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B2B Experiential Marketers Have Options to Pandemic-Hit Events

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

Virtual and Viral Replace In-Person Crowds

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

Direct Mail and E-mail Offer Experiential Opportunities

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

Personalization, Omnichannel Strategies Drive 2020 Direct Mail

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

2020 Success Depends on Data-Driven Personalization

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

Customer-Demanded Omnichannel Campaigns Mate Mail With Digital

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

Data Quality Has Never Been More Paramount

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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

Marketers Win by Catering to Millennial Direct Mail Fans

Remember when marketing gurus were calling direct mail “dead,” drowned by a wave of digital, mobile, and social technologies? Well, research keeps resurrecting mail from its low-tech tomb. In fact, recent studies find that Millennials–the 22- to 36-year-old, tech-savvy generation supposedly addicted to mobile devices and digital networking–are bigger fans of direct mail than older generations in some ways!  That’s information that printers, mailing services, and a list broker and direct marketing consultant like AccuList USA can use to convince clients who hesitate over direct mail spending.

Millennials Like Direct Mail in General

For example, a recent study by InfoTrends and Prinova found that response rates for direct mail remain high for all demographics, including Millennials, who open direct mail received at the same high rate of 66% as recipients overall. More significantly, Milennials as a group respond faster to mail–within 2.4 months–which is less than the average response time for all respondents. Plus, the InfoTrends research found that a big 63% of Millennials who responded to a direct mail piece within that three-month period actually made a purchase! Along similar lines, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conducted a survey on direct mail’s political impact on Millennials and found that at least 42% of Millennials prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, that twice as many thoroughly read political mail, and that Millennials are more likely to be prompted to action by mail, with 66% likely to research the candidate and 54% visiting the candidate’s website after receiving mail.

But Millennials Also Prefer Specific Mail Tactics

However, research also shows that all mail pieces are not created equal. Mailings that resonate best with Millennials are targeted and personalized, per research. Luckily, sophisticated targeting and personalization are possible with today’s variable printing, programmatic and automation programs, and database segmentation and analytics. Millennials demand printing quality as well, with one quarter of surveyed 25- to 34-year-olds saying they opened direct mail because of the print and image quality. Mailers going beyond the standard No. 10 envelope–including 3-D dimensional mailers, pop-ups and intricately folded pieces–are playing to this audience that appreciates visual creativity. Plus, engaging copy counts, with 25% of that same surveyed group saying they consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. That doesn’t mean that printed mail can be divorced from Millennials’ digital lifestyle. Data in eMarketer’s survey report “US Millennial Shoppers 2017” shows that Millennials prefer digital shopping, even while in stores, and are comfortable with mobile shopping. The Millennial preference for digital/mobile shopping means that integrating print and digital–via QR, AR, or PURL–can significantly boost response, as shown in multiple studies. Research also shows that video is a response-getter for Millennials’ digital promotions. And now mailers have the printing technology to jump on the video bandwagon with audio players and video screens incorporated in direct mail.

For a good overview of recent data on direct mail and Millennials, see this article from The Financial Brand.