COVID-19 Crisis Alters Tactics for Fundraising Success

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

Adapt by Expanding Digital Communications & Events

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

Seize the Opportunity to Increase & Improve Social Media Efforts

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

Social Distancing Doesn’t Stop Creative Outreach to Major Donors

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

 

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.

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.

Social Media Isn’t Just for B2C; the Right Tactics Build B2B Leads

Some business-to-business marketers shrug off social media as a consumer branding and sales channel, sticking to company page branding and PR announcements on social platforms. They are missing a lead source, argues Tessa Berg, vice president of B2B agency Tenlo, in a recent MarketingProfs post. She urges B2B promoters to consider the many ways they can use social platforms to generate leads, and AccuList certainly supports these tactics via its own LInkedIn and Facebook/Instagram marketing programs.

Where to Go on Social Media? Where the Customers Are!

In deciding investment in social outreach to snag leads, start by profiling your target customers and where they gather on social platforms. Here’s a hint: 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, compared with 13% from Twitter. That doesn’t mean B2B marketers should exclusively use LinkedIn. For example, Twitter allows for more direct interaction with prospects. And with the proven effectiveness of video marketing, why not leverage platforms like YouTube and Instagram to stimulate interest via product or branding videos?

Supplement Organic Reach With Paid Ads

Social platforms want to monetize their audiences so the reach of organic social activity has been increasingly subordinated to paid advertising. At the same time, many social platforms have improved targeting options for paid advertising. So it makes sense to pair organic actions with highly targeted paid social ads. Social tracking data will uncover important insights into which content and messaging on which social channels generate the best engagement and site traffic. Clear calls-to-action driving to owned content (website or landing page) will help capture leads better than a generic “Contact Us.” Offers of engaging content, say a video on product installation or an infographic addressing a key issue such as sustainability, also help gather lead contact data, Berg adds. Don’t get stuck in a rut with success, however; Berg prompts marketers to vary the types of ads and the content of ads deployed to avoid losing audience interest over time in the fast-moving social world.

Answer Questions and Leverage Presentations to Make Connections

One of the easiest, most effective ways to create relationships with prospective customers is to address the questions they pose on relevant platforms such as LinkedIn, Quora, and Reddit, Berg notes. Empower social and technical teams to answer in a timely and effective way to position your company as an expert and build audience connection. As a bonus, you will likely boost SEO and keyword rankings at the same time. Also, most B2B organizations already create presentations on industry trends, product updates, and case studies, and this content is prime for boosting engagement, social sharing and viral reach, especially on platforms that are dedicated to presentations, such as LinkedIn SlideShare.

Make Social Engagement a Team Effort

Get company team members involved in a social strategy, urges Berg. After all, people work with people, and a display of your company’s talent and team culture can validate a partnering or purchase decision. Define a theme, outline appropriate content, explain the dos and don’ts of hashtags, make sure to run messaging by legal advisors, and then start with a test of “safe” content, adjusting policies if necessary, she advises. See https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2019/41608/seven-ways-b2bs-can-use-social-media-to-boost-conversion-rates-and-generate-leads?adref=nlt080619

Facebook Both Boosts and Challenges Fundraising Efforts

AccuList helps its nonprofit clients with fundraising via direct mail and events as well as digital channels, and online giving certainly has seen tremendous growth in recent years. But the latest M+R Benchmarks report shows a distinct slowdown in nonprofit online revenue. After years of steady growth (a 23% increase in 2017), online fundraisers reported just 1% growth in 2018. Exploring the why behind that drop yields some important lessons for fundraisers moving forward, especially when it comes to Facebook campaigns.

Facebook Changes the Game, But Are Nonprofits Ready?

M+R cites multiple trends underlying lower online revenue growth—from declining e-mail response, to more low-dollar mobile traffic, to falling online donor retention. But the report starts by noting how rising Facebook usage has both undercut revenue measures and signaled potential for future growth. Yes, changes to the Facebook algorithm resulted in, on average, only 7% of followers seeing any given post, but use of Facebook Fundraisers’ peer-to-peer giving really took hold for the first time in 2018. However, because of the way the donations are processed, the Facebook Fundraiser dollars were not included in M+R online revenue calculations. It’s an important missing piece for revenue growth: The Facebook Fundraiser tool for hosted fundraising now accounts for about 99% of all nonprofit revenue processed on Facebook, with nonprofits raising $1.77 through Facebook for every $100 raised through other online channels, per M+R. The impact is big for some sectors. For example, health nonprofits received $29.88 from Facebook for every $100 in direct online revenue in 2018, accounting for about 30% as much revenue as every other source of online revenue, including e-mail, web giving, monthly donors, digital ads, and search. To turn the new Facebook Fundraiser use into a bigger revenue boon, notes the M+R report, nonprofits would need to make an effort to get more individuals (the average now is 56) involved in hosting fundraisers and in attracting both more donors and higher-dollar donors (now the average per hosted fundraiser is seven donors and a modest $31 gift per donor).

Ignorance of ROI Is Far From Bliss

Another recent study pointed to a deeper issue with nonprofit Facebook efforts. The 2019 Digital Outlook Report—from care2, hjc and nten—found that nonprofits surveyed reported spending anywhere from $0 to $100,000 on Facebook and Instagram campaigns. But the majority (over 75%) answered “don’t know” when asked about any resulting revenue! Clearly, the report urges, staff need training in analytics, whether using Google or another tool, as well as calculating not only resulting donations but the value of lead generation, e-mail signups, event attendance, etc. If there is any good news from this kind of ROI blindness, it is that Facebook probably has untapped potential.

Tips for Optimizing Facebook Fundraising

CauseMic recently offered some helpful tips for fundraising with Facebook. In using Facebook Fundraiser, in order to benefit from site traffic and donor information as well as dollars, start by disabling the “donate” button and direct supporters to donate on your website rather than through Facebook. Donors will learn more about the mission and fundraisers can stay connected with them for better retention. Second, nonprofits shouldn’t focus only on the Facebook tool hosting fundraisers; they can use promoted posts and ads to grow the support base, interact with supporters, promote events, etc. When a breaking news story or emergency occurs that impacts giving, it can be incorporated into social media outreach to spread the word and raise money more quickly. Just make sure to use tracking analytics and calculate result values to avoid the ROI ignorance identified in the Digital Outlook Report noted above! Plus, make sure that Facebook is a consistent piece of a multi-channel strategy, and remember that it offers a proven response driver to multi-channel campaigns: video. Use the platform to post videos about donation impact, to host live videos, to publicize upcoming events, and to tell the organization’s story with visual/emotional resonance. Finally, pay attention to timing in planned Facebook campaigns; M+R found that nearly a quarter of all Facebook revenue is raised in the month of November.

For more on general trends in online fundraising, see the latest M+R Benchmarks.

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/

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.

Mailers Can Use USPS 2019 Promos to Spur ROI

AccuList wants to remind all its direct marketing clients of the many 2019 U.S. Postal Service mailing promotions designed to increase response, engagement and ROI via new digital technologies and printing techniques, as well as traditional mail tactics.

Tactile, Sensory and Interactive

The registration and promotion periods have already begun for a Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mailpiece Engagement Promotion that will last from February 1 to July 31. With the goal of encouraging marketing mailers to boost customer engagement through the use of advanced print innovations in paper and stock, substrates, inks, interactive elements and finishing techniques, all USPS Marketing Mail letters and flats are eligible for the promotion’s upfront 2% postage discount.

Emerging and Advanced Technology

Registration has also begun for the Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion, open to First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail. The promotion, also offering an upfront 2% postage discount, spans the March 1 to August 31 period this year and is designed to help mailers to both compete with and leverage the increased use of interactive and digital options already available via e-mail, mobile and social media. It rewards incorporating into direct mail emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Near Field Communications (NFC), and Video in Print, as well as multi-channel mail integration with Addressable TV or digital assistants.

Earned Value Reply Mail

Hurry! Registration for this promotion closes March 31 for a promotion period from April 1 to June 30. It rewards mailings using Business Reply Mail (BRM), Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) and Share Mail envelopes and cards by providing them with a financial benefit when customers put those pieces back in the mail. New participants will earn a 3 cent credit per counted reply piece between April-June of 2019. Repeat participants must meet a threshold equating to 95% of the volumes counted during the same period in 2018 to earn the 3 cent per piece credit. Credits may be applied to postage for First-Class mail pre-sort & automation cards, letters and flats and Marketing Mail letters & flats, but credits must be used by December 31, 2019.

Personalized Color Transpromo

Created by USPS to encourage bill and statement producers to invest in dynamic/color printing technology to increase consumer response, this program also offers an upfront 2% postage discount. The Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion starts registration May 15 and runs from July 1 to December 31. First-Class Mail pre-sort and automation letters—bills and statements only—that meet the dynamic print and personalization requirements will be eligible for the upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion period. First-time participants must meet only the dynamic color print requirements.

Mobile Shopping

This promotion is the USPS acknowledgement that almost all marketing efforts include mobile shopping convenience today. Marketers who will send regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats combining mobile with print are encouraged to register starting June 15 for a Mobile Shopping Promotion that lasts from August 1 to December 31, right in time for the holiday season. There are many new mobile bar-code formats, in addition to Payment QRs, that can be leveraged to qualify for the upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion period.

Informed Delivery

This year’s Informed Delivery Promotion pushes a new USPS omnichannel tool. The Informed Delivery program allows residential consumers the free ability to digitally preview letter-sized mail and manage scheduled packages on their computers, tablets, or mobile devices. Marketing mail participants may create Informed Delivery scanned campaigns through the Portal or submit elements through eDoc submission. Regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats, and First-Class Mail pre-sort or automation letters, cards and flats meeting the promotion requirements will be eligible for an upfront 2% postage discount during the promotion. Register starting July 15 to take advantage of the September 1 to November 30 promotion period.

For more details go to https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions

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.

2019 Marketing Creative: Simple, Bold, Interactive Design

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

Simplified Design, Bold Colors & Retro Vibes Win in 2019

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

Story-telling, Video and Mobile Will Be Ubiquitous

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

Watch for Interactivity and Diversity to Break New Ground

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

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