Avoid Segmentation Missteps to Boost List ROI

List segmentation is key in targeted direct marketing, which is why the AccuList team offers clients help in defining best-performing customer segments via predictive analytics services and data management services. Over the years, we’ve learned that the secret to success is as much a matter of strategic mindset as technical expertise. A recent MarketingProfs article by Mitch Markel, a partner in Benenson Strategy Group, makes that point by identifying some of the common strategic errors that can trip up a segmentation effort.

Obvious Parameters and Old Strategies Dig a Rut

Marketers need to be aware that segmentation models can slip into an ROI rut. Use of obvious profiling parameters and assumptions is one reason. Certainly, demographics (or firmographics), stated needs, and past purchase behavior are essential in grouping for likely response and lifetime value, but people don’t make decisions solely based on these factors. Markel urges research that also looks at fears, values, motivations and other psychographics in order to segment customers or prospects not just as lookalikes but also as “thinkalikes,” which can be especially helpful in crafting personalized content and messaging. Markel cites the examples of car buyers grouped by whether they value safety over performance, and food purchasers sorted for whether they stress healthy lifestyle or convenience. Past success is another reason segmentation can get stuck in a rut. Because segmentation requires an upfront investment, marketers tend to want to stick with proven targeting once the segmentation study is completed. But today’s hyper-personalized, digital environment has accelerated the pace of change in markets, perhaps shifting customer expectations and preferences away from an existing segmentation model. Markel advises an annual “look under the hood” of the segmentation engine to see if segments are still valid or need appending/updating. An annual audit can avoid the expense of a broader overhaul down the road.

Big Data Blindness Ignores Potential Audiences

One outcome of segmentation based on existing customers is blindness to potential audiences. Segmentation research often uses the existing customer base and surveys of people that marketers assume should be targeted. This can create marketing campaigns that miss groups that Markel calls “ghost segments,” people who could be among a brand’s best prospective customers. Markel suggests a periodic look at non-customers for conversion potential as one way to capture these “ghosts.” And, of course, if a new product or service is in the works, research should ask whether it will attract new groups differing from the existing customer profile. Another reason ghost segments are common is that marketers, overwhelmed by the task of sifting “big data,” fall back on whatever data sets are handy. Markel suggests that it would be better to bring in big data at the tail end of segmentation. He advises analysts to start by creating segments using primary research, add existing customer “big data” to target those segments more efficiently, and then plug segments into a data management platform for insights on other products, services, interests, and media that may correlate.

Analytics Miss Without a Companywide Strategy

Finally, Markel stresses that a segmentation study that ends up residing only with a few marketing decision-makers will fail to live up to its ROI potential. Customer and prospect insights have relevance for multiple departments and teams, from sales to customer service to finance. In order to deliver a seamless, personalized customer experience, Markel suggests creating 360-degree customer personas and promoting them throughout the organization. Management can start with workshops to educate employees on the use and importance of those personas both for their departments and the organization, and then can schedule check-ins to show team members the resulting benefits of segmentation and targeting implementation. If segments are made relatable, it will ensure they are used and embraced across the organization.

Emerging Technologies Create New Breed of Interactive Mail

To help boost direct mailer use of emerging technologies, the U.S. Postal Service offered postage discounts this summer for use of interactive mail tools such as QR codes, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Near Field Communications (NFC), and Video in Print. But taking a new technology from gimmick to ROI booster requires inspiration even more than discounts. So here are some success stories courtesy of the USPS, too.

Use QR & AR to Link Print to Digital Experiences

Among the USPS-cited case studies of use of mobile- or tablet-scanned QR and AR codes is this example of how QR codes proved their value for organized sports marketing. Sports event managers created more than 50 unique codes for signage, publications and e-tickets to provide information, social media sharing, and mobile store access, and succeeded in getting QR-code users to scan event material an average of 1.6 times and increased downloads of the official app to 15 million. Meanwhile, AR proved its traffic-building value for a furniture retailer’s mailed yearly catalog; recipients used the app to superimpose pieces of furniture onto a real-time 360°/180° view of their homes, resulting in both more app and website visits by customers for the retailer. The information gathered by apps can achieve other retail marketing goals besides traffic and sales, of course. The USPS cites a beauty company’s print ad AR app that allowed digital trials of nail polish, with the goals of preventing product returns and improving future stocking decisions and color choices. Over 10% of users scanned the ad with their smartphones or tablets to try on 40 different nail polish colors.

Use NFC, Video and Mobile in Print for Immediate Interaction

Near Field Communications (NFC) relies on chips and radio waves to communicate with smartphones rather than scannable codes and has the advantage of instant access without app download. The USPS notes a movie premiere’s NFC-enabled posters that encouraged users to tap an image with their smartphones to access behind-the-scenes footage, and an Uber campaign in England with NFC-enabled coasters in pubs, right on the table with the smartphones–and the drinks inspiring ride requests. Video-in-Print (VIP) uses a video device included in a mailer or print ad and can work well for targeting high-value customers. For example, an auto company promoting a new truck used publisher data to select 20,000 readers who fit the target truck owner profile and sent them a VIP magazine insert. Mobile-in-Print also creates immediate interaction by placing mobile call or text capabilities in print media. Consider the case of a multinational auto insurance company plagued by complaints about help line delays: The insurer sent out mobile-in-print mailers that prompted customers to use the keypad embedded on the page to enter their mobile telephone number and license plate information to receive instant insurance quotes on their mobile devices. For more examples of innovative direct mail ideas courtesy of the USPS, see
https://www.uspsdelivers.com/16-case-studies-to-inspire-your-next-direct-mail-campaign/

Why Participate in Modeled Cooperative Databases?

Today’s modeled cooperative databases offer big advantages for B2C and B2B direct marketers, which is why AccuList now represents 18 private modeled cooperative databases that clients can use to optimize direct mail results. These databases include millions of merged, deduped, and “modeled and scored” hotline names from thousands of commercial and nonprofit participants.  At no charge, each can match the client’s database, model client postal addresses, and deliver optimized “look-alike” names.  The database will prioritize those modeled names by decile or quintile to help clients further identify targets most likely to respond to an offer or fundraising appeal.

Fear of Sharing Misses Optimizing Opportunities

Marketers sometimes hesitate to participate because of unfounded fears of sharing exclusive/unique customers, catalog buyers, subscribers or donors with membership-based database participants. Note that these databases generally match a marketer’s names against the cooperative database files and share transactional data. If there are matches, only transactional information is added to the cooperative database records; and if there are no matches, the unique names are not added to the pool.  Why do cooperative databases opt to incorporate only multi-occurring or duplicate records? Because that is data that tends to be far more predictive, with proven response. Plus, the reality is that very few names are unique to a firm, publication or fundraiser. About 80% to 90% of consumer prospects are multi-buyers and so are in the database already, and 90% of nonprofit donors give to two or more organizations and so also are already included in cooperative data. On the other hand, by participating to access a huge pool of names rich with demographic and transactional information, marketers can tap many more optimized prospects, improve list segmentation and testing, bump up response and conversion, hone creative and offer targeting, and increase mailing efficiency.

Modeled Data Offers Cost-Effective Prospect and House Mailing

Acquisition campaigns clearly can benefit from netting look-alike prospects from the large cooperative database pool, a real boon for regional or niche mailers who struggle to find acquisition volume. The large universe also allows for more segmentation to target not only higher response groups but more valuable response segments. In the case of nonprofits, that could be high-dollar donors, for example. Profiling and modeling can create better results from house names, too. Instead of mailing the whole house file, current customers, subscribers or donors can be flagged for likelihood of response and upsell, for channel and messaging preference, for risk of lapse/attrition, and more. Plus, modeled databases offer cost efficiency via an attractive list CPM; recent, clean, deduped records that lower mailing costs; and optimization selects (or deselects) that also boost mailing efficiency and ROI. Check out these arguments for nonprofit participation in modeled cooperative databases, as well as these useful best-practices tips for commercial mailers from Chief Marketer and Target Marketing magazine posts.

Choosing One (or More) Modeled Cooperative Databases

As an industry-recognized list brokerage, AccuList now represents a long list of private modeled cooperative databases, some specializing in B2C, some in B2B, and many offering modeled names for both B2B and B2C campaigns. In addition, as a value-added option, some modeled cooperative databases feature omnichannel targeting services that allow matching of optimized direct mail names with digital media, including Facebook. We can help you choose the right solution to fit your marketing goals with the following leading cooperative databases:

  • Abacus Alliance
  • Alliant
  • American List Exchange (ALEXA)
  • Apogee
  • Dataline
  • DonorBase® (Founding Member)
  • Enertex
  • I-Behavior
  • MeritBase B2B Cooperative Database
  • OmniChannelBASE®
  • PATH2RESPONSE
  • Pinnacle Business Buyer Database
  • Pinnacle Prospect Plus
  • Prefer Network
  • Prospector Consumer Fundraising Database
  • Target Analytics
  • TRG Arts
  • Wiland

Targeted E-mail Expands Museums’ Direct Marketing Options

While previous AccuList posts focused on direct mail strategies for our museum marketing clients, e-mail marketing is also an area where our expertise can help museums reach new members, event participants, or donors, as well as improve the performance of existing e-mail databases.

Study Museum E-mail Benchmarks and Success Stories

Evidence that e-mail can be a successful player in museums’ multi-channel campaigns comes from Constant Contact’s March 2019 e-mail statistics for house databases in the arts, culture and entertainment vertical (including museums and galleries), which show overall e-mail open rates averaging 17.54%, and click-through rates averaging 6.81% for the vertical. Those results are better than the all-industries averages of 16.74% open rate and 7.43% click-through rate, plus ahead of all but 13 of the 34 verticals tracked, and far ahead of some verticals, such as technology (e.g. web developers), automotive services, salons, retail and consulting. Marketers can also use e-mail to prospect for new members, donors and event participants. For example, marketers report success with event audience building via a series of e-mails that start with a promotion linked to ticket purchase, RSVP and/or social-sharing request, then follow up with reminders prior to the event, and finish with a post-event thanks e-mail that includes a request for an online review. Other successful e-mail series reward loyalty or re-engage dormant supporters by offering special perks (such as discounts). E-mail automation can make contact strategy even easier with programmed triggers, such as a re-engagement e-mail automatically sent six months after a last visit. For some creative inspiration, check out this nonprofit e-mail gallery and Pinterest grouping of museum e-mails.

Invest in Clean, Targeted E-mail Lists

Earning response to a house database or prospect list requires a few e-mail basics: 1) personalized, targeted messaging; 2) a brief subject line that inspires opens and engaging CAN SPAM-compliant creative content that inspires click-throughs; 3) mobile optimization of the e-mail with a clear call-to-action linked to a mobile-optimized digital landing page; and 4) an updated, clean opt-in e-mail list to avoid spam filters. As data experts, AccuList’s services especially focus on the last point. For responsive, targeted prospects, AccuList’s proprietary research has identified the top choices among opt-in e-mail rental lists (plus telemarketing and direct mail lists), including lists of museum members/donors, lists of museum mail-order buyers, and lists by type of museum and collection (download our free compilation of top list datacards). For clean, targeted house lists, AccuList points marketers toward database enhancement and hygiene, including identification of recent e-mail address changes through Electronic Change of Address (ECOA) lists, enhanced targeting by adding demographics from outside lists, and expanded e-mail reach by appending opt-in e-mails to postal records.

Pair Mobile-Optimized E-mail and Landing Pages

Every e-mail—regardless of target audience—needs a clear call-to-action linked to an online page that makes that action easy to accomplish. For fundraising e-mails, check out these best practices suggested by online fundraising software provider DonorBox: 1) include a prominent Donate Now button in the e-mail with a link to an online landing page, either one page for general donations or a page per specific project; 2) include suggested donation amounts on the landing page and tie those amounts to outcomes that show how they will improve the museum and visitors’ experiences; 3) optimize the e-mail and landing page for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets; 4) include recurring giving options on the online page for higher donor retention; 5) if appropriate include a donation “thermometer” or other graphic of progress on the donation page to encourage more donations; 6) allow for multiple secure payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in addition to credit cards; 7) and, finally, make sure the donation form and its processes are as simple, clear and quick as possible.

Combine Social Media Engagement With E-mail Targeting

E-mail can be a natural complement to social media campaigns, which is why social media networks themselves use e-mail marketing for customer retention. Museums can pair social media’s ability to engage and build brand, community and web traffic with e-mail’s advantage in delivering highly targeted and personalized messages, enhancing the power of both channels. Social media apps and forms can be used to capture new e-mail opt-in subscribers, for example. With platforms like Facebook, house e-mail data can be matched with the huge social audience to deliver demographics- and interest-targeted ads and promoted posts to existing names and lookalikes. Social media also is good at soliciting user-generated content (reviews, images, videos and posts), which can be used (with permission) in e-mails to boost response. And both social media and e-mail targets can be matched with direct mail for multi-channel power. Check out AccuList’s social media user lists, Facebook match and target options, and Digital2Direct programs combining direct mail with Facebook or e-mail lists.


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.

Digital Data Feed Publishers’ Subscription Growth

AccuList helps business periodicals grow audience via direct marketing, and, as always, good customer and prospect data is at the root of marketing success. Consider a case study from The Economist, named one of the eight best business magazines of 2019 by The Balance reviewers. It isn’t only content that makes The Economist stand out. It’s a data-based audience-building strategy that has quadrupled subscription revenue over the last three years.

Customer Data and Predictive Analytics

Facing challenges in growing subscriber and advertising revenue, The Economist contracted with a customer data platform, Lytics, to shift from a print-focused to a digital subscription strategy based on customer data management, per a recent What’s New in Publishing (WNIP) post. For example, the publisher used data analytics to create content hubs, or individual pages that display digital content based on a reader’s interest for particular news topics. Tactics also included displaying offers based on the reader’s subscription status and predictive engagement score, meaning their likelihood to subscribe, derived from other readers with behaviors like theirs. And the online Economist gave readers featured content based not just on topic interest but also on behavioral scoring so readers got the type of content they wanted in the way they wanted to read it. Yet another example was a campaign for a free “Back to School Megatech” eBook, that produced a 9% click-through rate for targeted audiences.

Payoffs in Acquisition and Retention

In addition to a 4X bump in The Economist‘s subscriber revenue, the data-centric effort decreased cost per acquisition by 80%, tripled digital subscriptions, and increased time-on-site and engagement measures, per the WNIP case study post. The development of ongoing and adaptive customer profiles using machine learning went beyond simple demographics to allow for individually tailored and timed advertising and engagement strategies, such as predicting when a reader is more receptive to certain kinds of advertising or content. Retention strategies also were improved by predicting when subscribers were likely to stop visiting or subscribing.

Leveraging Data and Content for Growth

The Economist is not alone in embracing a digital subscription and data-management publishing model. The New York Times used similar strategies to boost digital subscriptions and revenues last year, even creating nytDEMO (DEMO stands for data, engineering, measurement, and optimization) as a collaboration among members of The Times data, product & design, technology, and advertising groups. The nytDEMO team offers brand marketers AI-based data tools such as “Project Feels” predicting emotional response to content and “Readerscope” identifying reader/interest audience segments. While other print and digital news operations were cutting back in 2018, The New York Times Co. used data-driven strategies to generate more than $709 million in digital revenue, with online subscription revenue up nearly 18% from 2017 and digital advertising up 8.6%. Out of its 4.3 million paid subscriptions for digital and print in 2018, more than 3.3 million people paid for its digital products, a 27% jump from 2017. Those results prompted executives to set a new target of more than 10 million subscriptions by 2025. And since NYT execs believe successful data marketing relies on quality content marketing, the revenue gains will be plowed back into content development via increased investment in newsroom and opinion operations.

 

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.

E-mail, Social Lead Nonprofit Event Marketing

AccuList’s direct marketing services support both event marketers and nonprofit marketers, and, of course, there’s an overlap since many nonprofits use events for fundraising. So we try to keep up with what works in not-for-profit show business, and a recent survey of 500 nonprofits by Eventbrite, a leading event management and ticketing services provider, offers some interesting benchmarks.

No One-Size-Fits-All for Nonprofit Events

The “2019 Eventbrite Pulse Report” found that since nonprofits have multiple purposes, they host multiple event formats besides those geared exclusively to fundraising; in fact, just 32% reported hosting galas and fundraisers aimed at tapping donors. Instead, events for cause, community and educational promotion were cited by 78%, networking events by 37%, training and workshops by 33%, food and drink events by 31%, and arts and entertainment events at the tail end with 22%. Of course, revenue production was still seen as a key to success regardless of event goal.

Ticket Sales Swing Between Big and Bust

And when it comes to event revenue, ticket sales, sponsorships and grants/donations were the top sources reported. However, while ticket sales were seen as a key revenue driver by most (75%), the portion of revenue delivered by ticketing varied widely—from 80%-100% of event revenue for just 15% to less than 20% of revenue for a larger quarter of those surveyed. This underscores the need for both diverse revenue sources and more effective marketing to deliver attendance.

E-mail and Social Media Lead Marketing Efforts

Nonprofit event organizers told Eventbrite that their most effective marketing tactics were e-mail (34%); word-of-mouth and referrals (24%); and social media marketing (22%). In the social media arena, nonprofits relied most on organic posts (23%), paid Facebook ads, and video (9%). Among the tactics deemed less effective in the survey were third-party listings, search engine optimization (SEO), and display ads.

Audience Building Is a Top 2019 Challenge

The perennial “insufficient budget” was seen as a 2019 issue by 45% of nonprofit event planners and securing sponsorships as a problem by 46%, but the top 2019 challenge, cited by 73%, was reaching new attendees. And that is the kind of targeted marketing issue that AccuList can help address! For more benchmark data, see the post on the Eventbrite report.

Arts Fundraising Study: Invest to Reap More

Any of AccuList’s performing arts marketing and museum and zoo marketing clients that fret over investing in fundraising efforts in 2019 should take a look at the recently released “DataArts Fundraising Report” from Southern Methodist University. Basically, the report concludes, arts and cultural organizations that make smart investments in fundraising reap more dollars, with individual donors a “vital source” of contributions.

Mixed ROI by Sector, Higher Individual Donor Dollars

Looking at fundraising by 2,421 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors between 2014 and 2017, the study found good news for many marketers even though the overall ROI on every dollar spent on fundraising declined from $8.80 in 2014 to $8.56 in 2017. This reflected issues in select sectors. Seven sectors—including performing arts companies, orchestras and operas—actually saw an increase in return on fundraising over the period. The biggest ROI gain, adjusting for inflation, was a 28.8% bump for community-based organizations. But gaining sectors were offset by ROI declines for art museums, dance companies and theaters. Another encouraging sign was an increase in the average individual donor contribution over the four-year period. The report attributed some of the improved donor generosity to a shift toward investment in donor relationship building, with the average organization allocating 62.4% of fundraising expenses to staff in 2017, up from 54.4% in 2014, and thus allowing for more donor development.

Size and Location Make a Difference

For arts and cultural fundraising, size matters, but in an inverse fashion, the report found. Small- and medium-sized organizations increased the returns on their investments in fundraising over the four years, while larger organizations had steadily declining ROI. Individual donors are important for success, per the report, especially outside of the big metro areas where government support, foundations and corporate donors help foot expenses. But locations vary widely in terms of revenue successfully tapped. For example, New York organizations had the highest average number of corporate donors at 12 and also had the highest percentage of expenses covered by government support (9%). Compare that Big Apple haul to the lowest metro-area average of four corporate donors in Los Angeles and Chicago’s low of 2% expenses covered by government funds. On the other hand, Chicago reaped the most from foundations, with 7% of expenses picked up by foundation support, way ahead of New York organizations which, though they had more foundation grants than any other market, only saw those grants cover 3% of expenses.

For details, go to the SMU DataArts Fundraising Report.

2019 Promo Products Embrace USA-Made, Retail Quality

The “2019 Ad Impressions Study” by the Advertising Specialty Institute has many nuggets to help AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients woo targeted buyers. For example, promo products purveyors can point out how their items beat other ad media not only with high ROI, thanks to a cost per impression as low as a tenth of a cent, but also high impact, with consumers under age 55 preferring promo products over all other media for advertising, including newspapers, radio, magazines, television, internet and mobile. In fact, consumers are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products compared with online advertising, per ASI.

Not All Promo Products Are Created Equal

When it comes to consumers’ favored promotional products, ASI’s study shows the highest ownership for writing instruments (89%), drink ware (88%) and T shirts (80%). Looking at numbers alone, outerwear is a big winner with the most impressions (6,100), the greatest memorability (85% of consumers remember the advertiser giving branded apparel), and the greatest staying power (outerwear is kept an average of 16 months compared with 9 months for writing implements, for example). But winning even with a popular category means keeping up with trends. Among the latest spotted by Promo Marketing Magazine at the 2019 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo is the boost in re-usable, environmentally friendly products now that cities and states are banning single-use plastic bags and straws. A return to natural and vintage is not surprising in this anti-plastic mode, with a rise in the popularity of wooden pieces, from cutting boards to awards. Plus, multi-function items continue to grow in popularity, with suppliers adding tech functions to classic promotional items, so that water bottles double as Bluetooth speakers and business card holders can be used to prop phones.

Design-wise, Think Retail Quality, Bundling, USA-Made

The marketers at Delta Marketing Group (DMG) get even more specific about trends in design affecting a range of product categories. As more retail brands become available as customizable promotional products, even non-brand items are starting to emulate the retail look and feel, the agency points out. Quality over brand-logo-blasting also is taking hold, for example with branded apparel using small embroidered patches, subtle custom tags, and understated tone-on-tone colors instead of large logo imprints. Creative materials and refined finishes are forecast to come to the fore in 2019, with bright colors, matte and soft-touch finishes, and heathered and burlap fabrics. DMG also predicts that gift sets packaging several cohesive promotional items together will peak in 2019. Watch for desktop accessories to gain popularity, such as branded mousepads, coasters and phone stands, etc., often bundled as a new-employee or a new-student welcome kit. Plus, with the advent of experiential marketing for events, promotional products are trending toward event-specific giveaways that complete the brand’s event experience. Finally, the made-in-the-USA trend stays strong, per ASI’s study. About 53% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product is made in the U.S. versus elsewhere, and that sentiment is especially strong in New England, where 73% of consumers prefer buying made-in-the-USA items. For details from the ASI study, see https://www.asicentral.com/news/web-exclusive/january-2019/2019-ad-impressions-study/