, better-defined audiences that allow for greater personalization and stronger audience engagement, delivering more measurable results. Barnhart agrees and says brand-marketer interest in smaller-audience influencers is a reaction to both the rise in “fake influencers” and the trend away from  “likes” as a key engagement metric. Brands are increasingly interested in influencers who can back up their cost with metrics and audience data. Nano-influencers also address another trend identified by both Patel and Barnhart: an audience shift from public to private, tight-knit communities on social media. Nano-influencers are one way to connect with those tight-knit communities and build trust and engagement there.

For many more social media trends, see the Entrepreneur article.

Mobile, AI Highlight E-mail Marketing Trends for 2020

AccuList’s e-mail list and data services clients can expect to ride some positive trends into 2020, according to e-mail marketing pros. While continuing to top other channels in terms of ROI, e-mail marketing worldwide in 2019 also showed improved delivery rates, rising open rates and increasing click-through-rates, per data from UK-based Data and Marketing Association. Digital marketing platform Smart Insights recently surveyed experts to find ways to further leverage the positives this year.

Mobile-Optimize E-mail to Target Lead Source of Opens

The impact of mobile usage on e-mail can’t be underestimated. In 2019, mobile browsing (53% of traffic) surpassed desktop/tablet browsing (47% of traffic), notes Smart Insights. And while mobile still lags in terms of purchase revenue (32%) versus desktop/tablet (68%), it’s growing fast, with a 23% year-over-year increase that has helped accelerate mobile optimization across digital channels. Data from Litmus shows that mobile devices also led in e-mail opens (41.9%) compared with desktop opens (18.2%) by Q1 of 2019. Clearly, mobile optimization is a priority for e-mail marketers. Coding for a mobile-viewing format is only the beginning. Changes to copy, images and overall layout can boost click-through by streamlining presentation to place the focus on quick engagement and links to landing pages, product pages, blogs, etc., note experts. Concise copy with enough white space for easy reading is a first goal. Other tips include using image dimensions that are small enough to render well and placing images on the “first fold” to encourage scrolling. Using e-mail design with short copy not only leads to quick scanning but also allows the call-to-action (CTA) to be seen early and avoids excess scrolling that loses click-throughs. Remember that the surge in wearable technologies is limiting even more of the space marketers have for messaging. Finally, make sure that e-mails are rendering correctly across all types of devices, a testing option offered by most e-mail service providers.

Watch for AI to Expand Potential Use in E-mail Marketing

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is coming of age in marketing, including e-mail campaigns. Worldwide, 30% of companies will be using AI in at least one sales process in 2020, Gartner predicts, and 87% of current AI users say they are planning on using it for sales forecasting and e-mail campaign enhancement, per Statista. Connext Digital foresees seven ways that AI will begin to influence e-mail marketing: 1) applying algorithms and data insights for predictive personalization; 2) analyzing demographics, purchasing patterns and online behavior for smarter segmentation; 3) automating workflow for e-mail triggering, tailored messaging and lead nurturing; 4) using natural language technology to find the best words for response optimization of subject lines and CTAs; 5) improving e-mail timing and frequency by specific recipient;6)  A/B and multivariate testing to quickly identify trends and develop predictive results; and 7) developing data to enhance broader analyses, for example to predict potential churn.

Facing Privacy Laws, E-mail Marketers Focus on Building Trust

Cold e-mailing, spamming and phishing have tainted e-mail’s reputation among consumers (and marketers), but recent privacy regulations, including the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA, have spurred the e-mail marketing world to go beyond CAN SPAM to focus on privacy, compliance and subscriber trust. E-mail definitely continues as a strong communications channel despite past abuses. A 2019 Drift study found that e-mail is the leading communications channel for B2C, far above websites, social media, and even face-to-face meetings, with 65% of respondents saying that they used e-mail to communicate with organizations in the past 12 months. Compare that with 55% communicating via telephone and 42% via websites, the next most popular channels. So with the majority of recipients only receiving e-mails to which they have opted-in from particular senders, smart marketers will want to focus on building on recipients’ trust and providing value in 2020.

Read more detail from Smart Insights.

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.

 

Prep for 2020 Marketing With Clean, Personalized, Predictive Data

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

Data Hygiene Issues Remain a Priority

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

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

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

Taking Data Insights From Retroactive to Predictive

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

 

Data, Technology, Personalization Top Event Marketing Trends

Because AccuList helps trade show and conference marketing clients with market-tested direct mail, e-mail and telemarketing lists and services, we naturally watch trends in event marketing closely. Overall, the good news is that, even in a digital world, live events and face-to-face experiences retain their power, with over 40% of marketers saying live events are their most important marketing channel. Plus, event marketers have more tools (and challenges) as they move into 2020.

New Technology Tools Build Buzz and Engagement

A post by marketing guru Michael Brenner for Marketing Insider Group cites a number of technology trends that event marketers can use to boost attendance, engagement and ROI. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve efficiency at all stages of event planning and marketing, from ticketing and sales to personalized promotions and automated event follow-up, while augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can provide more immersive and engaging experiences to event-goers, for example by demonstrating a product (such as a luxury apartment) that is difficult to do at scale or by engaging attendees like the Coca Cola-hosted VR that let participants be a football player in the World Cup. Interactive video is also being increasingly used to build buzz on social media before events and to increase personalized interaction at events.

Up-to-date, Quality Data Literally Drive the Show

Marketing technology now provides access to real-time event data that can enable marketers to evaluate everything from attendance numbers and attendee satisfaction to which talks and topics are the most popular. Long-term, accurate information about registrations, ticket sales, and attendee demographics can help create effective audience-building and exhibitor sales campaigns. Indeed, many marketers find their biggest problem is being overwhelmed by a flood of data, ranging from audience attraction (website visits, social media clicks, registrations);  on-site engagement (RFID metrics, mobile app engagement); post-show follow-up (attendee opinions, costs, ROI); and auxiliary data (CRM, membership data, attendee interests). The key to prioritizing and analyzing, notes event marketing and tech agency Freeman, is to 1) centralize, standardize and integrate data; 2) decide on goals (such as attendee satisfaction, exhibitor ROI, or reduced attendee and exhibitor churn); and 3) define the metrics that best measure achieving those goals. Remember you only manage what you measure, so a focus on growing an overall attendance number can miss the more important goal of getting the right people to attend. Based on analysis of attendance or exhibitor patterns in the data, marketers can then segment data lists in direct marketing for better targeted response and ROI.

Using Data for Personalization Now Seen as Key

For all marketing channels, digital and off-line, personalization is the new requirement. As Brenner’s post notes, because they believe it’s so effective at increasing event marketing ROI, 9 in 10 event planners use some form of personalization. His article includes a useful infographic from a 2017 Eventsforce study on the ROI of personalization which shows that not only do 73% of event planners believe that personalization and data-driven marketing are a priority but 89% personalize event invitations via names, content and links; 71% personalize event communications via e-mail content and landing pages; and 58% personalize registration via different forms for different audiences. Other areas of personalization include event site experiences and give-aways; push notifications and concierge services on apps and mobile; agenda scheduling and networking; and personalized survey questions. As far as collecting the data needed for personalization, the most effective tools are rated as registration systems (84%), CRM/marketing systems (62%), surveys (29%) and event apps (29%). Lower-rated options include social media, interactive screens and kiosks, and interactive technology such as RFID badges. For more, see Brenner’s article.

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.